It’s the golden city where people from all over the globe come together. And the cross-cultural currents mingle in the eclectic and diverse cuisine of Dubai, which has emerged an epicentre of gastronomy. While the booming tourism industry is playing a key role in shaping its food and beverages sector; the dazzling epicurean delights of the Venice of the Gulf are the biggest draw for many a well-heeled visitor, seeking luxury gastronomic experiences.
Clearly the food and beverages capital of the Middle East and North Africa, the Emirate is also in the reckoning as one of the top food lovers’ destinations in the world. A melting pot of a scintillating variety of cuisines, Dubai has attracted a host of talented and innovative chefs and culinary innovators. The city boasts over 13,000 F&B outlets spanning the range of homegrown eateries and neighbourhood cafes to a dozen exclusive MICHELIN-star restaurants. Recently, 15 restaurants from Dubai have featured on the second edition of the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Restaurant list unveiled by World’s 50 Best. The list presents a smorgasbord from mixing modern Middle Eastern with global flavours at Orfali Bros Bistro to Tresind Studio where Chef Himanshu Saini weaves stories with intricately plated and expertly spiced degustation menus; the MICHELIN starred Ossiano at Atlantis; contemporary Asian cuisine at 3FILS and Chef Reif Othman’s Reif Japanese Kushiyaki.
The city’s glittering neighbourhoods showcase its array of gastronomic abundance. A journey through Dubai’s elite hotspots showcases its top culinary destinations as well. From Downtown Dubai, home to some of the city’s best restaurants, cafes and nightclubs to Dubai Marina, the precinct that has a remarkably diverse selection of eateries, pubs, bars and food courts with something for everyone; to Palm Jumeirah; which boasts some of the region’s best restaurants; Jumeirah, with an eclectic dining scene and Karama, a must-visit destination for food lovers who love the buzz of spicy street food, it’s a tour that’s a delight for gourmet palates.
Many celebrity chefs have made Dubai their home and a canvas for their creative excellence. Chef Izu Ani, a favourite of Dubai’s Royal Family, is one of the top among them. In his words, Dubai has a way of accelerating a chef’s creativity, its ever-evolving nature giving them the ability to expand their skills and learn about different cultures, tastes, flavours and people. His wildly popular concept restaurants GAIA and Carine bring very different experiences to the table. “The beauty of food is that unites people, it brings us together - when we share a meal, we are speaking the same language. From home-grown concepts, authentic street food, world renowned chefs and global restaurant brands – Dubai’s culinary scene welcomes diners and travellers from around the world,” he told Times of India.
GAIA, named after the Greek goddess of all creation, combines warm hospitality with intricate details to entice the explorer within each foodie. “Our cuisine showcases the core elements of Greek culture, humble, simple yet flavoursome dishes that are served in layers and designed to be shared between friends and family,” Chef Izu says about GAIA. Each part of the restaurant represents a different part of Greece, from the bougainvillea laced terrace reminiscent of the Cycladic islands, the coastal bar and lounge area, as well as the Athenian souvenir shop and the hidden speakeasy NYX that has an elegant, yet enigmatic Mykonian energy.
Carine, named after Chef Izu’s wife, on the other hand, is elegant yet adventurous and edgy. “The French culture woven throughout the restaurant stems from her and everything I learned in France, from where we met and what we have built together the restaurant reflects the warm, welcoming feeling that Carine brings to our home. A feeling that soothes the soul, calms the mind, and allows you to unwind,” Chef Izu said. His wife’s favourite dishes are woven throughout the menu. Her memories of working in a bakery in northern France are translated in the freshly baked breads and boulangerie, served alongside her incredible homemade plum and apple jams.
The celebrity chef, who has been recognised with the UAE Gold Card Visa, thanks his team as well and the ingredients that he works with for his success. “My ethos for every restaurant is to use fresh, seasonal, and simple ingredients, respect their provenance and curate dishes that delight diners time and time again,” he says.
Even as chefs bring with them their international experiences to the cuisine of the dazzling city of gold; it’s hardly surprising that Dubai is positioning the F&B sector as a key pillar of the Emirate’s long- term tourism growth strategy, leveraging its reputation as the world’s most diverse city which is ideally suited for food-loving travellers. In keeping with its strategy to promote gastronomy as a cornerstone of the city's tourism growth plan, Dubai aims to strengthen the city's status as a culinary hub emphasizing the diversity, depth, and authenticity of the available dining options.
For Delhi-based food and travel columnist Rupali Dean, Dubai is an unparalleled gastronomic heaven. “From a restaurant like Ossiano at Atlantis The Palm where Chef Gregoire takes one on a beautiful sea food journey to the decadent MimiKakushi offering exceptional Japanese cuisine to a place like Ribs & Brews at the Hilton in Habtoor City serving a menu with such high quality produce to Arabic food at Em Sheriff near Dubai Mall - Dubai has it all,” she says. For Indian visitors who are looking for a dash of desi cuisine with a twist, she recommends Dhaba Lane; Tresind Studio; The Crossing and Tandoor Tina.
Looking ahead in 2023, the city has unveiled details of the 10 th anniversary edition of the much-anticipated Dubai Food Festival (DFF) to woo discerning foodies, epicurean travellers and culinary aficionados. Taking place from April 21 to May 7, DFF 2023 will showcase the depth, diversity and creativity of Dubai’s gastronomy offering through an expanded programme of events and activities, celebrating home-grown concepts, Emirati and international cuisine, as well as global trends and chefs, culinary pioneers, gourmet thought leaders and tastemakers.
Dubai now ranks among the world’s top gastronomy destinations in terms of service standards, the variety and quality of cuisine on offer and for its fine dining options. “It’s the diversity of high quality F&B brands from around the world, making Dubai perhaps a unique dining destination globally, with the largest set of varied and quality brands ranging from Turkey’s Salt Bae to London’s Zuma to Nice’s La Petite Maison,” says Vikram Achanta, co-founder of 30BestBarsIndia. From an Indian perspective, the vibrant nightlife, that mixes the best of the East (brands like Lebanon’s Amelia’s) and the West (Venice’s Cipriani) is a big draw, he adds.
Chef Akmal Anuar, who is partner of 11 Woodfire on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Road, along with Atelier House Hospitality; is yet another star in Dubai’s culinary sky. A part of the team that opened the popular premium Asian restaurant 3FILS in 2016; 11 Woodfire, which was launched to bring the first all wood- fired cooking concept to the region, has already earned a MICHELIN star, within six months of starting operations. “We cook almost everything on fire using oak wood for most preparations. We keep the style cuisine-less to suit the flavours I want to showcase. And though we are a dry establishment serving no alcohol; our beverages are cool and well thought out not leaving anything in the restaurant boring,” explains Chef Akmal whose two decades of training with European techniques blends with his creativity and innovation with Asian flavours. He is passionate when talking about the produce that goes into his culinary creations. “Our meats are amongst the popular ones with our clientele but I like my seafood too. Two dishes for which we use local ingredients are our calamari with parsley puree and fennel shavings and the other is our Gulf white clams with black pepper and oyster sauce. This is prepared fresh daily and goes through the fire treatment to get the robust wood fire flavour. A personal favourite that is doing justice to the local produce,” he says.
Disclaimer: This article is a part of featured content series on Business in Dubai