Recently, Zomato unveiled it’s ‘Connoisseur’s Guide to Eating Out in Dubai’, an easy reference guide to Dubai’s restaurants that have been classified into 19 categories according to cuisine type, and mood of the restaurant, and an indicative cost of a three-course meal for two people. With the possibility of scanning the QR codes for each restaurant, a diner can also view the restaurant’s menu on their WAP portal. Zomato in a matter of 5 years, has probably become one of the fastest growing restaurant guides in the world, with 14 million users across it’s web and mobile platforms every month, expanding to 27 cities in 8 countries, with 120,000 restaurants listed. I like going through Zomato reviews. These have been written by food bloggers and other non-blogging foodies who happen to eat around the town. Hence, the reviews are mostly genuine with insightful tips. Many of my food reviews which I haven’t been able to feature in my blog (as my usual blogposts are more detailed and elaborate, requiring studying and researching and of course, a lot of time), are maintained in Zomato. A few of my Zomato reviews have been published in this guide book and I am happy that the ones that have been published vary across different categories – both in terms of the type of cuisine and cost. This doesn’t mean that these are the only favourite restaurants that I have in Dubai, but yes, these are definitely the ones which I would keep returning to.
Bu Qtair Restaurant (Seafood): One of my top favourite for sure. 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’ve 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 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 portacabin selling fried fresh fish on the beach with the 7-star hotel Burj Al Arab as a backdrop. I had intended to make a time lapse video of Bu Qtair which didn’t materialise. Instead, I ended up making an amateur video, which if I may share – has already had more than 8,000 hits on Youtube! A detailed post on Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant | Capturing A Hidden Gem In Jumeirah.
Thiptara, The Palace Downtown (Thai Cuisine): I am a great fan of Thai Cuisine and I think Thiptara has just touched a soft spot in my food radar. The majestic dancing fountains forms a brilliant backdrop to the wall-to-wall glass windows of Thiptara. Thiptara means ‘Magic at the Water’ and probably that magic lends itself into the Thiptara kitchen as well. I’ve had the pleasure of two very different experiences in Thiptara – one was an exclusive dinner at the Chef’s Table At Thiptara, inside the kitchen. And the other had been the Taste Of Dubai Menu Tasting At Thiptara where we tasted the menu that was designed for Taste of Dubai 2013. It included some of the signature dishes of the restaurant like Yum Som – O or the Pomelo salad mixed with minced Chicken and Prawns, the Thod Maan Goong the Ped Nam Ma Kam or Barbequed Duck Breast (below), the Geang Kiew Wan Gai or the Chicken Green Curry and of course the very famous Thai desserts like Tab Tim Grob and the Sang kha ya or the Thai Custard Cake.
Asado, The Palace Downtown (Business Dining): Asado is an ideal place for a very formal official lunch/dinner as well as the most romantic place or a good fun place to hang around with friends with live music and good food. The rustic wooden decor amidst dimly lit chandeliers, a secret hidden cellar as well as a huge open one – Asado is also one of my favourites when it comes to dining out in Dubai. The sommelier, Sarah, has recently won the Sommelier of the Year in the Caterer Awards 2013. I did have the pleasure of her company, in a brilliant evening of Wine Tasting at the Asado Wine Club. The signature dish of Asado would probably be the Cabrito Asado or the roasted Baby Goat. The meat is either grilled on the Parrilla (barbeque) or Al Asador (open fire). The Baby Goat is slow-roasted in an open charcoal fire pit, almost in the middle of the restaurant and is a sight only for the brave-hearted and for a large group of diners. The Taste Of Dubai Menu Tasting At Asado has also introduced me to other signature dishes like the Bife Angosto con Ensalada Mixta or a slow cooked Argentinean Sirloin (below). Though not my best steak experiences in Dubai, this is one of the top steak experiences for sure (I have also loved my Wagyu in Al Maha, and another steak experiences in the Tribes restaurant and Butcher Shop & Grill, both in MOE).
Biker’s Cafe (Family Dining): It can be too crowded, but we kind of love the buzz that’s there in Biker’s Cafe. Also, we don’t mind some repeat performances from the royal visitors who have been visiting the Biker’s Cafe recently! The ambiance is nice – very unpretentious yet elegant and the Harley Davidsons (framed as well as a real one looming the entrance) don’t make the place overtly masculine. One of the few restaurants to serve an Emirati Breakfast with Khameer, Chebab, Balaleet (below) and more, we like visiting this chic hang-out. The Mediterranean Breakfast is also quite a hit with the family. It comes as a combo platter with Hommos, Labneh, Foul Medammes, Halloumi Cheese and Olives. Our family loves Arabic dips like Motabbel, BabaGanoush and others. I love the desserts here – the Leqaimat or the crisp fried golden dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds, the Um Ali (a bread Pudding with raisins, nuts and cream) and the Sticky Dates Pudding. A recount of the Emirati Breakfast That Was Followed by Emirati Desserts in Biker’s Cafe. It’s okay if the kids scream out their lungs – they’ll be quieter than the bikes for sure!
Al Fanar Restaurant (Middle Eastern): We have been living in Dubai for quite a while now and every time a guest would visit us and would wish to taste local food, we would take them to a Middle Eastern restaurant that would most probably be a Lebanese restaurant. The only Emirati food experience we have had till then were the occasional Leqaimat cooked up by the local womenfolk at Heritage Village or in the Global Village. Al Fanar is where I’ve had my First Authentic Emirati Food Experience. And if I were to go back again and again and again to one restaurant, along with guests who are visiting the Emirates for the first time, this is going to be the one. Warning: Go with an empty stomach, a lot of time in hand and ear-buds in your ears – the atmosphere is that of one big celebration taking place at home! Each dish is delicious. Starting with the starters like Koftat Samak or the crumbled fish balls to the simple the Al-Fanar Tomato Sauce (below) that was served along with the Koftats – everything is worth the long queue. My favourite here? The Machboos Dajaj or Chicken cooked with Yellow Rice simmered in chicken stock and special Arabic spices and dry lemon and the Beryani Laham or Mutton served with a mix of Rice, onions, raisins and almonds.
With so many restaurants opening up in Dubai (almost every other week), there is often a question of how to retain the existing diners? The psychology of the Dubai diners amuse me – ‘Which new restaurant have you tried this week?’ The dining culture is still evolving in this city and the diners are exposed to a lot of marketing temptation here – discounts, free dining vouchers etc. Many such pertinent discussions also took place at the Zomato Restaurant Summit, where the discussion panel consisted of various industry experts, F&B specialists, food editors, chefs and many leading names pertaining to the Dubai food scene. As for a regular enthusiastic diner and a foodie, what does a restaurant guide mean to you, when you already seem to have all the info available on the web? Does everything boil down to expecting discount coupons lugging at the back of a guide like this? Do look forward to hearing from you. In the mean time, if you are staying back in Dubai during the oncoming Eid Break, this is your Connoisseur’s guide for Things to do in Dubai. Another post on the same lines is brewing soon!
Signing off… Ishita
Disclaimer: The red hot picture of us holding the Connoisseur’s guide is kind courtesy of FooDiva, who was also a part of the panel of discussion in the Summit. Along with her, other food bloggers like The Hedonista and Discover Spice have worked on the guide. Please note that this is not a sponsored blog and all the 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 see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.