It makes perfect sense that the world’s neo-futuristic capital should have a forward-thinking food scene. Dubai has fusion, food trucks, Michelin chefs, and an endless supply of Emirati specialities to delight and entrance.
Pakistani mutton curry at Ravi Restaurant
Dubai’s Pakistani expat community has brought with it a dazzling repertoire of spicy curries. Mutton achar handi, or achari handi, is regarded as one of its most delicious. Go to Ravi Restaurant, a charming hole-in-the-wall eatery on Al Dhiyafa Road in Satwa. Head chef/owner Ravi serves you his secret version of achar handi on traditional Pakistani crockery with piles of warm rice and toasted naan. We can’t know what makes Ravi’s mutton masterpiece so spellbindingly delicious, but a quick Google search suggests the Urdu staple is a wok-fried concoction of green and red chillies, fennel, nigella, turmeric, onions, garlic, yoghurt, and coriander. It’s bold.
A plate Ravi’s mutton achar handi will set you back around 22 Dirhams (about AUD$7.80).
Michelin magnificence care of Jason Atherton
Jason Atherton is a Michelin-starred British chef. He helped Gordon Ramsay introduce western gastronomy to Dubai Emiratis back in 1999 and has since opened Marina Social in the Dubai Marina. Marina Social is an off-kilter experiment with western traditions, described by Atherton as “a pocket of London right in the heart of Dubai”. The menu is British-mediterranean, so you’re looking at seared yellow fin tuna, duck leg agnolotti, goat’s cheese churros, and banoffee pie souffle. You can do lunch, dinner, early supper, or a Social Brunch.
For dinner, here’s the idea: Start in the Social Room with a round of cocktails, whisky, or a glass of fine wine (Marina Social stocks around 300 bins). Then, nab a cigar or Social Sweet off a passing service trolley. Next, adjourn to the exclusive Social Table for a bespoke degustation experience, or take your seat by the open kitchen. The chefs bustle and holler and work together with such efficiency you’ll think them hive-minded. The Marina shimmers by night; it’s dinner and an extravagant, hyper-coloured, neon-lit show. Michelin, indeed.
Ryoog yerana at Klayya, inside the Al Barsha Mall
Ryoog yerana is an Emirati breakfast omelette. It’s sweet and savoury. It’s delicate and angelic like a crepe, but also hefty and hearty like a fritatta, somehow. Klayya’s jovial chefs (ostensibly morning people) will fold your eggy delight over a plate of chopped dates, bamboo shoots, tomatoes, and whatever else you might like. Chives on top, multigrain toast on the side, and a cup of haleed kaster – rich, egg-based custard drink – to wash it all down. It’s the indulgent breakfast food upon which the pace of Emirati life thrives.
The whole experience will cost you around 37 Dirhams (around AUD$13) for the ryoog yerana and 7 Dirhams (AUD$2.50) for the haleed kastar.
Shakshuka by celebrity chef Silvena Rowe
Shakshuka (or shaksouka) is a chaotic one-pot mess of poached eggs, sweet tomatoes, peppers, chilli and creamy feta. At Omnia Gourmet it’s served to you in a terracotta pot with oven-toasted sourdough – Silvena Rowe’s fantastic idea.
Silvena Rowe is a British chef well-versed in the traditions of Ottoman cuisine, which she learned in part from her Turkish father. That’s why Omnia’s menu is a refined mix of eastern mediterranean and Middle Eastern mainstays, like kofta, biryani, pulled lamb, tabbouleh, labneh, and burrata. Shakshuka is her best offering.
Omnia Gourmet is a casual place set on Jumeirah’s waterfront, right on the fishing harbour. It’s an open, sun-drenched haunt with a beguiling nautical theme.
The shakshuka, with feta thrown in, will cost you around 54 Dirhams (AUD$19.20).
Gaucho, Dubai’s steak place
Gaucho is a high-end-even-for-Dubai Argentine steakhouse with walls papered in holstein cowhide. It’s located in the middle of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and you can eat there for breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week. Gaucho started in London.
Start with a Bloody Shame – Reyka vodka, San Pellegrino blood orange for bubbles, aromatic rosemary syrup and Chandon wine – and tuck into the lobster tacos while you wait for the chefs to sear your marbled ‘ancho’ rib-eye to pinkish perfection. The chorizo sirloin is also nice, with its strip of juicy crackling.
A 225-gram medallion will cost you anywhere from 180 to 220 Dirhams (AUD$65 to $78), so yes, it’s pricey. But you know Argentine steak is a thing all its own, and in a city of excess, an extravagant piece of meat is worth breaking the budget. Worry about it later, after the taste of fine marbled beef has long faded from your palate.