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When I see that my favourite dish of all time, bouillabaisse, is on the menu at a new restaurant in Dubai by chef Masaharu Morimoto, I am intrigued and excited to see if parity can be achieved. Morimoto Dubai spans the 23rd and 24th floor of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel and is easily accessible via a dedicated street entrance. Chef Morimoto is famed for fusing Western ingredients and cooking styles with traditional Japanese culinary techniques.

A Thursday night reservation in hand and I approach my experience with an open mind and high expectations. Morimoto is an impressive venue with much to choose from – the terrace bar with a great view of Burj Khalifa; a 24-seater sushi bar; private dining areas; live teppanyaki stations; and stylish long tables for larger parties. The décor is best described as industrial chic mixed with Japanese artistic flair. We enjoy a pre-dinner drink on the bar terrace to the back drop of a spectacular light show from the Burj, although photos are slightly ruined by the inevitable cranes as Dubai continues to build and develop. The cocktail menu is properly grown-up and certainly one for lovers of strong flavours.

We are booked to dine at one of two teppanyaki stations and the smooth service is immediately evident with the use of a luxury container for my guest to put her handbag in, underneath the chair. It really is the little touches that can make a difference. A wonderful feature of live teppanyaki stations is getting to watch what other diners are eating before committing, especially since the choice of starters is limited. The lamb cutlet with a demi-glace sauce is prepared almost like a schnitzel but the sticky sauce is the key to making this dish enjoyable and Japanesque. The dish of the night comes in the form of oyster foie gras as a well-sized portion of foie gras is cooked and served with two oysters, topped with sea urchin and a deep, rich, soy-based sauce. I could eat these all night as bar snacks.

The wine list is interestingly varied and seeing as I plan to eat my favourite main course, I opt for one of my favourite wines; an aromatic 2013 Bargylus blanc from the Syrian vineyards of the Saade brothers. Heavily marked up, of course, but definitely one to try if you get the chance as the sweet, yet strong notes pair brilliantly with green vegetables and fish. As seemingly always in Dubai, imported water is the only one on offer at AED30 per bottle.

Now, for main courses. I have been observing the 250g Australian “kiwami” Wagyu striploin for the past ten minutes and the marbling is enticing evidence of potentially how good this dish is going to be. Served alongside four different sauces, cooked to perfection and presented artfully, the Wagyu is everything you want from your meat and highly-recommended despite being expensive. What about the bouillabaisse, I hear you ask? It is fun to watch as different crab meats, lobsters, prawns, scallops, mussels and vegetables are cooked on the teppanyaki grill before being added to a plastic wrapper and topped with miso-based broth. This is then tied with a pretty bow and left to simmer on the grill, satisfying at least half of the literal translation of bouillabaisse. The bag is cut open and served inside a bowl which makes consumption somewhat cumbersome. The bouillabaisse looks fun, tastes great and has a spicy kick but there is not enough seafood – plus I would like to see more traditional, possibly even regional fish used, rather than the ‘big’ names of lobster and scallops. As someone who has travelled to the home of the bouillabaisse, Marseille, the ‘true’ herbs and flavours are not evident. I can see the inspiration, but should one call it a bouillabaisse? I do not think so. The deep, rich broth is the key to Morimoto’s bouillabaisse and as this is prepared in advance, it detracts from the illusion of the live teppanyaki station.

A pleasing touch follows, as we are moved to more relaxed, lounge seating for our desserts. Or perhaps they have bookings for the teppanyaki table? The desserts are where the Western influences are definitely a winner. Choosing from the list is tough but eventually we go for the fiery chocolate tart and Black Forest. Both dishes are brimming with theatre; the chocolate tart is beautifully plated and contains a chocolate sphere that is melted by flambéed rum, whilst the cherry dashes of the Black Forest are bespattered from within a chocolate cylinder. Unfortunately, the cherry sauce does splash onto us so the idea needs refining as other diners might not be as ameniable as we are. Both desserts taste stunning and the Black Forest is as good as a deconstructed chocolate gateau could be. The fiery tart is a massive portion and I would recommend sharing that between two.

Morimoto boasts a fantastic location and houses an inimitable style. The music is a bit too club-like and loud but is not distracting, and table conversation between us and the teppanyaki chef is manageable. The food generally tastes good but definite areas for refinement are clear. Service is Morimoto’s strength and the charming team is well drilled in its knowledge of the food. The price point of AED460 per person without alcohol is prohibitively expensive though. The question that hangs awkwardly is whether we would eat at Zuma for Japanese excellence or enjoy the playfulness of Morimoto? I believe Zuma leads the way in modern Japanese fine dining, but if Morimoto can make a few tweaks, there may be competition in the future. Overall, Morimoto scores a respectable FooDiva rating of 3.5 knives and I will visit again, but at that price, for a special occasion only.

Can ‘classics’ be successful when cooked differently? Are you a stickler for tradition, or a fan of innovation and novelty?

Matt Broderick.

Who is guest reviewer Matt? A married man with an obsession for French wine and food, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr., Michael Bremner and Tom Kitchin. You can follow him on Instagram @finediningmatt

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BB Social at DIFC

For the sixth consecutive year, here’s our annual guide of independent non-hotel restaurants in Dubai open for daytime dining IN over Ramadan – with an indication of establishments confirmed to serve more than just juice in the day. There are plenty more in hotels, so if you’re not fasting, do check.

Like always, the criteria for inclusion (and exclusion!) are:

  • STAND-ALONE restaurants and cafés open for dining IN from breakfast to sunset. This year we have 144 outlets (excluding food court joints in the malls which are also open).
  • We have specifically NOT included establishments in hotels and clubhouses, which will always have restaurants open including those operated by third parties.
  • We’ve also steered away from those open just for delivery and take-away.

We’re lucky to live in a tolerant society, so please be mindful of our Muslim friends, and patient with waiting staff who may be fasting. All have confirmed their opening hours, but it would be wise to call up in advance. For a similar round-up covering Abu Dhabi, click here.

If you come across any other outlets, then please do drop us a comment on this guide, or via your favourite social media channel using the hashtag #RamadanDining, and we will add these to the round-up.

