The year 2021 is seeing the restaurant industry come back in full force with new eateries after a year that shuttered many. This is most true for Dubai, where various new dining concepts have emerged in the past couple of months.
Read on for Vogue Arabia’s guide to the best new eateries to visit — from Dubai’s first fully female-led restaurant to a revamped Instagrammable cafe.
Where: SLS Hotel, Business Bay, Dubai
The vibe: Buzzy yet elegant city vibes, with a refreshingly modern palette of moss greens offset by shining brass pizza ovens, high ceilings, and lots of lush greenery. But it’s the view and the spectacular terrace space that really takes the cake – or panna cotta in this case – with Business Bay and the Burj Khalifa perfectly framed from Fi’lia’s 70th floor vantage.
The food: Modern Italian, dreamed up by chef Sara Aqel, who expertly and effortlessly leads Dubai’s first fully female-led restaurant. And what an eatery it is – Palestinian Aqel trained under Massimo Bottura, so you know whatever she dishes up is going to be special. Her passion is palpable as she ensures only the best ingredients are used – luscious tomatoes straight from Italy, handmade pasta – and the menu is filled with Italian favorites with a hint of Middle Eastern flair. Prices are extremely reasonable for the ritzy Business Bay location, with antipasti starting at AED50, pizzas from AED65, and mains from AED80.
Must try: Start as you mean to go on with a zinging sea bass carpaccio with yuzu vinaigrette and the feta al forno, then follow with the simply stunning Jerusalem artichoke pizza and a cheeky side of melt-in-the-mouth pappardelle with braised veal ossobuco ragu. For mains, move on to the grilled king prawns and parmigiana by Fi’lia – a whole roasted eggplant topped with marinara, mozzarella, and almond cream that even Nonna will devour. Make sure to leave space for dessert though – the coconut and passion fruit pavlova is a work of art, while the tiramisu is light as a fluffy espresso cloud.
Where: 779A Jumeirah Street, Umm Suqeim, Dubai
The vibe: Although not a new spot, it might as well be with its revamped interiors and a brand new menu. What has stayed the same, however, is the cozy, welcoming atmosphere perfect for a catchup with your friends. Muted but still playful, pastel elements, such as rose golds and sage tones, surround you — from the wall colors to the cushions. Reflecting founder Tania Lodi’s mission to stay right on trend after being named the 7th Most Instagrammable Cafe in the World, the venue’s most popular picturesque spots have also had a makeover, with the front door sporting a floral spurting teapot and the frame-adorned marble staircase featuring new-gen art, and the Hey There Habib-Tea having a chic remodel.
The food: Think, an upgraded kitchen menu full of fragrant baked bread, scrumptious afternoon tea, and creamy pasta made fresh daily, backed by premium, locally sourced, and free-range produce. Having faced numerous health-related dietary restrictions, Lodi is passionate about there being something for everyone, leaving those on worrisome diets, whether gluten-free, vegan, or peanut-intolerant, spoiled for choice.
Must try: With their infused water as the ultimate thirst quencher and palate refresher, dig into Are You Chicken Me Out? (AED83) which is a hearty and comforting dish of flavorful grilled chicken breast topped with blue cheese and mushroom sauce, a bed of garden vegetables and your choice of a side. We recommend the truffle potato wedges, golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Unicorn Cheesecake (AED39) which is not only Instagram-worthy but will also satisfy cravings for a sweet and creamy treat.
Where: SLS Hotel, Business Bay, Dubai
The vibe: Located on the 74th floor of the recently opened SLS hotel, Carna by Dario Cecchini offers a picturesque view of Dubai with its floor-to-ceiling windows. Striking chandeliers hanging off its high ceilings lend the dining room a warm yet lively ambiance.
The food: Inspiring dishes created by the renowned butcher from the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, Dario Cecchini. The concept around zero waste and sustainability offers a unique touch to the contemporary steakhouse as the menu offers dishes using all cuts of meat in addition to its prime cuts of steaks. Make sure to try some of the more unusual dishes on the menu as they’ll be sure to surprise you.
Must try: To start, make sure to try Cecchini’s signature steak tartare (AED 82) with its finely cut pieces of meat paired with truffle aioli. It’s definitely not one to miss. Absolute must-tries also include the wagyu beef carpaccio (AED 115) topped with black truffle, and the iberico duck prosciutto (AED 120). For mains, steak, of course, but what to choose? Make sure to ask the friendly Carna team for recommendations as it may not all be on the menu. Cooked to perfection, the medium-rare steak is full of flavor and beautifully presented. Don’t miss out on the delicious sides such as the truffle mac and cheese (AED55) and the whipped potato (AED35). For dessert, make sure to try the chocolate butcher block (AED57), a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut cream.
Where: Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah 2
The vibe: The year is 1920 and you’re walking down a cobblestoned street in Osaka, your strappy heels echo loudly as you step through a bamboo door, just as a Geisha hurries by. Deep burgundy tabletops glisten under fiery lamps and traditional bamboo menus announce a generous Japanese flair. You can almost smell the Sakura in the air when the in-house DJ spins out a cool track by the Purple Disco Machine and you realize you are very much in 21st Century Dubai; albeit in a slick Japanese Jazz salon.
The food: Armed with two experts, sushi chef Tsuyoshi Go Nagano from Tokyo and Russian-Korean ex-Zuma chef Vladimir Kim, the menu makes you experience two very distinct sides of Japanese cuisine. Choose from an expansive sushi/nigiri menu or order izakaya-style dishes like tiger Prawn tempura and Tebasaki spiced chicken wings, soups, and salads. Or try the chefs’ own favorites: Braised short ribs with sweet garlic soy, ginger wasabi relish, and pistachio miso or a donabe rice pot – made with Kagoshima wagyu beef, sweet shallot, crispy onion, tamago, and wagyu dashi. Prices are thoroughly reasonable with small dishes starting at AED 30 and sushi from AED 70.
Must try: In the restaurant’s signature style, each dish greets you with a unique Mediterranean freshness, perhaps owing to Chef Tsuyoshi Go Nagano’s culinary decade spent in Greece. The foie gras gyoza melts into a dense buttery cloud in your mouth, the spicy tuna roll delivers a perfect crunch while the wagyu tataki expertly combines the freshness of the best quality wagyu glazed with the delicate Umami of truffle oil. Don’t miss out on the peanut butter chocolate cake with coconut ice cream and the caramel purin tart with kahlua espuma – both stand-out dishes in a very eclectic dessert menu.