We have spoken to travel bloggers and business owners in Dubai to give some suggestions on where to go to indulge in traditional Emirati dishes as well as those hidden gems for people to discover.
Logma specialises in Emirati and Khaleeji food which UAE based blogger Naomi from Naomi D’Souza recommends: “Not only is the food absolutely mouth-watering, but it is also really affordable. There’s something about their flavours and sheer deliciousness that will keep you coming back for more – I know I have! Do check out their Dubai Mall location, the Burj Khalifa and fountain view is stunning.”
Dishes include chebab which are Emirati pancakes served with cream cheese and date syrup, balaleet, which is sweet vermicelli topped with saffron omelette and crispy chicken paratha which is fried chicken and cheese, cabbage sauce with mayonnaise and parsley.
We also asked Naomi why people should visit Dubai. She told us: “As cliché as it may sound, Dubai is truly a melting pot of cultures. You can experience the true desi lifestyle at Meena Bazaar with the gorgeous clothes and delicious pani puris as well as enjoy literal heights of luxury with Dinner in the Sky. There’s something here for every budget, every taste and everyone.”
Salt is an “urban food experience that brings people together to enjoy a simple meal in the environments they love the most”. Salt is a food truck which has found a permanent home on Dubai’s Kite Beach. The business has also expanded to other locations in the UAE including Mushrif Central Park in Abu Dhabi and another in Ajman.
Blogger Maha from Maharat said: “They are famous for their melt-in-the-mouth sliders with perfectly cooked Wagyu beef! I normally add cheese fries and pink lemonade to make a divine combo. It feels like total comfort food after taking a dip in the sea. The place has a very creative, yet casual feel to it with bean bags, guitars and low-lying sofas. I think ambience, presentation and location are all factors that add to the overall experience.”
Maha also told us why she believes people should visit Dubai: “It is extremely multi-cultural.
As a mum, I find the safety that Dubai has to offer is one of its best traits. The law and order in this country never fails to impress me. It is child-friendly, and that really counts for parents.
“In terms of tourism, Dubai has a lot of entertainment, recreational activities, shopping and food options to offer. Every few days there’s a new fancy place popping up for residents and tourists to explore and they’re all gorgeous.”
XVA Hotel and Cafe
XVA Hotel and Café is in Dubai’s oldest area and former prominent trader’s settlement. It is hidden in the heart of Al Fahidi neighbourhood on the most colourful and soulful Dubai Creek.
Eleanor, the establishment’s gallery director, told us about the cafe’s most popular dish, the XVA Thali, which is a selection of dishes served on a platter: “Ours has happy dhal, vegetable curry, kudra curry, saffron and barberry rice, mango, chutney, yoghurt, pickle and poppadum.”
Another popular dish with diners at XVA Hotel and Café is the Beitinjan burger. This dish consists of a burger with a bun made of eggplant and lightly fried in polenta. It comes with a fresh tomato puree, cucumber, feta and lettuce filling and is served with sweet potato zaatar fries.
We also asked Eleanor why people should choose to visit Dubai on their next holiday: “Dubai is such a great place to visit, and live because this city truly offers something for everyone, whether it is swimming, shopping, sightseeing, sports, art, culture, food, dancing. The people that live here are from all over the world, and no matter where you come from you can feel at home. On top of that, the city itself is spectacular and the surrounding environment is beautiful.”
Olea is a restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates and is known for its Levantine and contemporary modern Arabian food. Perhaps one of the most impressive dishes in the KiloMeater which consists of 1.5kg of “the best meats” for an impressive kebab for four or more people.
Blogger Emma from Emma-Leigh Hull spent time researching where to go for an extra special meal in Dubai to celebrate her birthday. She said: “We ate at so many nice places, but Olea was by far the best. The service was great, there were so many delicious Arabian spices used and the food was delicious. To start, my boyfriend and I shared the hot mezze platter and they really didn't scrimp on the portions, we were both a little nervous that we would be too full for our main courses. I ordered a maklouba for my main dish, which is a sort of upside-down dish of rice, vegetables and chicken. What’s great about the menu is that it says where each dish originates from and a little bit of history behind it, which I found interesting.”
Paluto is a fish restaurant in Dubai which can be found at the Waterfront Market. The market is one of Dubai’s leading shopping destinations and is a popular place for people who love their fresh seafood.
As well as seafood, Paluto also serves up delicious dishes of chicken and beef. There are also vegetarian options available. What makes this dining experience so unique is that you buy your fish from the market and take it to the cleaning area for it to be prepared before chefs at Paluto cook it to your liking. You can have your fish grilled, fried or in a tasty soup.
Joy, who blogs at The Thrift Trip Plus 1, lives in Dubai and suggests paying Paluto a visit: “Due to the number of expats living in Dubai, this restaurant was established to cater to the needs and wants of the Filipino community which comprises a quarter of the population living in Dubai.
“However, you will also see a lot of local Emiratis here, enjoying every seafood dish they are cooking which is fresh and directly supplied from the fish market. I particularly love how they cook fresh lobsters in lemon, herbs and spice, this one is definitely a must.”
Reem Al Bawadi
Reem Al Bawadi is a chain of restaurants in various locations across Dubai and a “must visit” place according to Suzanne from the blog Chickenruby. She told us: “They have six locations across the city, but our favourite is on Jumeriah Beach Road with the one in the Marina coming a close second. We also love taking visitors there as not only is the food is amazing with astounding service, but the location and the decor of the restaurant are authentic also.
“The food is typical Arabic; Middle Eastern food and the Arabic hospitality and ambience is an experience. The choice of salads and hot and cold mezzes are amazing and we will order a mixture for starters which is served with Arabic bread. They have a wide range of fresh fruit juices and local beverages as well as oriental sweets and traditional desserts.The meals are great value for money and for the less adventurous or those not a fan of meat, they offer an international menu and allergies are clearly listed.”
The restaurants’ website states: “Reem Al Bawadi is a landmark for Arabic food in the UAE and a home for friends, family and the curious explorer – considered as a home away from home due to the genuine flavours and authentic and welcoming ambience.”
Tania’s Teahouse is one of Dubai’s newest hotspots on Jumeirah Beach Road near Burj Al Arab. It’s a two-storey villa which serves a range of speciality flavoured teas, coffees and healthy meals. While the teahouse doesn’t serve typical Arabic food, it is a new and upcoming eatery for tourists to enjoy.
The All Hail Kale super bowl, Pocket Full of Sunshine salad and Cake-in-a-Teacup are just some of the delicious dishes on offer. We spoke to Tania who owns the business: “Our most popular dish is our Paleo Guac Toast.
“It is made of toasted sweet potato, creamy guacamole, sliced egg and is topped with chilli flakes and sriracha. We try to create dishes which are suitable for a wide variety of dietary restrictions and allergies but also not compromising on the flavour. I myself have had a tonne of food allergies, so when creating the cafe and its menu, I wanted to make sure it was inviting and accommodating for all types of people no matter their dietary restrictions.”
Tania also told us that Dubai is a great place to visit because it has “a culture of kindness and support.” She went on the explain: “There are so many expats out here and we're all coming from our own home countries which are most definitely celebrated in Dubai itself. It's an exciting place because you find so many foods from around the world, which pushes you to try new things.”
Dannielle from While I’m Young, lived in Dubai for 14 months and during her time there she discovered shawarma, which is a vertical spit of stacked meat slices. She told us where to go in Dubai to taste the best: “You can get pretty much any cuisine that you fancy in Dubai thanks to the huge expat population, but one particular dish stands out. Shawarma is a big thing in Dubai, and it's also probably the cheapest meal you'll find there. Al Nafoorah at Jumeirah Emirates Towers serves some of the best shawarma and be sure to order the fattoush (salad with pieces of Arabic flatbread) as a side dish”.
Dannielle went on to explain why she enjoyed living in the UAE: “Dubai is such a unique destination because, besides being a cultural melting pot where people from all over the world live and work together, it's basically a man-made playground in the desert.
“You can spend your morning browsing designer gear and soar to the top of the world's tallest building, then find yourself on safari in the desert after lunch - followed by a night partying at a beach club. Where else can you experience that?”
Abd El Wahab
Abd El Wahab website describes itself as “an upmarket chain of restaurants”. Blogger Charlotte from Memoirs and Musings told us she dined at one of the chains’ branches at Pier 7: “It overlooked the glittering lights and boats of the Dubai Marina. As it was iftar, we dined from the special set menu which was an unlimited mixed grill. The food was impeccable and the perfect way to end our trip.”
Iftar is the evening meal with which many Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Muslims break their fast at the time of the evening call to prayer.
Pier 7 is a circular building which gives stunning views of the city and skyline, diners can also enjoy views of the Arabian Gulf from the restaurant’s seven floors.
Kashif from Dubai Expat Blog told us he enjoys grabbing a bite to eat at Al Ustad which classes itself as a “hidden gem widely known for its authentic Persian kebab”. You can expect to find a variety of kebabs here including mutton and chicken served with a side of rice. Al Ustad can be found on Al Mankhool Road near the Al Fahidi Metro Station.
Kashif also told us that: “Dubai is a great place to visit because it offers cultural diversity with safety and security. From gleaming sky-scrapers to old markets, beaches, malls and desert, Dubai offers everything a tourist wishes to experience.”
There is so much to see and do in the city so try making a rough plan of all the Dubai attractions you want to visit. You can then plan where you want to visit as well as enjoying some delicious cuisine.