Jebel Ali
  • Taqado Mexican Kitchen at Limitless. T; +971 4 8851650. Open weekdays 8am – 6pm.
  • 1762 at The Galleries, JAFZA. T; 800 1762. Open weekdays 7am – 4pm.
Jumeirah Lake Towers (curated by the lovely folks behind the JLT Dining directory)
  • Appetite at Al Mas Tower. T; 600 546654. Open daily 10am – 4pm.
  • Baldwin Cafe at Cluster V, Gold Crest Views. T; +971 4 447 7024. Open daily 9am – 2am.
  • Café Isan at Cluster M. T; +971 4 5135289. Open 9am – 11pm.
  • Cafe Le Flair at Cluster G. T: +971 4 4278629. Open daily 7am – 9pm.
  • Chawlas2 at Cluster M. T; +971 4 5149271. Open daily 12.30 – 10.30 pm, and weekends until 11.30 pm.
  • Couqley at Cluster A. T; +971 4 5149339. Open daily 12noon – 1am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Doner Kebab at Cluster W. T; 800 36637. Open daily 9am – 1am.
  • Friends Avenue at Cluster T, Fortune Executive Tower, Ground level. T; +971 4 5545813. Open daily 8am – 8pm.
  • Golositalia at Cluster C. T; +971 4 4434955. Open daily 7am – 11 pm.
  • Hako Sushi at Cluster I. T; 800 HAKO. Open daily 11am – midnight.
  • Hanoi at Cluster C, Gold Crest Executive building, Promenade level. T; +971 50 5703359. Open daily 12noon – 10pm.
  • Jazz@PizzaExpress at Cluster A. T; +971 4 4416342. Open daily 12noon -1am and on weekends until 2am.
  • Just Salad at Indigo Tower, Cluster D. T +971 4 3652222. Open daily 11am – 11.30pm.
  • Kitchen Nation at Lakeshore Tower, Cluster Y. T; +971 55 7702712. Open 24 hours.
  • Kpop Chicken at Cluster F. T; +971 4 4340096. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • Kteer Tayyeb at Cluster C. T; +971 4 4338384. Open daily 9am – 11pm.
  • La Terrazza at Almas Tower. T; +971 4 4577033. Open daily 8am – 3am.
  • Little Bangkok at Lake front, Cluster I, Platinum Tower. T; 800 2264565. Open daily 12noon – 11.30pm.
  • Mambo Pizza at Cluster W, Tiffany Tower. +971 4 4509876. Open daily 11.30am – 11.30pm.
  • Mezza Lebanese Kitchen at Cluster Y, Lake Shore Tower. T; +971 4 5545872. Open daily 10am – 10pm.
  • Nais Italian Kitchen at Cluster F, HDS Tower. T; +971 4 4529991. Open daily 11am – 9pm.
  • Pineapple Express Cafe at Al Mas Tower. T; +971 54 4024660. Open daily 8.30am – 10pm, and on Friday until 8pm.
  • Pressman’s at Cluster E, Saba Tower 1. T; +971 4 4308282. Open daily 8am – 10pm.
  • Public at Lake Plaza Tower, Cluster T. T; +971 4 4519670. Open daily 8am -10pm.
  • Richy’s at HDS Tower, Cluster F. T; +971 4 800 742497. Open daily from 11am.
  • Rolling Pin at Cluster G. T; +971 4 4483335. Open daily 9am – 10pm.
  • Scafa at Cluster I, Unit 6, Promenade level. T; +971 4 3794044. Open Sunday to Thursday 12 – 3.30pm.
  • Shawarma Factory at Cluster I, Platinum Tower. T; +971 4 5547318. Open daily 8am – 10.30pm.
  • Sheikh & Shake at Cluster R, Mag Tower, Shop 9-10. T; 800 123456. Open daily 11am – 1am, and until 4am on weekends.
  • Spice Kraft at Cluster I, Platinum Tower. T; +971 4 3635329. Open daily 8.30am – 11.30pm.
  • Sumo Sushi & Bento at Cluster C, Gold Crest Executive Tower, Promenade Level. T; 800 7866. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • The Yellow Chilli by Sanjeev Kapoor at Cluster U. T; +971 4 5517007. Open daily 11.30am – 10.30pm.
  • Vietnamese Foodies at Cluster D. T; Open daily 10 – 12am.
  • White Ambient at Cluster E, Saba Tower 1. T; +971 4 5147977. Open daily 10am – 11pm.
  • 1762 Stripped at One Building. T; 8001762. Open weekdays 8am – 3pm.
  • 800 Thali at Cluster B. T; +971 4 3659959. Open daily 11.30am – 11pm and on weekends from 8am.
The Lakes/ Emirates Hills
  • Reform Social & Grill at The Lakes. T; +971 4 4542638. Open daily 7am – midnight. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Shakespeare & Co at Springs Town Centre, Emirates Hills. T;+971 4 3608886. Open daily 10am – midnight.
Dubai Media/ Internet Cities
  • Avec at Dubai Media City, Al Thuraya Tower 2. T; +971 4 4303700. Open daily 8am – 3am.
  • Bateel at Dubai Media City, Tower B, Business Central Towers. T; +971 4 4494010. Open daily 9am – 8pm.
  • Circle Cafe at Dubai Media City, CNN Building. T; +971 4 3915170. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Just Salad at Dubai Internet City. T; +971 4 3652222. Open daily 11am – 11.30pm.
  • Little Bangkok at Dubai Media City, Business Central Towers. T; 800 2264565. Open 12noon – 11pm.
  • The Noodle House at Dubai Media City, Gloria Hotel. T; +971  4 3818065. Open daily 12noon – 11.30pm.
  • Oregano at Dubai Internet City, Office Park. T; +971 4 4343010. Open daily 11am – midnight, and on Thursday/ Friday until 1am.
  • Pascal Tepper at Dubai Media City (next to Radisson). T; +971 4 4542408. Open daily 7am – 9pm.
  • Royal Mughal Bistro at Dubai Internet City, Office Park. T; +971 4 4516828. Open daily 11.30am – 11pm.
  • Rossovivo at Dubai Internet City, Office Park. T; +971 4 4272477. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • Sumo Sushi & Bento at Dubai Media City, Building 10 (BBC). T; 800 7866. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • Sushi Counter at Dubai Media City, CNBC Building. T; +971 4 3751096. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • Taqado Mexican Kitchen – T; +971 4 3515210. Building 7 – open daily 8am – midnight. Building 10 – open weekdays 8am – 6pm.
  • Urban Bistro at Dubai Media City, CNN Building. T; +971 4 362 4330. Open weekdays 7am – 10pm and weekends 9am – 10pm.
  • Vapiano at Dubai Media City, Thuraya Tower, ground level. T; +971 4 4370786. Open weekdays 8am – 11pm and weekends 11am – 11pm.
  • 1762 at Dubai Media City. T; 800 1762. Open weekdays 7am – 4pm.
Dubai Marina/ Palm Jumeirah/ Souk Madinat
  • Abyat on Palm Jumeirah, Club Vista Mare. T; +971 4 5588428. Open daily 12noon – 2am.
  • Baker & Spice at Dubai Marina promenade. T; +971 4 04 3624686. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Bianca at The Beach, JBR. T; +971 4 5549459. Open daily 10am – midnight.
  • Bistro des Arts at Dubai Marina Mall Promenade. T; +971 4 5511576. Open daily 7.30am – 11.30pm. BOOZE SERVED FROM 12NOON.
  • Breeze Beach Grill on Palm Jumeirah, Club Vista Mare. T; +971 4 5683000. Open from 12noon on weekdays, and from 9am on weekends. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Eggspectation at The Beach, JBR. T; +971 4 4307752. Open daily from 12noon – 12am.
