LATIN AMERICAN AT ZOCO
Zoco, Al Habtoor City, 260 Sheikh Zayed Rd, The Atrium
Call: (+971) 48883444
Zoco sports a stylish decor and the menu is equally alluring. It is a perfect blend of many things: extraordinarily modern design, smiling staff and Latin American food with a Mexican spin. Who doesn’t enjoy a portion of tortilla chips piled with salsa, guacamole and jalapeños and overwhelmed in gooey cheese? But nachos are just the populist face of Latin American food scene. From badass burritos to tip-top tostadas and classic enchiladas, there are zesty delights for everyone. And you can’t dispute with a fondly-created taco. The menu includes tacos (‘super-slow’ cooked ribs, crispy batter fried fish, Mexican style chicken etc), plus tapas, salads like the citrusy Peruvian smoked salmon and various seasonal specials — all of which go down a storm with Zoco’s margaritas and Mexican beers. If you have sweet tooth, don’t miss the churros or tres leche cake.
JAPANESE AT MIMI KAKUSHI
Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Resort, 23 A St Jumeirah, Jumeirah 2
Call: (+971) 43794811
Its throngs of moneyed fans reappear as much for the ambience as the food, but that’s because both are excellent. Everything about it is outstanding, from the expansive, softly ostentatious dining room to the aspiring, hit-making menu. The kitchen turns out avant-garde versions of genuinely flavoured dishes: first-rate ingredients shine in everything from the dressed-to-impress sushi platters to signatures such as Octopus Carpaccio with red kosho vinaigrette and marinated black cod with citrus miso sauce. Plus, there’s the unmissable wild mushroom Donabe rice pot. And to drink? Sip on wine, sake, Japanese beer and cocktails intended to pair with the food. This ones a true A-lister.
EUROPEAN AT GORDON RAMSAY HELL’S KITCHEN
Caesars Palace, Bluewaters Island
Call: (+971) 45566466
At a time when the idea of travelling feels like the stuff of your wildest fantasies, it’s excellent news that Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen is open in Dubai. Its popular and heavily Instagrammed sticky toffee pudding is on the menu, as well as the Hell’s Kitchen Burger with Fresno pepper jam and Sriracha Mayo. It’s not just brunch, either — other signature dishes include a crispy skin salmon with seaweed beurre blanc. The superbly tender, roasted lamb rump with harissa sauce is a true crowd-pleaser; or snap up any of the nightly specials like the half beef wellington, a beef fillet wrapped in puff pastry, mushroom duxelles, potato purée, glazed root vegetables doused with red wine demi-glace. It’s all outrageously good value, and then there’s the service — pleasant, clued-up and dreamily paced.
THAI AT THIPTARA
Ground level, Palace Downtown 9770, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd
Call: (+971) 48883444
If you love Thai food, then Thiptara, located at the opulent gardens of the Palace Downtown, has to be on your list. Encompassed by Burj Lake, the exceptional views of The Dubai Fountain transform this open-air waterfront restaurant into a charming setting. Don’t be overwhelmed by the tasting and a la carte options on the menu, almost everything at this comfy restaurant is delightful. Ingredients taste fantastic fresh, and the starter platter is particularly a hot seller here. Steamed Sea Bream with Thai herbs and a chilli lime dressing is stellar with spot-on flavours. Preferences like Pad Thai, Crab cakes, minced chicken with holy basil and an array of curries like the Grilled fish in green curry are guaranteed to hit the exact spot.
PERSIAN AT ENIGMA
Palazzo Versace Hotel, Al Jaddaf, Jaddaf Waterfront
Call: (+971 ) 4 556 8830
Show up hungry for fresh flatbreads, kebab platters and lamb tahchin (crispy saffron rice cake) at this tasteful Persian restaurant. Order from a variety of old-style Persian dishes. We recommend the crispy rice, tahdig, which translates into ‘bottom of the pan’, with one of the stews on top. Other enjoyable selections include thick yogurt dips or the hummus to use as a dip for thick slices of the fresh bread and the stellar Kashke Bademjun. Order the wonderful white fish (grilled or fried), and deliberate swapping out the rice portion that comes with every entrée for the house salad with a dill yogurt dressing that pairs astoundingly well. Their sabzistew (sautéed green herbs and kidney beans with lamb) tastes as if your own Persian grandma made it for you.
ITALIAN AT VANITAS
Palazzo Versace Hotel, Al Jaddaf, Jaddaf Waterfront
Call: (+971) 4556 8820
The buzz is as alluring as the food at Palazzo Versace’s forever admired Italian restaurant. Seriously seductive and ceaselessly fashionable, this Sicilian rendezvous is a subtle honeypot for A-list celebs — is that Michele Morrone over there? The standout here has to be the Tagliata di wagyu. The meat is so tender you could eat it with a spoon, served with creamy black truffle mashed potato and sauteed mushrooms. This dish, above all others, sums up exactly what the chefs are doing here — extracting the most delicious ingredients to create hearty recipes that pull no punches. Meanwhile, starters such as the Burrata with cous cous and the fried eggplant threaten to steal the spotlight. It is a tough call to make when it comes to dessert. Vanitas signature Tiramisu, or the richly decadent chocolate surprise? Be a devil — opt for both.
BRITISH INDIAN AT TANDOOR TINA
25hours Hotel Dubai One Central, Al Mustaqbal street, off Shaikh Zayed Rd
Call: (+971) 564338505
A Dubai sibling to the London Chop House, Tandoor Tina specialises in the cuisine of India with an interesting British accent. The food is stimulating and complex but never overwhelming, with combos sitting together with ideas enthused by Indian roots, the Saag Aloo Shepherd’s Pie with stilton gravy, for example. First up: Tandoor Tina’s delicious, dexterously-spiced small plates, which arrive at the table like a sequence of exquisite little jewels. Try the potted chilli crab, a dense, fiery mix of hand-chopped chunks of crab meat. It comes served the way they do in some cafés back home, with paratha on the side (buttered, naturally). You could also try the Black Angus beef tikka, a succulent piece served fresh from the tandoor, having first been slathered in a fragrant mint yoghurt marinade Plus, some finely minced red onion for a final bit of crunch. And it’s that depth of flavour that makes the food at Tandoor Tina so special. Take the whole roasted chicken that followed. A wild mushroom baked rice, meanwhile, was buttery, moist perfection with truffle oil and crunchy potatoes. If you can save a little extra room for dessert, do order the dessert platter.
MODERN INDIAN AT TRÈSIND STUDIO TANDOOR TINA
Level 2, Voco Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Rd
Call: (+971) 588951272
Indian food in Dubai has long since moved on from the days of Dal Makhni and Butter Chicken in restaurants defined by Bollywood memorabilia as ambience and Gulab Jamun for dessert. This place oozes passion without a hint of pretension and on the Saturday night we visited it was positively buzzing. TreSind Studio ditches stomach-bursting breads and creamy sauces in favour of strong flavours and a tasting menu of about 14 dishes from across India, such as Shisho Khakra — Tresind’s version of the Gujarati khakhra, which looks like a delicate papadum and is topped with some yogurt, tangy raw mango chutney and some local herbs, served on an incarnate bonsai plant’s real planter: unusual and exciting. The Padron pepper, pickled chutney, khandvi ice-cream and buttermilk on a plate is memorable! And two days later I am still thinking about the creativity of the tandoori chicken, chicken fat tortellini, curry brood. Chef Himanshu Saini is a force, enhancing a story to each dish: the delicious Kebab Scarpetta with Sourdough Bun (don’t skip it!) is inspired by a kebab shop in Mumbai.
MIDDLE EASTERN AT NINIVE
Emirates Towers Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Rd
Call: (+971) 43266105
Handsome and fashionably modern, with its chic buzz and buoyant energy, there’s no other Middle Eastern restaurant in Dubai quite like Ninive. It feels more refined too — elegance is favoured over quantity in the perfectly proportioned plates of juicy little Beef fatayer and the smoky, Zaalouk (eggplant with tomato, coriander, cumin and smoked paprika). From the mezze plates, a bowl of hummus is crushingly rich and smooth, while the falafel, fragrant, light and granular (some lip-smacking tahini sauce provides necessary lubrication). But it’s the signature salad that really sets it apart, offering a colourful plate of chick pea and roasted sweet potato salad dressed with red peppers, cherry tomatoes and pistachio that sing with flavour. The mixed grill is also excellent – the lamb chops, Wagyu, Adana Kebab and the prawn skewers were all beautifully cooked. With a perfectly complimenting beverage list, Ninive is a warm, choice at any time of the year for a date, a family supper or, on a hot summer’s Dubai night, with a chilled bubbly, a relaxing meal for two.
MODERN ASIAN AT SEA FU
Four Seasons Resort, Jumeriah Beach Road 2, Jumeirah
Call: (+971) 42707777
Sea Fu is always a hit for Modern Asian dining, with excellent food and stellar views at its sea front site. From the selection of small plates (the most thrilling part of the menu) comes a knockout Japanese yellow tail ceviche, its citrus-cured flesh layered not just with fragrant celery and coriander, but with sweetcorn kernels and Thai basil ice-cream. But for sheer brilliance in taste the prize has to go to a simple appetizer plate, of tempura prawns. Order at least one helping per person, before anybody gets any thoughts about ‘sharing’. If you’re a sucker for life’s gustatory pleasures, the menu’s references to lobster, salmon and truffle will get you drooling. As for fish, custom reigns: think Baked salt crusted, steamed Canadian lobster prepared to time-perfected recipes for a devoted, slightly fusty clientele. I left perilously full and absolutely satisfied. Sea Fu is a local favourite for a reason.