Abd El Wahab
Souq Al Bahar, Downtown
Although Abd El Wahab is technically located inside shopping mall Souk Al Bahar, don’t expect it to be a typical mall-dining experience—with a large terrace and views of the surrounding city and man-made lake, having a meal there is actually quite relaxed. They serve excellent iterations of the classics in a wide-ranging menu: think perfect tabbouleh, hummus, grilled meats, and vegetables served in myriad ways with ample fresh, warm bread.
JBR Walk, JBR
The Ritz Carlton is one of the only hotels in this neighborhood that's not a skyscraper, so the inviting gardens and terraces on ground level are reason enough to check it out. Chef Ta Van's menu features dishes inspired by his Vietnamese grandmother’s recipes, weaving in flavors from Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and China (and complemented by a ridiculously good sake). Ask for a table with an ocean view, on the terrace.
Marsa Dubai, Marina
We could wax poetic for a while about the food—which is an incredible offering of elevated Italian food that includes everything you’d hope for, from super-fresh salads and seafood dishes to homemade fresh pasta—but the real draw here is the restaurant itself, which is a beautiful multi-level space with beach views. It’s somehow both laid-back and upscale at once; the more family-friendly option is to opt for a table upstairs on the terrace, where you can order wood-fired pizza. Downstairs, you’ll find both a main dining room and a large, tree-adorned patio space where you can order from the full menu.
Intersect by Lexus
Gate Village, DIFC
Located in DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre, the "free zone" where companies can be set up without the requirement of a local partner), Intersect is an ideal meeting spot if you're in Dubai on business, but also just a nice cafe for coffee and a snack if you're in the area to check out one of DIFC's galleries or do a little shopping. Outside of Friday brunch (Dubai's Saturday), the focus is on weekday lunch—salads, soups, meat mains—with breakfast being more of a light pastry affair. Developed by Wonderwall's Masamichi Katayama, Intersect is set up like a library cafe—the walls are lined with bookshelves—and there are Lexus touches throughout, mostly subtle, and possible to miss—i.e. the leather couches are the same leather as you'll find in the cars. (Downstairs, in "the garage," is the less subtle homage to Lexus, where a flashy concept car is stationed. The tiny model cars placed into the glass walls lining the adjacent bathroom corridor are a fun touch.)
La Petite Maison
Gate Village, DIFC
A spinoff of the London La Petite Maison—a restaurant by Arjun Waney (the investor behind Zuma) based on the restaurant of the same name in Nice—the food here has a distinctly southern French soul. Plates come small and to share, so you can theoretically sample it all. The salads and carpaccios from the starter menu shouldn't be missed, and for the main course, the fish is always excellent. The real star of the show is the black-leg-roasted chicken, though. Order it right when you sit down; It takes about an hour and twenty minutes, but it justifies the wait.
Jumeirah Fish Harbour, Jumeirah
Dubai imports almost all of its food, so the organic and local emphasis at Silvena Rowe's first Dubai restaurant makes a statement—she sources her cheeses, meats, eggs, fish, and produce locally. The offerings, like orange blossom glazed chicken or a zucchini linguine and avocado pesto, are light and health-centric yet accessible, and there's a gorgeous lineup of paleo and superfood-packed pastries and desserts, like a gluten-free raspberry and chocolate brownie and chia seed pudding. The insanely cool interior, with a peacock mural on the wall, wicker chairs, vegetation hanging from the ceiling, is another big part of the appeal.
Dubai Mall, Downtown
Founded by the same owners of the successful café Salt on Kite Beach, Parker's began as a social media-fueled pop-up concept that quickly gained traction around town. Here's the quirk: to eat at Parker's you need a special key, which are hidden across Dubai (by "Mr. Parker"). Fans who buy into the hype follow clues posted on Parker's Instagram/Snapchat handles to track one down. Once you're in, the menu really caters to a sweet tooth; particular attention is paid to inventive desserts while other menu specials include things like a crispy chicken potato sandwich with fries inside.
Pars Iranian Kitchen
Sheikh Zayed Rd., Al Quoz
Tucked inside the vast Mall of the Emirates, Pars Iranian Kitchen is a great casual eatery to stop in for a meal if you're shopping (or skiing) nearby. Expect excellent Iranian food, served in large portions—think tender meats, lots of rice, tomatoes, pickles, and mint leaves. It's a great spot for groups and littles; there are several outposts throughout the city.
Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah
Built directly onto a private wooden pier with a stunning glassed-in terrace and bay views, this is the ideal place for a romantic evening. While not particularly glitzy, the ambiance is undeniably elevated, as is the seafood-centric menu: the caviar, lobster, and fresh fish are offered in every imaginable incarnation. Dinner is always a sure thing, though the locals like to flock here for the boozy brunch, which can't be overstated: Brunch is huge in Dubai—really the thing to do on Fridays (which is the UAE's Saturday).
DoubleTree by Hilton, JBR
Along with Blue Jade and not surprisingly Zuma, Ramusake is a favorite Japanese restaurant in Dubai. Part of the surge of restaurants that have come to JBR in the last year or so, Ramsuake is on the Hilton property at the end of the strip (where the seafood spot, The Main, is located, too). Loosely izakaya-style dining, the Ramusake menu is a mix of shareable plates, including robata meat dishes (i.e miso-brined baby chicken with jalapeno, steamed sea bass, Wagyu beef), sushi, dumplings, and salads. The interior is handsome, all dark wood, with an enticing bar, and additional seating on the patio outside.
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