  • Folly at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. T; +971 4 4308535. Open daily 12noon – 2.30pm and 7 – 11pm. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Il Faro on Palm Jumeirah, Azure Residences. T: +971 4 5683137. Open daily from 12noon. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • P&B at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. T; +971 4 3666197. Open daily 12noon – 11.30pm, and on weekends until 12.30am.
  • Publique at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. T; +971 4 4308550. Open daily 12noon – 2am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Riva Beach on Palm Jumeirah, Shoreline Building 8. T; +971 4 4309466. Open daily 7am – midnight.
  • Shakespeare & Co at Golden Mile, Palm Jumeirah. T;+971 4 2978344. Open daily 10am – midnight.
  • The Meat Company at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. T; +971 4 3686040. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • The Scene at Pier 7, Level 4. T; +971 4 4222328. Open daily 11am – 2am.
  • The Tap House at Club Vista Mare. T; +971 4 5143778. Open daily 12noon – 2am.
  • Trader Vic’s at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Open daily 12noon – 2am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Trattoria Toscana at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. T; +971 4 3666318. Open daily 12noon – 11.45pm.
  • Wagamama at Al Fattan Tower, JBR Walk. T; +971 4 3995900. Open daily 12 – 11.45pm. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Zero Gravity at Skydive Dubai. T; +971 4 3990009. Open daily serving food indoors only 10am – 12am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
Barsha/ Al Quoz/ Jumeirah
  • Apres at Mall of the Emirates. T; +971 4 3412575. Open daily 11am – 11.30pm.
  • Arrows & Sparrows at Emaar Business Park. T; +971 4 5588141. Open daily 8am – 8pm.
  • Baker & Spice at Gold & Diamond Park. T; +971 4 8877086. Open daily 7am – 7pm.
  • Baker & Spice at Town Centre. T; +971 4 04 2975797. Open daily 7am – 11pm.
  • Happy Egg on 32 Umm Al Sheif Street (same strip as Maria Bonita). T; +971 4 3944729. Open daily 8am – 3am.
  • Karam Beirut at Mall of the Emirates. T; +971 4 3412202. Open 12noon – midnight.
  • Life ‘n One Cafe on Jumeirah Beach Road. T; +971 56 5342899. Open daily 10am – 9pm.
  • Salmontini at Mall of the Emirates. T; +971 4 3410222. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Tom & Serg in Al Joud Centre, Al Quoz. T; +971 56 4746812. Open daily 8am – 4pm and on weekends until 6pm.
  • Soho Cafe in Gold & Diamond Park, Building 4. T; +971 4 3415335. Open daily 7am – 10pm.
  • St Tropez at Mall of the Emirates. T; +971 4 3413415. Open daily 10am – midnight.
  • 21 Grams Bistro at junction of Jumeirah Beach Road and Al Thanya Street, Umm Suqeim 3. T; +971 4 3490744. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
Downtown Dubai/ Sheikh Zayed/ City Walk/ La Mer
  • Baker & Spice at Souk Al Bahar. T; +971 4 4252240. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Baker & Spice at Souk Al Manzil. T; +971 4 4279856. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Clinton Street Bakery at Burj Views and City Walk. T; +971 4 4281331. Open daily 10am – 1am.
  • Eggspectation at Citywalk. T; +9714 2406877. Open daily from 12noon – 12am.
  • Fibber Magee’s in Saeed Tower One, Sheikh Zayed road. T; +971 4 3322400. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • Gunaydin Dubai at Souk Al Bahar. T; +971 4 5540700. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Izu Brasserie & Bakery at City Walk. T; +971 4 4033030. Brasserie open daily 11am – 1pm. Bakery open daily 7am – 6pm.
  • Lafayette Gourmet at City Walk. T; +9714 4033033. Open daily 8am – 2am.
  • Shakespeare & Co at Souk Al Bahar. T;+971 4 4257971. Open daily 10am – midnight.
  • Street x GOSSIP at La Mer. T; +971 4 3417222. Open Wednesday – Saturday 7am – 1am and Sunday – Tuesday 7am – 12am.
  • The Sum of Us in Burj Al Salam, Sheikh Zayed road. T; +971 56 4457526. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Ting Irie at Souk Al Manzil. T; +971 4 5575601. Open daily 12noon – 2am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Via Veneto in Downtown Dubai. T; +971 4 2427882. Open daily 8am – 11pm and on weekends until 12am.
DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre)
  • Al Mandaloun – T; +971 4 3637474. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • Bateel – T; + 971 4 3700404. Open daily 7.30am – 8pm.
  • BB Social – T; +971 4 4074444. Open daily 12noon – midnight, and until 1am on weekends.
  • Boca – T; +971 4 3231833. Open daily 12noon – 1am.
  • Burger & Lobster in Burj Daman. T; +971 4 5148838. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Cipriani – T; +971 4 3470003. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Dusty’s at Al Fattan Currency House. T; +971 4 3545435. Open daily from 7.30am onwards. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Gaucho – T; +971 4 4227898. Open daily 12noon – 11.30pm.
  • Intersect by Lexus – T; +971 4 3559524. Open weekdays 8am – 4pm and 10pm onwards.
  • Kiza at Emirates Financial Towers. T; +971 4 4539038. Open daily 12noon – 2am.
  • La Petite Maison – T; +971 4 4390505. Open daily 12noon – 1.30am.
  • Mercato – T; +971 4 3205207. Open weekdays 7am – 10pm and weekends 9am – 10pm.
  • Mint Leaf of London at Emirates Financial Towers – T; + 971 4 7060900. Open daily 12noon – 12am.
  • Pret To Go – T; +971 4 3556688. Open daily 8am – 8pm.
  • Ravioli & Co at Burj Daman, DIFC. T; +9714 2411616. Open daily 12noon – 12am.
  • Roberto’s – T; +971 4 3860066. Open daily 12noon – 2am.
  • Royal China – T; +971 4 3545543. Open daily 11.30am – 11.30pm.
  • Scotta Espresso Bar in Burj Daman building. T; +971 4  5587090. Open weekdays 7am – 10pm and weekends 9am – 10pm.
  • Sushi Art – T; 800220. Open daily 11am – midnight.
  • Taqado Mexican Kitchen – T; +971 4 3515210. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • The Noodle House – T; 800 666 353. Open daily 12noon – 11pm.
  • Zuma – T; +971 4 4255660. Open daily 12 – 3pm.
  • 1762 – T; 800 1762. Open weekdays 8am – 4.30pm.
D3 (Dubai Design District)
  • Akiba Dori – T; +971 4 7707949. Open daily 12noon – 2am. BOOZE SERVED ALL DAY.
  • Belong – T; +971 4 5668374. Open daily 12noon – 1am. BOOZE SERVED ALL..
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Coya Abu Dhabi

