Feb 28, 2014

Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide: Best Kept Secrets

As a Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide, I was asked to select four of my favorite restaurants in five different categories.  This actually proved to be a difficult task, as I have had so many wonderful dining experiences in Dubai.  Here are the top four under Best-Kept Secrets

Manhattan Grill- (Grand Hyatt-Oud Metha)
  • Occasion to Visit: Casual dining/mid-week meal
  • Location and Price: Grand Hyatt/Meal for two AED 450
  • Insiders Tips: Great for steaks, but explore other menu options also
  • Menu Top Tip: BURGER-one of the best I have ever tasted, the crispy battered fries were also divine, ask for extra ketchup

The Grand Hyatt hotel has to be an institution for good food and drink in Dubai.  Out of the several restaurant venues here including Peppercrab, IZ, and Wox, it’s difficult to pick one favorite.  In order to narrow it down, it came to the most memorable food item, which was the burger at Manhattan Grill.  Dining at this restaurant during a mid-week afternoon, it was a moderately busy atmosphere with hotel guests and ongoing business lunches. 
Seated at a centrally located table with views of the pretty dining space, the staff went out of their way to ease us into the meal.  Presented with the regular a la carte menu as well as the seasonal specials, the selection was overwhelming.  The meat was the highlight for the Manhattan Grill, because nothing is more Manhattan that a perfectly cooked steak, or burger in my case.  Once I laid my eyes on the  signature “Manhattan Grill Wagyu Beef Burger with Monterey Jack Cheese, Veal Bacon, and Crispy Idaho Fries”, the decision had been made. 

Once the main had been decided, next up was selecting the starter.  The seasonal specials included a seared sea bass with beet root puree, which screamed wholesome goodness and provided the balance to the burger.  A dish that sounded basic in its description was anything but.  The seared fish was seasoned and cooked well.  The flaky buttery fillets of sea bass melted in my mouth, and the beet root puree was smooth with just the right amount of a savory touch to compliment the earthy undertones of this flavorful vegetable.  

Claypot (CityMax Hotel-Bur Dubai)
  • Occasion to Visit: When you are having a craving for chaat or other south asian delicacies
  • Location and Price: CityMax Burdubai/Cost for two people AED 190
  • Insiders Tips: request a booth table with comfy seating towards the back as the band can be loud, but enjoyable
  • Menu Top Tip: the Chaat selection is extensive; make sure you save room for the Signature Claypot curries and Sizzling Grills

 This north Indian style eatery is tucked away at the Citymax hotel in Bur Dubai located on Kuwait Street at the intersection of Mankhool Rd.  A quick left hand turn once you enter the busy hotel lobby, the moderately sized dining space has ethnic touches inspired from the subcontinent.  The casual atmosphere lends itself to a mid-week meal where you will get great value for your money.

Marketing being one of their strong suits, the Indian Street Food Festival was the talk of the town during the busy September month.  The restaurant took pride in recreating the street stalls found all over India where people typically enjoy this street style snack.  In a more maintained environment, we were given an extensive tour of the set-up and brought to our comfy booth in the back. 
In addition to the extensive variety of chaat ranging from vegetarian and non veg options, the Claypot curries are the signature items at this quaint foodie destination in Bur Dubai.  The Goan Fish Curry spiced and full of flavor was a particular favorite as was the classic butter chicken.  The Naan to accompany the meal was also delectably delicious, and kept me going back for more. 


The restaurant caters to clientele from all walks of life.  Not only do they have an extensive vegetarian menu, but they also have a great meat and seafood menu, along with a special Jain menu. This restaurant requires a return trip, as one could not possibly enjoy all the menu choices on one sitting.    

Kebab Kolony (Karama)
  • Occasion to Visit: Casual snack/Meal on the go/Desi comfort food
  • Location and Price: Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road-Karama/Meal for two AED 40
  • Insiders Tips: the kebabs are great, but make sure you get an order of Biryani too, plus Kashmiri tea as dessert
  • Menu Top Tip: Malai Boti, Bihari Boti, Green Boti, Sindhi Biryani, and Chapli Bun Kebab 
 This conveniently located restaurant is quirky and too cute for words.  Located right off the main road with a limited amount of parking, coming here during the week is your best bet.  The fake brick walls decorated with classic Bollywood movie posters and anecdotes from current film stars and those of generations past make this a unique dining experience. 

