This is perhaps the only restaurant in Dubai that hasn’t changed over the years, despite it’s soaring popularity and its enormous media publicity in recent times. The first time I had visited Bu Qtair, it must have been in 1999. We had just arrived in Dubai and went all over the moon discovering a run-down small shack in the unexpected of places – on Jumeirah beach, serving lip smacking fried fish. In-fact, the only change that must have taken place over the years, is the change in the name from Bu Qtair Cafeteria to Bu Qtair Restaurant (with an additional tagline – Fish Restaurant, in their modestly printed visiting cards). The charm of Bu Qtair lies in the contradiction in its location – the sudden discovery of a modest porta cabin selling fried fresh fish on the beach, with the 7-star hotel Burj Al Arab acting as the unusual backdrop. As such, a fish shack on a beach is not a novel concept, it’s probably the most common organic development in beach-front cities and places. But for a city like Dubai, it is a novel concept for sure, specially when the location is the posh Jumeirah beach. My humble attempt at making a time-lapse video has failed where I wanted to capture the change in the Bu Qtair landscape throughout the day. I’ve captured this nevertheless in several video footage with Z-Sisters and the wind howling through and I’ve managed to make an amateur film, which already has more than 8,000 hits on YouTube.

The seating arrangement in Bu Qtair is basic – plastic dining tables and multi-coloured plastic tools (the later is an investment that the restaurant has done in recent years. No more investments please – the charm of the place would be gone completely!). There is a long queue while placing the order inside the tiny porta cabin which also holds the kitchen area. Once the order has been placed, there’s a long wait outside. As the number of people waiting outside, after having placed their orders (below right) increase, so do the number of cars that drive in and park by the pavement. The restaurant staff serves the waiting diners simultaneously while they attend to honking cars demanding their take-aways. It’s a manic rush but all’s well that ends well – everyone gets their right orders (no goof -ups there) and each person goes back a happy soul with an overfilled tummy!

It’s all in the fish, the fresh fish, the deep fried fresh fish, the deep fried spicy fresh fish!

The menu is unwritten, and is flexible depending upon the catch of the day which is limited to mostly Sheri, Hamour (belonging to the Grouper family and very popular in the UAE. Dear restaurant, please note that Hamours belong to the ‘overfished’ category!), Pomfret, Snapper and Shrimps. In colder months, King Fish is sometimes included in the menu. My favourite in Bu Qtair, are the fried Shrimps (below). Marinated in Salt, Turmeric and a *secret* ingredient which Moosa, the owner is hesitant to share, these insanely tasty fried Shrimps have to be accompanied by a bowl of spicy Fish Curry prepared in the Malabari (Keralite) style with fresh Sardines and Coconut Milk and some soft Malabari Parathas (Indian flat breads fried in oil) to dip into the messy curry. Half a kg of fried Shrimp costs Dhs 75/-. The other fish ranges between Dhs 35/- Dhs 80/-, depending upon the size of the fish and the type of fish. Sheris would be the cheapest while the Pomfret or the Hamour can cost you a bit more. A bowl of Fish Curry comes at Dhs 5/- while a Paratha would cost a Dirham each. Water and soft drinks are the only beverages available here. Though no one is complaining, but I definitely can hear silent whispers from the diners, almost every time I visit Bu Qtair – if only this place was licensed and served some Chilled Beer!

1/2 kg of Shrimps, 2 medium sized Sheris, Parathas, a bowl of Fish Gravy cost us Dhs 155/- and fed 3 hungry adults and 2 equally hungry kids sumptuously. While the above images show the food that arrived to our table, the following is a behind the scene image of the marinated Shrimps before they went into the frying pan.

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Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant

Fresh Seafood Budget Restaurant; Out door sitting and Take away

Telephone: 055 7052130; Opening hours: Saturday till Thursday – 12:00pm – 2:30 pm and 6:30pm – 11:30pm, Fridays open after afternoon prayers.

Location: Umm Suquim 2 (Jumeirah 5). As you are heading towards the Burj Al Arab from Union House, take the right exit at Street 35a, off the glamorous Beach Road. Look out for an Emarat Petrol Station before the Umm Sequim Park which houses a small McDonald’s. Once on Street 35a, approach left when you hit Street 2b and you’ll find the Bu Qtair amidst the boat sheds.

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Once the evening sets in, the place becomes so crowded that it’s impossible to speak to Moosa, the Arbab – the owner, or any other staff, to the point that one starts to feel that the staff is really rude. But hang on there for some time and you’ll realise that they are busy, working in a fairly synchronized rhythm to tackle the crowd that pours in. Everybody is attended to. The place has garnered a lot of media attention lately and this shack-eatout has become a hot place to visit. My estimate is, there would be 100 diners on a regular weekday. Moosa deserves all the attention. He’s been hanging on here for the last 23 years. While in the initial days, he would be buying in from the local fishermen who would anchor their fishing boats by his shack, now he resorts to a regular supply from bigger fish markets. He also has more staff who work for him. They speak in broken English – ‘Enjoy your food Madam’ and ‘It’s my pleasure’. Well Moosa, it’s been my pleasure writing about you. I should have done this long back. Sometimes one remembers to give attention to strangers and acquaintances while friends and family remain unattended. It happens when we are in a trance and forget to look inwards. Thankfully, I’ve shaken myself off that trance.