If you are not fasting over Ramadan, like me, you will want to know where best to grab breakfast, lunch or coffee in Abu Dhabi. Just like last year, here is a guide to independent non-hotel restaurants and cafés in the capital that are open for dining IN during the day over the holy month.

The 51 establishments included are only those that are not based in hotels, as these will have their usual restaurants open as normal. We have tried to include some of Abu Dhabi’s more casual, hidden wonders to complement the well-known concepts, whilst avoiding those just open for take-away or delivery. Opening hours and telephone numbers have been verified, but please call ahead to be on the safe side.

If you have any additions or changes, let us know in the comments, or on your favourite social media channel using the hashtag #RamadanDining and we will update this round-up.

 On-island
  • 19th Street at Abu Dhabi City Golf Club. T; +971 2 4459600. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • Bu Trinity at The Hub, World Trade Centre Mall. T; +971 2 6668066. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Café Arabia on Mohammed bin Khalifa Street. T; +971 2 6439699. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • Carluccio’s at Eastern Mangroves. T; +971 2 6412231. Open Sunday – Wednesday 10am – 10pm, and weekends 11am – midnight.
  • First Clique Café in Khalifa Park, Al Bateen. T; +971 2 6794949. Open daily 9am – 1am.
  • Flooka at Eastern Mangroves. T; +971 2 4418244. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Jazz @ Pizza Express at The Hub, World Trade Centre Mall. T; +971 2 4447752. Open daily 11.30am – midnight.
  • Jones the Grocer in Khalidiya. T; +971 2 6395883. Open daily 10am – 1am.
  • Jones the Grocer in Al Mamoura Building. T; +971 2 4438762. Open daily 8am – 1am.
  • La Brioche (all locations excluding malls). T; +971 2 6419811. Open daily 7am – midnight.
  • Living Room Café in Khalidiya. T; +971 2 6396654. Open daily 9am – 11pm.
  • Mondo Pizzeria at Abu Dhabi Country Club. T; +971 2 6577785. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Tamba at The Hub, World Trade Centre Mall. T; +971 2 6728888. Open weekdays 12noon – 1am and on weekends until 2am.
  • The Sportsman’s Arms at the International Tennis Centre. T; +971 2 4034235. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • The Third Place in Khalidiya. T; +971 2 6811877. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
Reem/ Maryah Islands
  • Bentley Bistro & Bar in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6262131. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Biryani Pot in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6766555. Open daily 11am – midnight.
  • Carluccio’s in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6771261. Open daily 9am – 11pm.
  • Coya in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 3067000. Open daily 12 – 5.30pm.
  • Eat Greek Kouzina in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 3092323. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • First Clique in Marina Square. T; +971 2 6794949. Open daily 11am – 1am.
  • Gossip in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6777520. Open Thursday – Saturday 1am – 7pm and Sunday – Wednesday 7am – midnight.
  • Jazz @ Pizza Express in Arc Tower, Reem Island. T; +971 2 6660068. Open daily 11.30am – 11.30pm.
  • Loca in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 5823639. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Magnolia Bakery in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6749380. Open daily 8am – midnight.
  • Nolu’s in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6441516. Open daily 11am – 3pm.
  • Nusret in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6799949. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Roberto’s in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6279009. Open daily 12noon – 4pm.
  • Sushi Art in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6770830. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
  • Taqado in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 6770700. Open daily 12noon – midnight.
  • Zuma in The Galleria, Maryah Island. T; +971 2 4015900. Open daily 12 – 3.30pm and weekends 12noon – 4pm.
Saadiyat/ Yas Islands
  • Circle Café at Saadiyat Island. T; +971 2 4484255. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
  • Carluccio’s at Yas Mall. T; +971 2 4484255. Open daily 10am – midnight.
  • Fanr at Manarat Al Saadiyat. T; +971 2 6575888. Open daily 10am – 4pm.
  • Hickory’s Sports Bar at Yas Links Golf Club, Saadiyat Island. T; +971 2 8107710. Open daily 6.30am – midnight.
  • Mamma RossellaRistorante CavallinoRosticceria Modena at Ferrari World. T; +971 2 4968000. Open Saturday – Wednesday 11am – 7pm and Thursday/ Friday 11am – midnight.
  • Tossed in Yas Mall. T; +971 2 6665163. Open daily 10am – 1am.
  • Yas Waterworld, various outlets. T; +971 2 4142000. Open daily 10am – 6pm.
Off-island
  • Andiamo in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5565775. Open daily 8am – 10pm.
  • Café 28 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Khalifa City A. T; +971 2 5588990. Open daily 6am – midnight.
  • Café Firenze in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5564643. Open daily 6.30am – 11pm.
  • Café Julie in Mazyad Mall. T; +971 2 5501330. Open daily 9am – 1pm.
  • Circle Café at Raha Gardens. T; +971 2 5561550. Open Sunday – Wednesday 9am – midnight, and weekends 9am – 1am.
  • Jim’s Kitchen Table at Masdar City. T; +971 2 4919401. Open daily 9am – 9pm.
  • Jones the Grocer in Gardens Plaza, Raha Gardens. T; +971 2 5574882. Open daily 10am – 1am.
  • Jones the Grocer in Al Muneera. T; +971 2 6767141. Open daily 10am – 1am.
  • Nando’s in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5558012. Open daily 11am – midnight.
  • Nolu’s in Al Bandar. T; +971 2 5579500. Open daily 12noon – 11pm.
  • Sho Cho in Souq Qaryat Al Beri. T; +971 2 5581117. Open daily 12noon – midnight.

Happy summer and Ramadan Kareem.

Matt Broderick

Who is guest reviewer Matt? A married man with an obsession for French wine and food, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr., Michael Bremner and Tom Kitchin. You can follow him on Instagram @finediningmatt

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I struggle with Emirates Financial Towers in DIFC as a dining location. It takes two entrances, two elevators and three hostesses to get into new Dubai restaurant openingCrab Market on the 15th floor. Will the day ever come in Dubai where I can walk straight into a restaurant from the street and order a glass of wine? Is that too much to ask for given I am paying more for my dinner than most cities in the world? Actually you can with this DIFC restaurant, plus those at D3. But we need more.

Anyhow, that’s a rant on Dubai, not on the restaurant itself, even though the owners could have picked a better building. Once in, huge iced seafood (mostly crab) displays and aquariums greet us in front of an open kitchen. Crab Market is a concept by chef Vladimir Mukhin of White Rabbit Moscow World’s 50 Best fame brought to Dubai by Bulldozer restaurant group. To the left sits a bar-cum-lounge which, whilst empty on a Wednesday night, has that lingering smell of smoke, so we decide to have an aperitif at our table instead in the main dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows. We pretty much have our pick of a table and go for a spot overlooking glittering Burj Khalifa – and Mint Leaf of London in the adjoining tower.

The cocktail list is intriguing and with my passion for classics with a twist, I go for an Old Fashioned with a Japanese single malt. Plum umeshu and bitters give it aromatic sweet-sour notes. What’s even more intriguing is the menu. Needless to say crab abounds, or should I say crawls, with four species – Crab Market’s Russian specialty, the mammoth Kamchatka from the Bering Sea (otherwise known as Red King or Alaskan King); brown crab from the North Sea; plus mud and blue crabs from the Indian Ocean. Whilst the menu has clear definitions between platters, a raw bar, starters, seafood, pastas and all sorts of interesting mains, it’s a menu where you can mix and match as you please.

A refreshing amuse bouche arrives of marinated watermelon cubes with a sharp flavour of elderflower. As much as I am an oyster purist, I also enjoy these molluscs cooked. The oysters Rockefeller use local no 3 Dibba Bay oysters (with another five species on offer from the raw bar). With a generous but not overwhelming dose of umami-laden spinach and Parmesan béchamel, my only qualm is that only three are served and we have to fight over the third. Given on average people tend to dine out in multiples of two, I am pretty sure this portioning is a standard restaurant strategy to encourage ordering more dishes. For our second starter, we opt for a pasta dish – a well executed spaghetti alle vongole, which is classically served with olive oil, parsley, chilli and bottarga (and a decent smattering of clams).

There’s no question that our main course has to come from the ‘choose your crab and sauce’ section. Sadly, the live whole Kamchatka has not yet docked into Dubai, so we settle for crab legs, which have been flash frozen. Given we are sharing, we order 400gms steamed (at AED70 per 100g). The crabmeat is plump, juicy and succulent. Crab forks are only served when we prompt the waitress – something that should automatically arrive with any crab dish. Dipped into a smooth and rich Champagne, leek and garlic cream sauce makes the whole experience so much more decadent. Interestingly, all crab dishes are meant to be served with steamed buns (to sandwich the crab) but the kitchen has ran out, so a basket of griddle-fried sour dough bread arrives instead. As wonderful as these carbs are, the crab on its own with the sauce is a pleasurable meal in itself. An accompanying coupe of chilled Laurent Perrier Brut is all that I need.

For review purposes we order a light dessert to share. A simple, feather-light sheep’s milk mousse is enhanced by a scoop of luscious blueberry ice cream. What ruins it though are small chunks of limoncello jelly – both the texture and the intense flavour are off-putting and over-powering. Presentation is a little sloppy too.

Our waitress is charming and well informed on ingredients and cooking style, whilst service is swift and not at all intrusive. The interior with its natural tones and starched white table linen is a little sterile making Crab Market more a venue for a business lunch or dinner, rather than a date night or a raucous gathering with friends. Perhaps once it gets busier, more atmosphere will prevail. Ironically, at odds with the décor, the sound level of the pop music playlist is too high and should be toned down.

What is welcoming though, is a relatively reasonable price point by Dubai standards for top-notch decadent seafood. Expect a bill of AED320 with taxes per person based on three courses each without alcohol. On that basis, I would most definitely return, despite the tower location. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating.

Do you frequent any licensed restaurants here with easy street access?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

A post shared by Award-winning food critic????? (@foodiva) on Apr 29, 2018 at 11:04pm PDT

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Does one have to understand art to appreciate it or can one just look at a masterpiece and say – wow! How about assessing culinary artwork? Likely some familiarity with the quality of ingredients does help in better appreciation of what sits on the plate. So, when Izu Ani, one of Dubai’s chef heroes, explains the subtleties of his humble bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar, my fellow diners and I ponder whether we would appreciate this start to our meal less, had he not enlightened us with specific attributes and origins of the ingredients.

Carine is Izu’s latest consultancy venture after highly successful creations La Petite Maison Dubai and La Serre – both of which he is no longer involved with – followed by new age Lighthouse where he is a partner, and another consultancy agreement with Izu Brasserie. Tucked away in the sprawling Emirates Golf Club where Le Classique held fort for 29 years, Carine, named after Izu’s wife, has a dedicated entrance and offers a selection of his signature and new French-Mediterranean creations.

The dining room is brightly lit with modern casual bistro-like furniture – no starched linens, just simple runners. There are two large outdoor dining terraces. The lighting outside is very dim compared to indoors. I debate for a while whether to compromise sitting inside on a solo table for better photos, or soak up the beautiful breeze outside that blends lively multilingual chatter with the clink of cutlery. I opt for the latter.

Izu is in the kitchen tonight and talks about his tutelage under the likes of Jacques Chibois at two Michelin star La Bastide Saint Antoine in Grasse (where we happen to have dined recently), and the contrast with more engineered food at Basque restaurants Arzak and Mugaritz, realising that he wanted to stick to classic, simple fare. The focus is on high quality ingredients cooked the right way, allowing natural flavours to shine. The olive oil from the bread dip hails from his own olive tree grove in Greece; the lemons from Italy; the salmon is smoked in-house; and the home-made pain de campagne (French sourdough) is special as it sits lightly on the stomach.

The cocktail list flaunts some home-aged concoctions and we venture for the new age boulevardier and the mule. The former turns out quite original with deep flavours of bourbon, Campari and bitters.

Guided by the chef and driven by our hunger we order several starters. The tarte flambée, a traditional Alsatian flatbread is a comforting mix of sweet caramelised onions, sliced cherry tomatoes and sour cream on a thin crisp baked pita-like tart, a light but scrumptious prelude to what follows. The beetroot salad is a well-balanced offering of sweet and succulent beetroot chunks with salty chèvre and pistachios. The panzanella salad is a house specialty. Whilst inspired by the classic Tuscan bread salad, Izu’s version appears way more creative – a slab of moist mozzarella atop crunchy bread ‘rusks’ with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions sandwiched in between – a delicious, flavoursome dish.

A side dish of ratatouille appears different from the Provençal version where one can see reduced juices from the cooked vegetables. Here what we eat appears more like sautéed vegetables, dominated by large onion petals and peppers. Thanks to my vegetarian wife, we complete the streak of vegetarian starters with a second side dish, a potato gratin (aka Dauphinoise) with soft melting potatoes and stretchy cooked cheese drowning (in a good way) all the flavours that have gathered on my palate so far.

Moving on to mains, the truffle rigatoni is a beautifully executed classic with the right consistency of cheese and truffle shavings coating perfectly al dente rigatoni. The grilled sea bass is served in a hot skillet and is on point. The fish fillet sits on a bed of tomato sauce and vegetables with sprinkled herbs, along with a side of sumac-infused rice. A spoonful of all these ingredients together will transport you to the French riviera. Lamb cutlets are well presented on a pita bread moist with jus. These are slightly caramelised, whilst spicy eggplant makes it somewhat different in flavour from a traditional seared cutlet with mint chutney. The grilled ribeye is a heavy 400g offering garnished with padron peppers and garlic flakes. We request the steak medium-well done (which in Dubai typically translates to medium) but what arrives is indeed what we order. Mediterranean spices on the grill may have further darkened the beef, whilst the spices and herbs feel a little overcooked on the palate. However, once sliced through, the meat is juicy and exquisite with the spices having seeped through the melted marbling.

We have indeed eaten more than our fill but how can we not indulge in the much-touted tarte tatin (easily shared between not just two, but four) that we have to pre-order with the starters. I must say that this is so much more full-bodied, juicy and caramelised than any tarte tatin I have ever indulged in. The chef sends a sampler of some other desserts, but we are too full to do justice to these.

Service is prompt and smooth on a relatively quiet Sunday night with some specific tips from the waiter on items off-menu that could be ordered. I will be curious to see how Carine manages once all the dining areas open up and occupancy increases, hopefully.

At AED328 per person based on three courses each without alcohol, it seems a little expensive for simple fare, however the rib eye at AED280 skews the average upwards. That said, with one of Dubai’s top chefs in attendance, a gorgeous al fresco setting, attentive service and honest, tasty French-Med food, I will return to Carine. Here’s to four out of five FooDiva knives.

Does some familiarity with the quality of ingredients help you better appreciate a dish, or not?

AK.

Who is FooDiva’s anon guest reviewer? AK is an avid gastronaut who thinks that a day without a good meal is a day wasted. He has travelled the world exploring culinary delights, including a treasured dinner at El Bulli. He works as an investment banker in Dubai.

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As a loyal patron of imported Latin-American restaurant concept Asia de Cuba in Abu Dhabi, I am excited to see how the Dubai counterpart fares at The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort. It will take something special to beat the picturesque views and effortless charm of Abu Dhabi. Comparing the menus is the first hint that Dubai is not a carbon copy of the original venue, bringing a welcome sense of anticipation to our dinner reservation.

Arriving at Asia de Cuba, which, incidentally, has replaced China Grill, is satisfyingly smooth with designated parking or cab drop-off outside the entrance. The welcome is refreshingly understated and low-key. This is just what I need after too many restaurants that bombard us with ‘welcome teams’. Walking into the main dining area evokes feelings of awe at the décor. Asia de Cuba is split into two intriguing levels with a funky bar upstairs overlooking the spacious dining room. The interior is an impressive homage to Havana with painted waterfalls, leafy plants, and Cuban artwork and influences galore.

The atmosphere is on point with appropriate tunes filling the background but the hubbub of conversation and joviality is the main track. The tables fill quickly and by 8pm on a Wednesday night the dining room is almost full. The upstairs bar opens at 9pm which coincides with live music to ramp up the ambience further. I am usually the first to complain about intrusive music but I barely notice it here and conversation is as relaxed as it should be.

Service at Asia de Cuba is deliberate and charmingly executed. The waiting staff is male-dominated but with stylish uniforms that add to the relaxed Cuban vibes. Most importantly, the team knows the food. They must have eaten it. They must have enjoyed it. We order with the sharing concept in mind but order way too much. However, in a shock twist we are told to remove one dish from our order as we would be too full. What a refreshing change from the usual attempts at upselling and over-ordering.

I cannot remember the last time I dined without wine but it makes perfect sense at Asia de Cuba. The wine list is attractive but the cocktails even more so; we get through mojitos of differing flavours and I also try an interesting addition to the drinks menu. Honestly, I am cynical at the sound of the Pinyan margarita as it contains apricot brandy, strawberries and sake foam. How wrong am I? It looks and tastes superb. The water served is only imported and priced accordingly. Consumers should be given a choice with local water also on offer.

What about the food? First of all, it is not that Instagrammable. The dim light and rustic, simple style of the dishes does not make for perfect, pretty photographs; a topic that I have heard keenly contested on local radio, recently. Professional obligations aside, it matters not. The food tastes superb and the sharing concept enhances this (take note, La Petite Maison) as we are keen to mix and match to compare notes.

The snapper ceviche is cleverly layered as red onion and Thai chilli warm the mouth before coriander refreshes it ready for the next mouthful. The empanadas are replete with black beans and plantain; the pastry of similar good quality to the ‘Ropa Vieja’ spring rolls. These spring rolls have the potential to cause arguments over who gets the extra one from the pile of three. Richly flavoured shredded beef oozes out but the real stars are the sauces available for dipping. We have to wait for the final sharing plate but it is worth every second. Pork chicharrones (also available as chicken) are juicy squares of pork with crispy, crackling tops that are accentuated by a honey soy glaze. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that I might just order several plates of these, next time.

The Cuban BBQ section of the menu is an absolute must. El Lechon is a pork feast that is served table-side. On the plate, it is a lump of sticky coconut rice with a chunk of black beans, some mojo (pickle)-roasted pork, and fat slices of maduros (plantain), served alongside chimichurri. In the mouth, it is a harmony of vivid, Cuban flavours. The pork is kept moist by the cooking juices, whilst another large chunk of belly and crackling makes you remember how good the chicharrones are. Tasting each element alone is fine, but your fork must contain all of the parts to keep your taste buds happy. Should the plate look pretty? Could it? Maybe so, but I appreciate the honesty of the dish and the portion sizes. We just cannot finish the feast and it would be enough for three people, easily.

At this point, we are too full for desserts but eventually decide on Mexican doughnuts to share. They taste good but I would prefer these served hotter. The chilli chocolate sauce is reasonable, but the salted caramel sauce is excellent and a perfect addition to the doughnut. Again, simplicity in presentation, but this could be an opportunity to show a bit of flair and style to elevate the dining experience to the highest levels.

This brings me to my conclusion. The location is good but it cannot match the marvellous views of Abu Dhabi’s corniche. The service is excellent, as is the overall quality of the food. The price point is superb at AED195 per person without alcohol, with similar dishes between 20 and 40 per cent cheaper than Abu Dhabi. You will not find many price points better than that for a licensed restaurant in one of Dubai’s nicer hotels. Personally, I like to dine with a view which you might be able to do once the terrace opens after the summer. However, the décor is outstanding for an indoor restaurant and an air of authenticity radiates throughout the place. All this combined scores Asia de Cuba a high four out of five FooDiva knife rating.

Have you dined at Asia de Cuba in the UAE, or elsewhere? Which do you prefer?

Who is Matt? A married man with an obsession for French wine and fine dining, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr. and Michael Bremner. You can follow him on Instagram @finediningmatt

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Here comes every vegetarian’s worst nightmare – a new Dubai restaurant by the name of Beefbar. Located in DIFC’s Al Fattan Currency House, Beefbar is tucked away in a cosy corner on the podium level and strategically located next to sister restaurant, Crazy Fish – both have replaced Cle. This global chain boasts restaurants in its home Monte-Carlo, Hong Kong (with one Michelin star), Mexico City, Cannes and Mykonos.

Beefbar’s focus is well, beef, but do not let its very Instagrammable and educational display of raw meat at the entrance fool you, this steakhouse serves more than just prime cuts. The mammoth-sized menu spans a raw bar (ceviches and seafood), leaf bar (salads and the like, so veggies are looked after…sort of), as well as different kinds of meat including Iberico lamb, farm chicken and veal. No pork licence here. For starters, the menu offers two creative sections – ‘certified Kobe street food’ and ‘Dubai exclusive street food’ which is localised for each Beefbar location, a welcome change for an imported concept. Options include Kobe beef shawarmas, as well as hummus with minced Kobe beef.

Japanese Kobe is undeniably the hero beef on the menu, similar to Kohantei. A special grade of Wagyu beef from the Tajima-gyu breed of cattle in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, Kobe beef is prized for its flavour, marbling and texture. The cuts served at Beefbar are A5 grade, the most premium of Wagyu grades. This grade denotes the yield (from premium A dropping to C) and the quality (from inferior 1 rising to extremely good 5). Other breeds on the menu are Black Angus (both Australian from Rangers Valley Black Market and American from Creekstone Farms) – beef cattle with comparatively higher marble content due to cold temperatures.