The basic concept allows you to order directly at the counter, a la fast food style of service, but the meal will be delivered to your table.  The portions are a reasonable size, and allow you to order numerous items without filling up.  It’s a great place to go with a group of 2 or more people to get a sampling of several menu items. 

The quality of the meat in the kebab is good as is the marination and execution.  The depth of flavor in this authentically Pakistani style Sindhi Biryani is incomparable.  The delicate tendrils of sella rice don’t clump together and maintain their character throughout the dish.

The bun kebab is reminiscent of Karachi style street food vendors, conjuring memories of my childhood visits to the bustling capital city.  The thin layer of savory egg placed on top of the spicy meat patty nestled between two buns makes the perfect meal or snack, depending on your mood. The final touch that made this meal a lasting memory was the piping hot cup of sweet Kashmiri chai, with it’s gorgeous pick hues and milky consistency it worked its way into my heart and soul.

Wok It (Bur Dubai)

  • Occasion to Visit: Craving some solid Asian cuisine
  • Location and Price: Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road-Al Karama/ Meal for two AED 120
  • Insiders Tips: When booking as for table on the left side of restaurant with comfy seating, otherwise the main restaurant has long tables with bench style seating
  • Menu Top Tip: The sweet and savory Martabak, Curry Laksa, and Szechuan Wok Beef. The beef pairs best with the Nasi Lemak (Steamed Jasmine Rice with coconut milk and lemongrass)

Wok It is truly a one of a kind culinary delight in Dubai.  The restaurant itself was built on the idea to provide authentic Asian fair by sourcing the best of the best when it comes to quality of ingredients, staff, d├ęcor, and service.  The owner took a hands on approach to opening his first F&B venture and did so with an immense amount of passion.
He diligently did his research and recruited staff from the heart of Jakarta and beyond to execute the cuisine he craved from his travels to South East Asia.  The trained chef has a history of cooking in five star establishments which gives some background on his talent in the kitchen arena, however since his specialty of street food with a modern touch, he thrives in an environment such as Wok It.
The menu is inspired by pan Asian style cuisine, featuring dumplings, noodles, soups, curries, stir-fries, and of course the famous Martabak.  Each item on the menu is carefully planned and thought out. The starters contain a balance of traditional and modern items such as Satay and Firework Shrimp respectively. The noodle soups are a particular favorite not only for the incredibly developed broths, but their warmth and satiating effect on the body. 
The Szechuan Beef is a dish you would find in almost every Chinese restaurant, but the special Indonesian touch and quality of beef will make you want to come back for more. Lastly whether you opt for the savory or sweet variety, the Martabak is a treat that will linger in your mind for weeks on end.  Prepared in a special cast iron skillet especially imported from Indonesia, this dish is worth the trip to Karama alone. 
For more information on the Dubai Food Festival, click on the icon below:


Feb 27, 2014

Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide: Best Cheap Eats

As a Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide, I was asked to select four of my favorite restaurants in five different categories.  This actually proved to be a difficult task, as I have had so many wonderful dining experiences in Dubai.  Here are the top four under Best Cheap Eats.

Noodle Bowl (Diyafah)
  • Occasion to Visit: Casual cheap dining/late night muchies
  • Location and Price: Satwa-Diyafah Street/Meal for two AED 100
  • Insiders Tips: Order their variety of Sambal and Shrimp paste for added
  • Menu Top Tip: Dim Sum/Turnip cakes/Five Spice Duck/Steamed Buns/Salted Fish Fried Rice

 I was first introduced to Noodle Bowl through my media friend Simone Heng, who is passionate about South East Asian food.  Having Singaporean roots, I trusted her word when it came to good quality Asian food, as she would have a much more discernible palate regarding this type of cuisine than I.  We luckily found parking on the busy Diyafah street right in front of the orange and green sign for Noodle Bowl. 

Looking a bit dated, and very simple in its design, we found ourselves surrounded by a mostly Asian clientele, that is always a good sign.  The menu was extensive, but there were a couple of items that I knew I would enjoy such as the Dim Sum and Turnips Cakes.  The other items ordered were the Five Spice Duck and Salted Fish Fried Rice along with Steam Red Bean Paste Buns.

