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© Lonely Planet Publications


Verre by Gordon Ramsay (p107)
Al-Qasr on Thursday (p117)
Fire & Ice (p110)
Nina (p121)
Hoi An (p115)
Pisces (p118)
BiCE (p120)
Al-Mallah for shawarma (p119)
Deira’s cheap eats (p109)
Bastakiah Nights (p111)

What’s your recommendation? 

Dubai’s culinary landscape mirrors the imported expat population – Indian, Thai, Chinese,
African, Lebanese – not local Emirati culture. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything
indigenous. Unless you score an invitation to a wedding, you’re unlikely ever to sample the
local specialty, khouzi, a whole roasted lamb or baby camel stuffed with rice and spices. You
might come across chicken, lamb or shrimp mashbous – spiced meat served with equally spicy
rice – but they’re nothing fabulous, mostly a mass of protein and starch. Blame it on tradition:
the Bedouin diet once consisted only of fish, dates, camel meat and camel milk – tasty, yes, but
even the Emiratis hardly eat it anymore. Now you spot them lining up at the fast food chains
with great frequency, indifferent to the major increase in Type II diabetes locally.
The best food is Middle Eastern, and includes Lebanese, Persian (Iranian) and Syrian. The
cooking of the Indian subcontinent is also superb, with nearly 30 distinct subtypes available in
Dubai. Asian cooking varies: you’ll find good Thai and lots of Japanese (especially sushi), but
Chinese is lacking. Likewise European: though Italian restaurants draw big crowds, few merit
a critical look. Seafood is wildly popular and the favourite local fish is the tender and meaty
hammour, a member of the grouper family, which you’ll find on nearly every menu.
There are two types of restaurant in Dubai: the hotel restaurant and the independent. Only
hotels are licensed to serve alcohol, which is why they house the city’s top dining rooms. Alas,
many of these top-end spots lack the individuality and eccentricity you’d find in a first-class
Western restaurant because they fall under the umbrellas of giant corporate hotel chains with
strict S&P (standards-and-procedures) manuals that effectively flatten individuality. Creativity
doesn’t flourish in Dubai. Yes, there are standout exceptions, such as Gordon Ramsay’s Verre,
but even this is part of a small empire run from overseas. Head to the independent restaurants
when you want ethnic authenticity and don’t mind slumming it; head to the hotels when you
want splash and panache – and a big glass of vino to...
What’s your recommendation? www.lonelyplanet.com/dubai
Verre by Gordon Ramsay ( p107 )
Al-Qasr on Thursday ( p117 )
Fire & Ice ( p110 )
Nina ( p121 )
Hoi An ( p115 )
Pisces ( p118 )
BiCE ( p120 )
Al-Mallah for shawarma ( p119 )
Deira’s cheap eats ( p109 )
Bastakiah Nights ( p111 )
© Lonely Planet Publications
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