With a dim ‘underground-esque’ ambience, leather textiles are littered throughout a sleekly designed space of macho brown, black and white. Married with deep sexy beats from the live DJ and a largely Italian service team dressed in suits with slicked back hair and accents as thick as their cologne, Beefbar feels like a cosy private gentleman’s club. Driving home my point, my dining companion and I are the only two ladies in the restaurant with one sole female waitress (at least on the day I am dining). The service is seamless, attentive and fun. Recommendations are presented without probe and the staff is as handsome as its interior.

For starters, we opt for the 3 petits tartares (Kobe, Black Angus and veal) and Kobe beef gyozas. The hand cut bite-sized cubes of Kobe beef are seasoned with (literally) a pinch of salt and is possibly the best tartare I’ve had in Dubai. Not only is it firm and chewy but also very flavourful. The freshness and quality is undeniable. The Black Angus and veal tartare on the other hand are standard and comparable to other upscale steakhouses in Dubai. Served with a simple side of lightly salted, well executed French fries, these are crisp and golden brown on the outside, whilst soft and fluffy on the inside. The gyozas are fried and I find the dough a tad too dense for my liking, but I am quite a purist with Asian cuisine. The filling of shredded Kobe beef is marinated in an overwhelmingly sweet sauce which overpowers the high quality meat – what a shame.

On to mains, a couple of of beef dishes are unavailable. I order the Black Market Australian Black Angus 500g rib-eye (AED360) as recommended by the waiter for being the most marbled” outside of Japanese Kobe which is extortionately priced (AED1,000+ for 200g). My friend opts for a leaner fillet cut of the same breed that is similarly priced. Each slab of meat is seasoned with salt, pepper and charred on the edges giving rise to a slight smokey aroma (not strong enough for my liking) and served with a side of classic mashed potatoes. I upgrade mine to the gorgonzola e noci (mashed potatoes with Italian blue cheese and walnuts) which I really enjoy. Typically, I like my rib-eye thick, juicy and heavily marbled, which unfortunately is not how it’s served. The marbling is weak, and whilst tender and cooked medium-rare (I even specify I like it a little bloody) is similar in texture, colour and firmness to the fillet. I leave behind a clean plate with little residual beef juice – an unusual sight for a steakhouse. The fillet on the other hand cuts like butter and reveals a beautiful reddish-pink hue, which my friend easily polishes off. The steaks are not served with any sauces or condiments which make chowing down a ‘dryer’ than expected steak less appetising.

Bizarrely, Beefbar has no dessert menu and I have to probe the service staff to recite the four options. A passion fruit soufflé is light, fluffy and not too moist, however is overpowered by a strongly flavoured mango ice cream. On the other hand, the French toast is thick, heavy and indulgent. Dressed in a savoury-sweet caramel sauce and served with salted caramel ice cream, this dish is a heart attack on a plate.

Beefbar does stand out in a few ways. Firstly, its central location in the DIFC district with a generous space (lounge area, terrace and dining room), group-friendly seating and sleek interiors makes for a cosy atmosphere. Secondly, the team is charismatic and attentive. Most importantly, its blend of quality meat from Japan, Australia and the US is prepared in an array of creative yet familiar dishes (tacos, gyozas, tartares and so on) making the concept approachable, and different to a regular steakhouse. However, despite all this, at AED607 per person based on three courses each without alcohol including DIFC tax and VAT, Beefbar is one of Dubai’s most expensive restaurants and ridiculously over-priced given many dishes do not impress, so it’s an average 3 out of 5 FooDiva knives. If you do want to try it and are a lady, Beefbar offers gals 50 per cent off the menu and three complimentary glasses of wine every Tuesday.

What is your favourite cut of steak?

Who is FooDiva’s guest reviewerJovel has lived in some of the world’s best culinary destinations including Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Switzerland working as a marketing and PR professional in the F&B industry. On the weekends, Jovel works off her Dubai dining by teaching indoor cycling classes and practising yoga.

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FooDiva by Foodiva - 2M ago

Bistro des Arts’ wine list

Traditionally you can identify a wine bar at twenty paces. Atmosphere? Check. Wooden surfaces and a cheese selection? Check and check. Lighting a quarter turn from pitch black? You got it. In Dubai though, it can be hard to find a place that ticks all these boxes. However, if you’re willing to stretch the concept just a little, there are still places that have the feel of a classic wine bar – venues with cosy corners, an extensive wine list and a decent selection of bites, where you can hunker down for the night without needing to indulge in a high-end meal. So here are our top 10 picks for those looking for a great glass of wine in Dubai – in alphabetical order.

  • Barbary Deli & Cocktail Club – Barsha Heights: somehow successfully blending retro club, European lounge bar and comfort food, Barbary feels like it should be in the back streets of Melbourne or San Francisco, rather than Barsha Heights. However, with a reasonably priced wine list, extensive pork selection, Magnum Mondays and a raw bar that’s as tasty as it is photogenic, it also ticks some serious wine bar boxes.
  • Bistro des Arts – Dubai Marina: true to concept, this cosy venue has the slightly retro vibe of a quintessential Parisian café and a staggering 27 wines by the glass to choose from, all displayed on a blackboard – primarily from France and broken down by region, plus a few interesting international options for good measure. It’s a great option for dinner with wine and a movie, as it’s just a short stroll away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai Marina Mall.
  • Bleu Blanc – Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Business Bay: Bleu Blanc may feel like you’re dining in the most glamorous farmhouse in Provence, but there’s enough quiet corners and melt-into-the-couch cushions on the nearly hidden terrace overlooking Dubai Canal, as well as a wine bar to make it perfect for kicking back glass in hand. As you might expect, the wine by the glass options are primarily French, but the sommelier has also included a sprinkling of off-the-beaten-track and rarely seen varieties, including a Hungarian Tokaji dessert wine, as well as several well-priced bottles for under AED200.

From left: Bleu Blanc; Boca

  • Boca – DIFC: as well as a great selection of very affordable wines and arguably one of the best priced glasses of Champagne in Dubai, Boca also has a mind-bending array of high-end offerings, plus an active calendar of wine events – so you can sit in on a wine lesson with The Tasting Class, or grab a seat at a winemaker’s dinner. You can also book the working wine cellar for events (photo above right), but be prepared for the sommelier, George, to pop in and out, as it’s not just for show.
  • Chez Charles – Dubai Design District: Chez Charles has created a haven not only for sophisticated diners, but also for the creative souls of D3 looking to unwind in a cultured bar or out on their cosy patio. The design throughout is of a modern airy French brasserie with high ceilings and natural light. However, the white linen-topped tables are restricted to the dining room only, whilst the bar and patio boast high-top seating and cosy couches. Reflecting the menu, the wine list is largely French. However, memorising what a wine should taste like from Reims to Marseille won’t be necessary in order to pick a familiar drop here, as the list is divided into helpful categories to help you choose, like ‘rich & complex’ reds, and ‘dry & aromatic’ whites. If you’re inclined to treat yourself to some fine Bordeaux, there are plenty of bottles for under AED1000!
  • Couqley – JLT: with red brick walls, stained-glass windows and chequered napkins, Couqley conjures up a distinctly European feel. However, one of the most astonishing things about this French bistro and bar is the price. And we’re not talking the HOW MUCH moment Dubai all too often provokes, but how reasonable it is, with nine bottles for less than AED150, and a further 17 for under AED200. So if kicking back with friends without a seizure-inducing bill waiting at the end is what you’re after, then Couqley is certainly worth a visit.

