This section is contains a potpourri of information on eating and drinking in Dubai. I will focus on family entertainment and adventure experiences in another review.
I personally love eating and drinking out especially when I am traveling. This time we were staying with friends so we didn’t eat out as much as we would have if we were staying in a hotel. Nevertheless we were able to sample a good cross section of what Dubai has to offer.
I very seldom write restaurant reviews in my journals because I either don’t pay enough attention to what’s available and what’s going on around me or I am so focused on relaxing and enjoying my meal that I lose focus. Whatever the reason I prefer to say a few words about the places I choose and let it go at that. I’ve never been able to wade through, detailed restaurant reviews. I mostly skim the article and pick out what I will try if I visit the place. Consider this as skimming. I also briefly discuss some restaurants in the other reviews in this journal.
Because wine, beer and liquor are only available at restaurants associated with hotels, most of the upscale restaurants are on hotel properties. There are very good Middle Eastern, South Asian and Oriental restaurants separate from hotels but they do not serve alcoholic beverages. I did eat at one Chinese restaurant where they served beer in tea pots – pretty clever!
The only upscale restaurant we visited was the Rib Room in the Emirates Towers. We decided to celebrate New Years Eve a couple days early and avoid the crowds. We started at the 360° Bar and Grill at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Resort. It sits out in the Gulf at the end of a long curving pier. There are electric carts to take you out or you can walk. It’s about a five minute walk. It has an air-conditioned restaurant on the ground floor but up the stairs is an open-air lounge with both western style tables and Middle Eastern couches. We thoroughly enjoyed drinking our pre-dinner cocktails in the cool evening air. It was packed so we had to stand. Not surprising since Thursday night in Dubai is equivalent to Saturday night in the West.
We went from there to the Rib Room at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers. The ambiance is very hushed but not snooty. We were dressed casually. The décor features lots of dark wood. The service was very professional and competent. Most of us ordered some kind of beef dish, as they bill themselves as specializing in steak and seafood. My U.S. aged porterhouse was fantastic and cooked exactly how I like it. They claim their signature dishes are Beef Wellington, roasted prime rib and Wagyu beef from Japan. They have an excellent wine list. The only bad news was the cost. The check with tax and service charge for our group of seven was slightly under 4800 Dirham (US$1300). I must admit we did drink quite a bit of wine. The Rib Room’s phone number is 971-4-3300000, Fax: 971-4-3303131.
For a nightcap, we went to the world famous Buddha Bar. If the 360° Bar was crowded, the Buddha Bar was sardine packed. Originally conceived in Paris, the Dubai manifestation is situated in Grosvenor House, a Meridian Hotels property in West Marina Beach. It features mostly drinking but does offer a fusion cuisine menu along with sushi. The décor is over the top with a huge sitting Buddha dominating the main dining room. After about an hour I was ready to call it a night. As we left the bar at about 1:00 AM, we noticed that there were at least 50 people lined up to get in to the place. It’s open until 4:00 AM.
But what about the other end of the spectrum, fast food. The usual suspects are here, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, plus a number of Indian, Chinese and Japanese outlets. We had a late lunch one afternoon at an interesting departure from the usual fast food fare, the Automatic Restaurant & Grill. It is a chain of Lebanese restaurants, where Arabs, locals and expats from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, come for lunch and dinner. The kitchen concentrates on Lebanese staples—hummus, tabouleh, kebabs and grilled prawns. I had heard that it is consistently good and inexpensive. We had hummus with fresh vegetables and pita bread plus lamb kebabs and grilled chicken. I recommend you try one for lunch at least once. They are all over the place and easy to find.
In between fast food and gourmet dining, there are many choices. For pub food, try the Red Lion Pub in the Metropolitan Hotel. It is the oldest pub in Dubai. My host and I dropped in for a few beers and a light supper one evening. The food was good and as far as I know authentic. Since my pub experiences are heavily weighted to Hong Kong pubs, I could be wrong about the authentic claim. We enjoyed ourselves. The pub was heavily populated with football fans watching an English Premier League match so it must pass British muster at some level. It also has an outdoor beer garden and BBQ which is reputedly very popular but was not being used the night we were there.
There’s also a Hard Rock Café for people who prefer an American type bar and grill to a pub. It's at Interchange # 5, Sheikh Zayed Rd., Telephone: +971-4-399-2888
We had a delightful time, one Friday afternoon, at the Boardwalk Restaurant at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Tel: +971 (0)4 295 6000. The ambiance is unbeatable. It is the only restaurant built out over the creek. One magazine listed it as a “disappointment.” Another couldn’t stop singing its praises. For us the location was outstanding, the food was forgettable, the swooping gulls soon became a bother and the service was spotty at best. Nevertheless, we would go back. No reservations, although we were immediately seated at about 2:00 PM. It’s open from 9 AM until Midnight so you should be able to pick time that avoids crowds. Prices are reasonable.
On our last day we visited a truly authentic Chinese restaurant, owned and operated by a Chinese from Tsingtao. The waitresses were all from Shantung province. We had pot stickers, wheat noodles and three or four other dishes, I don’t remember. They were all delicious. Unfortunately, I also don’t remember the name of the restaurant. It’s located in the Al Hamriya section north of the Creek.
Even though I, personally, am not a big fan of Middle Eastern food, I do want to recommend a place that I saw but did not eat at. It’s the Kan Zaman, Near Heritage Village in Bur Dubai, Tel: +971 04 3939913. It’s a shisha café (has waterpipes) that looked very appealing from the outside and although it has an eclectic menu, evidently serves decent local food. My host family suggested sticking to the kebabs, hummus and tabouleh. One of the main attractions is that the café sits on the banks of the Creek. Most of the tables are outside so it’s possible to eat and watch the boats and abras go by. As you might imagine, no alcohol is served.
To summarize all of this: in discussing dining out with my host family and others I met, the consensus is, if you go to one of the major hotels and don’t worry too much about cost, you will not be disappointed. The local restaurants are all regulated so it’s unlikely you would get in trouble eating as the locals do. The fast food outlets are…well…fast food outlets, excepting the Automatic Restaurant & Grill. The bar and pub food seems edible and reasonably priced. I suggest Googling “dining, drinking, Dubai.” You will come up with many choices and unless you are a lot pickier than I am, you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a list I picked up from the Economist Magazine which, though targeted at business people, has pretty good variety.
Al Mahara at Burj Al Arab
Café Chic at Le Meridien Dubai
Tagine at Royal Mirage Palace Hotel
Verre at Hilton Dubai Creek
Vu's at Emirates Towers Hotel
Biella Caffè Pizzeria at Wafi City Mall
The Glasshouse at Hilton Dubai Creek
Wafi Pyramids at Wafi City
Eauzone at Royal Mirage Arabian Court
Sho-Cho at Dubai Marine Beach Resort
Zheng He's at Mina A'Salam
Asha's at Wafi Pyramids
Layali Lubnan at Sheikh Zayed Rd
Lime Tree Café at Magroody Shopping Centre
Kan Zaman near Heritage Village
Zyara Café near Al Salaam Tower
Automatic Restaurant & Grill at locations around Dubai
Medzo at Wafi City Pyramids
More Car park near Welcare Hospital
Boardwalk at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
The Alamo at Dubai Marine Beach Resort
The Glasshouse at Hilton Dubai Creek
Jebel Ali Hotel at Jebel Ali