The service was quick and we enjoyed course after course of authentic Pan Asian delicacies made from a soulful kitchen.  The entire operation feels family run, and we were able to experience everything in a relaxed unpretentious environment.  Not only was the food tasty, but the prices were also quite reasonable compared to other restaurants in Dubai.


The location for this restaurant is prime and because they serve until midnight, it’s a great place to get some takeout or grab a snack for some late night munchies.  The takeout is decent, just make sure to ask for extra sambal and shrimp paste to get the same culinary experience at home. 

 Fraiche (JLT)
  • Occasion to Visit: for a lunch meeting or a casual dinner meet-up with friends
  • Location and Price: Cluster Y, Swiss Tower, JLT/Meal for two AED100
  • Insiders Tips: Come hungry and leave happy
  • Menu Top Tip: Poutine/Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad/Apple Crumble
Fraiche located in JLT sounded intriguing right off the bat.  Hearing good things swirl amongst fellow foodies and friends, I was curious to see if this place would match up to all the hype. I went down one Friday afternoon with a couple of friends to explore the menu, and we were pleasantly surprised by what we walked into. 

A light and airy space reminiscent of some very European style cafes and coffee shops only located right here in Dubai.  The large high top table upon entrance served as a great communal workspace, a note I made to myself as we made our way to the table. 
Seated right in the center of the restaurant we overlooked the greenery in front of swiss tower and looked forward to our afternoon of culinary delights.  The owner Yousef Al Barqawi approached our table and greeted us gingerly. He gave us the house recommendations, including poutine a classic Canadian dish consisting of Fries topped with gravy and dollops of cheese curd, how could you go wrong. 

Global Village  (Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Rd)

  • Occasion to Visit: During the winter season/From December to March 
  • Location and Price: Loacted on Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Road/Meal for two AED 50
  • Insiders Tips: explore and try food at all the countries, but save room for the Dutch Pancakes
  • Menu Top Tip: There are too many good things to choose from here, start with the Turkish baked potato, head over to Bundu Khan’s for some Pakistani delicacies, then enjoy the Dutch pancakes right next to the Pakistan tent. 
Global Village is a cultural extravaganza like no other.    The activities and food selection on offer areunique with enough variety to keep you coming back for something new everytime.  The entire operation is ideal for families and friends looking for a little escape from the norm.  Not only do you have a vibrant backdrop, but a comfortable place everyone will enjoy. 

When exploring Global Village, it's important to strategize your meal options.  There is so much on offer, best to take it slow and savour the moment from country to country. Some of my favorites include the authentic Pakistani fair at Bundu Khan's, the Poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes), Turkish Kumpir(Baked Potato), and the Emirati Luqaimat (Fried Dough).  

If you're looking to pick up some trinkets or shopping for a special gift, make sure you hit the Yemei tent for some delicious honey and spices.   The best time to take a trip to Global Village is during the peak season, between December and March. 

Lafayette Gourmet-(Dubai Mall)

  • Occasion to Visit: Make a pit stop when you need a boost after a long day of shopping
  • Location and Price: Dubai Mall, 3rd floor at Galaries Lafayette/ Meal for two AED 100/Snacks for two AED 40
  • Insiders Tips: The menu is extensive, so strategize your meal, and the Spanish Torrija is a must
  • Menu Top Tip: The Morrocon Harira soup, Salads and appetizers, Fresh Pastas, and the Mezze

Lafayette Gourmet is a one stop shop for all things foodie whether you are shopping in the mall or looking for some delectable gourmet treats.  They have an incredible variety of food from around the globe and a well trained staff who know how to execute it.  Russell Impiazi is the executive chef at this mall eatery and works hard to ensure good quality and service that will outlast the competition. 
 Not only is the variety of products incredible, but the creativity in plating and design give Lafayette Gourmet that extra special touch.  During Ramadan season, you can make Iftar bookings for their elaborate buffet which has everything from sushi to salads plus lamb ouzi and fresh pasta.
But the gourmet treats don't stop there, if you have a sweet tooth, then this is definitely the place to be.  The range of cakes and pastries would bring a smile to anyone's face, just make sure you have enough time to get through them all.
Lafayette Gourmet is conveniently located on the third level of Galaries Lafayette at the Dubai Mall.  They offer a fantastic weekend brunch option plus a la carte options during the weekdays.  If you're in need of a little pick me up, then head over for a coffee and some cake, you will always be taken care of there.

For more information on the Dubai Food Festival, click on the icon below: