Rubina A Khan reviews some of her favourite restaurants in Dubai, “tempted by the expansive culinary temptations in the city.”
I have been so busy eating my way through Dubai, and loving it, that I just didn’t get down to writing about all the amazing food here! I have been distracted, tormentously so sometimes, by the expansive culinary temptations in the country. So, here is my first feature on my top five favorite restaurants in Dubai, so far:
The last time I enjoyed duck was at the exquisite Duck de Chine restaurant in Beijing, China and boy, was I blown away with its culinary excellence! The duck was so exceptional that a shrill “This Beijing Duck is to fly for, not die for!” escaped my lips, right there on the table, just as I had the first taste of it, cracking everyone up and nodding in unison. I have not been impressed by any restaurant after that (repeated) ceremonial duck experience, till I chanced upon The Ivy Dubai’s Roast Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Choux Farci, Boulangère Potato and Fois Gras on a busy working afternoon in March. I have only ever eaten this dish at the Dubai outpost of this British restaurant, nothing else, yet. That’s how good it is and so is the service! The Ivy’s vibe can be as languid as you want it to be or as boisterous as a British pub, depending on the time you go there. Needless to add, I don’t need to die or fly to Beijing for my Beijing Duck fix, even though Duck De Chine reigns supreme in my world favorite list forever more, now that I’ve got The Ivy in Dubai to rein in my duck cravings for a bit.
Leveraging off its African heritage, The Meat Co is a steakhouse with a selection of premium steaks like Japanese Miyazaki Wagyu to natural grass-fed Argentinian Pampa Humeda bred beef to Australian Angus. This restaurant has the best view in all of Dubai – the Burj Khalifa and the Dancing Fountains on the Burj Lake and is the coolest place to just hang out in, with the warmest and friendliest service staff. It is the best spot for selfies too but trying to get the Burj in the same frame as your face will be cumbersome. I managed to a couple, but only after a couple of trips to the restaurant. I love the Gourmet Burgers, Steak Cut Chips, Chocolate Bread, Jumbo Prawns and the Maracaibo cocktail here.
Olea is a contemporary Arabian restaurant, specializing in Levantine (Eastern Mediterranean) cuisine, within the majestic splendors of the decade old Kempinski Mall Of The Emirates Hotel, that was recently refurbished for over a $100 million. Olea has a vast Levantine menu with dishes like the El Homos Beiruti of Lebanon and Nayeh (raw meat) selection of Syria to the Sultan Ibrahim of Cyprus and Soft Kunafa of Palestine, as also dishes from Cyprus, Jordan and Turkey, each prepared in the traditional manner, staying true to their origins and intrinsic flavors. Sidebar: Did you know Baba Ghanoush is Arabic for Spoiled Papa? Neither did I!
I am in love with the Coconut and Mango Mille Feuille here and the perfect Iced Lattes, just the way I like it, no special customizations needed. I have always had to specify the amount of coffee versus the milk and ice in the blend, pretty much everywhere in the world, be it London, Maldives, New York, Hawaii, China, India, Berlin… you get the drift. The cheery vibe at this French cafe is as inviting as the sugar artistry on its bakery shelves. And the service in this bustling cafe is so quick that even before I have paid up for my “to go” order, it’s all packed and ready! I have so far indulged in a sugar dance here and just not had the time to sit down for a meal yet, but I will do so soon. Till then, keep the Palmiers and Pain Au Chocolats coming Paul!
With the Burj Khalifa rising into the Dubai sky like a glimmering spire at sundown and the Dancing Fountains’ musical show on Burj Lake, sundowners at the Armani / Hashi lounge are a sublime seduction into the night ahead. To be right in the midst of the lofty Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, gives your evening an exceptional high. Armani / Hashi has some of the most exciting cocktails like the Kanji Martini and the Blushing Geisha, matched with exemplary service, not just at the bar and lounge, but at all points in the hotel, making it one of my favorite places to go to in Dubai. After the cocktail rounds, you can always have dinner at the Armani / Hashi restaurant that serves contemporary Japanese cuisine.
PS. I just realized that my favorite places in Dubai are so diverse from one another – ranging from Japanese, British, French, Arabic and African cuisines – a happy inadvertence. Well, I have always liked to think of myself as a world citizen, and this commingling falls right in to my citizen of the world vibe.