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: After I came out with this post, Emirates 24/7 has published this video and the post on their website. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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Arabian Pilgrimage Food Tour With Frying Pan Adventures

The 7 Tastiest Fast Feasts Of Dubai | Introducing Chowzter to Dubai

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Written by IshitaUnblogged

A Culinary Travel Blog by a Bong Gourmet. From Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond, street food to fine dining, recipes to chef talks, it pens down experiences. With 2 kids in tow!

60 comments

    1. Thanks Shy! Oh yes, now with so much of publicity, it’s a manic rush there. You must have gathered from the video, the amount of time I spent there. Always appreciate your feedback – and for the loud shout out over Twitter as well:)

  1. I ate here years ago and attempted to go back but with a rumbling tummy couldn’t stand the wait. Those shrimp look so awesome I’ll make an effort to go back. Would you know what time it opens?

    1. Lady, I owe you some credit for borrowing this term from your comment – ‘not so hidden anymore’. After making the post, I’ve been using this term almost everywhere:)

    1. Hey thank you Prachi! I’m sure your orange kitchen is stocked with lip smacking goodies to keep you happy at all hours. Look forward to your feed back. This is much too much ‘maach’ – what say?

  2. Am drooling over the prawns…keep planning to go here since my cousins told me about it, haven’t done that yet, but I think I better make a more concentrated effort to go there when I am in town next ;-)

    1. Sally – thank you so much! A reader left a comment on FB saying that there is another shack like Bu Qtair called Bel Jafela on Beach Road facing Burj Al Arab. Would you be knowing? They apparently sell their fish at pre-publicity Bu Qtair rates!

    1. Oh Mallika… it must a bit too much of ‘maach’ for you – you the non-fishy BONG! Of-course, I’ll take you – first come! Curious – do you have these kind of shacks in and around London?

  3. Stumbled on your blog ,find it interesting , with a sense of humor.

    Fascinated to note that you write about Bu Qtair, also referred to Mama Machi joint.

    There is one in Sharjah too who sells only Fried Fish and huge amount too

    There are a few Bangladeshi restaurant ( they call themselves as Bangalee and refer us to as from Kolkatta) in International city who cater to nothing gourmet like Al Fanar, but a lot of workers eat there daily.In Banagalee Rana there food is from Chittagong( a lot of “Jhol in my Kol”) hence people from Cumilla or Dhakka or up north do not like it.

    All the best

    1. Thank you Utpal and I do wish that you keep hopping back. The Mama Machi joint is the one in Sharjah, you are talking about another one like that? I’ve heard that there are lots of Bangladeshi joints around Deira fish market as well. I have visited one or two a decade back, when we were new to Dubai – not exactly the kinds where you can take your kids to. But then that wouldn’t stop me from visiting one if the food was really good. I would like to try some of the ‘jhol in my kol’. Have you tried any? Any particular name of the restaurant that you would like to recommend?

  4. Hi, i would just like to find out if Bu Qtair is definitely open at lunch time. Because it seems like it’s only open for dinner based on other sites. Im in Dubai on holiday and leaving in the evening on the second of January and i really want to try this place. Thank You and Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Daryl, They are open during lunch hours but it is more like a staff canteen n that small porta cabin. I have seen many office goers come and have a quick lunch in that crampy space. For the experience, it has to be the evening – the later it is, the better it is – provided you can sustain the long queue and the long wait:)

  5. Loved your blog, visiting Dubai next week from the US. Quick question..are they only open for Dinner or can I go for lunch too ? Are cab drivers aware of this place or are they going to take me on a spin to get here :)

    1. This place is mainly for dinner – 6 pm onwards because of the crazy vibe. They are actually open during lunch hours but the seating is mainly for 6-10 people inside their makeshift portacabin. No, every cab driver knows this blace. I just sent a reader a comprehensive list of places to eat – I’ll email that to you as well:)

  6. Bu-Qtair is over rated for what it is – I ate there Wednesday Evening at 6.30pm – 7th May 2014
    1. The fresh fish was a large Hamour and over fried to almost burnt – The over frying burns out the spices and the marination
    2. The prawns also deep fried were chewy and over done (on the rubbery side) – I gave away 80% of the prawns to the cats roaming around the tables
    3. The gravy was delicious (could have tasted better if it had been heated properly)
    4. The Parotha was made of while flour and chewy (I think deep fried in oil instead of Ghee)
    5. The diet coke was nice and cold

      1. Had spent the whole day at the Arabian Travel Market and had only eaten breakfast – so was really looking forward to BuQtair at 6.30pm (Had planned to walk back to the Auris Plaza Hotel behind Emirates Mall in Al Barsha after the huge meal but instead took a Taxi back)
        Not all was lost though – I loved your blog and the Video!

        1. Thanks very much… but I still feel bad that you had such an experience. If you have some time, you can visit Seaview Restaurant – better ambiance and yes, healthier choices. That’s pretty much my recent fav. Should be a daytime visit.

          1. Thanks – will try out Seaview next time i visit Dubai – Don’t feel bad – I’m a hotelier in Kenya and perhaps my hotelier mind is being over critical of what BuQtair offers :) Have just read your review on Seaview and thoroughly enjoyed the blog!

  7. Issue with food is that at times the consistency is not there, for replication, both the case the , the Hamour and the prawns were over fried, or re-fried.

    Happens !!

    Generally the taste of food at Bu Qtair is good , if not, try another day or move on to the next outlet.

  8. Oh how I miss those shrimps! If outside the UAE, I just look for the Malabari shrimps? I saw spicy shrimp fry on menus, but they say that these are shrimps with sauce and not the same as Bu Qtair shrimps, which are fried fry with curry sauce on the side

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