From left: Couqley; Grapeskin

  • Folly – Souk Madinat Jumeirah: if it’s a sundowner you’re after, then look no further. Folly’s two private courtyards both offer amazing views of Madinat’s waterway, so you can watch the sun set behind the rooftops and the traditional abra boats sailing away. The wine by the glass list, meanwhile, is thoughtful and interesting with plenty of tipples you probably haven’t tried. Also, they serve an Instagram-worthy Prosecco cocktail with a strawberry popsicle. Just saying.

From left: Folly; Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera

  • Grapeskin – La Ville Hotel, City Walk: a wine bar in the truest sense of the word, this low-key spot lets you know where its heart really is – rugged wooden surfaces, rustic metal, and unfinished-on-purpose interiors, even emphasising the sizeable cheese and all-beef charcuterie on offer. To top things off, Grapeskin also uses the Coravin wine preservation system, ensuring the 50+ wines by the glass are all in perfect drinking condition. They even have two different sizes, so you can decide what ‘just one glass’ really means to you.

    Ruya’s terrace

  • Ruya – Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina: as well as some incredible Turkish food, this cosy restaurant-cum-lounge venue also has funky beats; warm, low lighting; and a terrace overlooking Dubai Marina – making it a great choice for a glass of wine. The well-rounded wine list has plenty of by the glass options, and even includes varietals from Lebanon and Turkey, making it one of the few places where you can get stuck into a decent exploration of wines from the Middle East. Ruya even has a selection of super-premium wines available by the glass for those looking to try something extra special.
  • Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera – Downtown Dubai: it should come as no surprise that a venue with an oyster happy hour served at an impressive bar centrepiece also offers no less than 27 wines by the glass, including five sparkling options. Even better, the sommelier has taken the time to feature an array of smaller, less featured regions, including Yarra Valley and Martinborough. There’s also a lovely garden terrace where the roof has been sliced out to embrace an up-close view of Burj Khalifa.

Any other wine bars we may have missed?

Lindsay Trivers, the founder of The Tasting Class is on a mission to improve wine culture in the Middle East. Host a tasting at home with one of their private sommeliers, enrol in their certified Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses, join one of their public tastings, or meet the team on FooDiva’s Dine Around Dubai experiences.

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I have discovered a new way of dining out on a weekend in Dubai. I arrive at my chosen restaurant for an early cocktail, around 5.30pm pre-‘sunset’. I order one starter with a cocktail, a second appetiser with a glass of wine. And so on with main courses and dessert. Out by 9pm. I am coining this ‘staggered dining.’ Relaxing and fulfilling, both literally and mentally. That’s how my evening rolls at Luchador, a new rooftop Mexican cantina on the 11th floor of the Aloft Palm Jumeirah – located on the wrong crescent for sunset, made up for by ocean views of both Burj towers.

Luchador not ‘lunchador’ as a follower comments draws inspiration from the term, Lucha Libre for Mexico’s wrestling sport – a bizarre naming strategy for a restaurant, but one that is meant to represent the energetic spirit of the concept. Don’t worry, you won’t be expected to wrestle for your food, however brightly painted wrestling masks adorn the entrance. Aztec tiles and art, along with dark wood and exposed walls animate this casual restaurant, bar and terrace – complete with day beds.

On a Friday, Luchador is empty on arrival, with a few tables occupied by the time we leave. That leaves us to choose a prime spot – a high table on the terrace with us both seated sea-facing. The waiters hail from Spanish speaking countries, and the chef is Mexican – all good indicators of authenticity. However, some requests are lost in translation, for instance a slight chilling of red wine, where we have to spell out what we want. The margaritas are well mixed, but as expected from this type of casual concept, the wine list is tiny and uninspiring. The bar bites menu runs until 6.30pm when a la carte kicks in – in both menus, quite a few typos need addressing.

The guacamole is chunky with the avocado, tomato, onions and chilli freshly pounded, whilst the tacos are nicely crisped. An octopus and avocado ceviche follows with a gorgeous garden-like presentation. Marinated in the hottest habanero chillies I have ever tasted, the punchy flavour is slightly offset by a tart and citrusy ponzu sauce.

The tacos are divided into two, slightly confusing sections, ‘taquero mucho’ for three pieces (AED55-75), and ‘tacos and taquitos’ for individual portions at AED15 per piece. The ‘pibil’ in the former section consists of slow-cooked short rib with an achiote marinade giving the beef a delectable sweet and peppery flavour, balanced by pickled onions – all wrapped in super soft corn tortillas. We order two tacos de pescado – freshly battered white fish goujons and shredded veg, with just enough roasted chilli mayo to elevate and not overpower – this time in an equally as good flour tortilla.

Almost taco-ed out, we can’t resist the sole quesadilla on the menu, a huge portion. A pan-fried flour tortilla filling of chicken, a beef and chilli chorizo (no pork licence), enveloped in melted cheese, interestingly, has a strong anise flavour that must come from the sausage. I would have liked the tortilla slightly more crisped, but that aside, along with salsa, sour cream and guacamole dips, makes for moreish fodder.

The churros are probably Dubai’s second best after Peyote – here the ‘doughnuts’ are slimmer, yet still with a crispy sugar dusted coating, and soft inside. The dark chocolate sauce is smooth and velvety. Unusually for me, I polish off dessert.

A guitarist and singer, who sadly lip-syncs, play from 7pm onwards – thankfully the music level is toned down so you can actually have a conversation without shouting. Even on a relatively quiet night, there is some ambiance thanks to the inviting décor and terrace view. The price point of AED155 based on three courses each without alcohol has to be one of Dubai’s lowest for a licensed restaurant offering incredible value for money. Given the location in a mid-market hotel, I am expecting average food, so it’s a pleasant surprise to uncover excellent, authentic Mexican fare. With all this in mind, along with a striking, relaxed setting, and, overall, good friendly service, Luchador scores a high four out of five FooDiva knife rating. I’ll be back. Early.

Are you an early or late dinner fan? Where’s your go-to Mexican spot?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

I have discovered a new way of dining out on a weekend in Dubai. I arrive at my chosen restaurant for an early cocktail, around 5.30pm pre-‘sunset’. I order one starter with a cocktail, a second appetiser with a glass of wine. And so on with main courses and dessert. Out by 9pm. I am coining this ‘staggered dining.’ Relaxing and fulfilling, both literally and mentally ?. Perhaps I am getting old but I am not a fan of late nights ?. That’s how my evening rolls at Luchador, a new rooftop Mexican cantina on the 11th floor of @aloftpalm – located on the wrong crescent for sunset, made up for by ocean views of both Burj towers. More in my review now live – see link in profile. Are you an early or late dinner fan? What’s your go-to Mexican spot? ????? #foodivareviews #foodiva

A post shared by Award-winning food critic????? (@foodiva) on Mar 4, 2018 at 9:43pm PST

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