Dubai’s food scene – like the city itself – has exploded in recent years. Here’s Culture Trip’s pick of the bunch, from high-end restaurants to authentic kebab joints.
It should come as no surprise that Dubai’s culinary landscape reflects the rich diversity of its inhabitants. The city is teeming with restaurants that serve as a testament to the multifaceted nature of Arabic cuisine, with subtle nuances reflecting the unique histories of the various parts of the region.
In Dubai, this traditional Middle Eastern fare is served alongside modern fusion restaurants, inspired by flavours from all corners of the world. This combination of classic and contemporary, indigenous and international, creates an eclectic and exciting mix that is distinctly Dubai. After all, this city is nothing if not a global hub – a place for cultures to meet and mingle.
Al Ustad Special Kabab
Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$
Among the oldest and most beloved food establishments in Dubai, Al Ustad Special Kabab has been serving succulent Iranian kebab dishes at an affordable price for years. Its modest menu showcases time-tested recipes, most notably a selection of mutton and chicken kebabs, marinated to perfection and served over buttered saffron rice with salad. A favourite among residents of the city, the humble haven is adorned with photographs of satisfied customers, including members of the royal family and visiting celebrities. Their smiles serve as a testimonial to Al Ustad’s unmatched grills and its warm and inviting atmosphere.
The epitome of minimalist fine dining, Roberto’s offers a delightful Italian culinary experience. With three areas – the Ristorante (main dining room), Salotto (lounge) and Cortina (private terrace) – it provides an appropriate atmosphere for every occasion, from intimate meals to family gatherings, but always with impeccable Italian hospitality. The menu has an array of authentic Italian cuisine, with fresh ingredients sourced from around the globe – think New Zealand scampi and Canadian lobster. It’s worth sampling as many of the dishes as possible, including the ever-popular Roberto’s pizza – its crispy dough base topped with beef carpaccio, wild rocket, parmesan shavings and black truffles is not to be missed. The restaurant also boasts an award-winning wine list.
Elia is a slice of Greek paradise. Located in Bur Dubai, the restaurant provides an immersive education on Mediterranean cuisine, allowing foodies to enjoy the freshest ingredients and recipes developed by celebrity chef Yiannis Baxevanis. The tzatziki dip and the mousaka have garnered rave reviews, as has the pita bread. With decor resembling a Greek tavern, the atmosphere in Elia is homely, too, with lovely outdoor seating that completes the Mediterranean experience.
Dine on traditional Filipino cuisine at Dampa Seafood Grill | Courtesy of Dampa Seafood Grill
Located at the heart of Deira, Dampa Seafood Grill offers a brilliant introduction to traditional Filipino cuisine. The restaurant is best known for its Seafest Dump, where a mountain of shrimp, crab, mussels, clams and corn are placed on the table in a boodle-fight format so that guests can dig in with their hands. The fresh seafood comes with a choice of sauce, with cajun being a crowd favourite. It’s a messy and fun meal to be enjoyed with loved ones, with the relaxed and fun decor contributing to the festive atmosphere.
An unassuming no-frills restaurant in Karama, The Meating Room offers an exciting menu of fusion recipes – from Indian and Chinese to Italian and Mexican – along with grills and kebabs. Its creative take on traditional fare includes dishes such as the Naanza (a pizza with a naan base) and Psychedelic Lamb Chops served with tzatziki and grilled veggies. The daring menu is impeccably executed, with warm and comforting dishes that you most likely have not tried before.
With so many excellent Indian restaurants in Dubai, it can difficult to dial in on the best biryani, but Biryani Adda is definitely up there. Located near Burjuman station, this low-key restaurant is all about the food. Serving traditional Hyderabadi fare, Biryani Adda offers good value for money and is fast becoming a clear favourite among even the most discerning food lovers. The flavourful mutton biryani is a standout, as is the tandoori paneer tikka.
Whatever Maraheb lacks in terms of ambience, it more than makes up for with its tried-and-tested selection of mandi and other traditional Yemeni dishes. A favourite among lovers of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine is the hanith, a massive cut of shoulder or rib of lamb marinated and cooked for hours and served over a bed of fragrant rice. Maraheb’s no-frills seating area is always packed, so be sure to get here early whether you’re having lunch or dinner.
A testament to the richness and diversity of Levantine cuisine, Aroos Damascus never fails to deliver on its promise for flavourful and authentic Syrian dishes. Opened in 1980, this Deira-based restaurant serves up mouth-watering staples such as hummus, kebab kashkash, lamb chops, kafta with tomato and meat shawarma served with a selection of pickles. A family place that offers great value for money, the restaurant’s outdoor seating is especially inviting during cooler months – and is busy day and night.
3 Fils is located next to Dubai’s fishing harbour | Courtesy of 3 Fils Restaurant
Overlooking the Jumeirah harbour dotted with yachts, 3 Fils Restaurant is as picturesque as its food is delicious. The venue is small but attracts hundreds of visitors – including sheikhs and celebrities – every week, as it serves up award-winning cuisine from Singaporean chef Akmal Anuar. The restaurant only has 25 items on the menu at any given time, as Anuar prioritises fresh ingredients – highlights include the torched yellowtail and wagyu nigiri with Chinese caviar.
Offering a fine-dining experience like no other in the city, COYA Dubai is a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant located at the Four Seasons Resort’s Restaurant Village. The luxurious and eclectic interior sets the mood, with plenty of seating across the bar, sofas and main dining room, all tastefully decorated with bright colours and plenty of greenery that evoke a sense of Peru’s bright natural landscape. The menu pushes creative boundaries, with dishes including a selection of ceviches and the best-selling wagyu sirloin. Guests can pair their meals with custom cocktails, including a variety of pisco sours.
The iconic Burj Khalifa towers over guests of Asado, a high-end Argentinian restaurant in Downtown Dubai. With views of the building’s famous fountain, visitors can enjoy their meals in what resembles a South American country farmhouse. The interior is sophisticated but warm and welcoming, and the menu is outstanding. As with all Argentinian cuisine, meat is king and is prepared on an open parrilla (grill). The roasted baby goat, tender and flavourful, continues to be a signature dish, but the mixed platter with a choice selection of goat, beef ribs, lamb chops, sirloin, rib eye, tenderloin, sweetbread and chorizo is another excellent option.