While most people enjoy the occasional meal out, how many have ventured beyond their comfort zone? Here we list some of the more unusual restaurants in the UAE – with cuisines that are too finger-lickin' good to resist.
Afghan Kebab House
Contact: 04 2223292
Indulge your tastebuds in everything from naan to grilled kebabs and fresh salads, while being surrounded by a cacophony of sounds emanating from the nearby Deira souqs.
Somal Road, Deira, Dubai
Contact: 04 2737432
If you're not sure what agelgel or injera is, you may well want to try Abesinian Restaurant, a little getaway in the heart of Deira. The food is easy enough on the palate, especially if you're used to Arabic cuisine, but the portions are gigantic. So beware before ordering too much.
Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa
Contact: 04 3461111
Hot food and even hotter dancing ... Malecon has captured the essence of Cuba perfectly. Even if you're just there for drinks , you won't be denied the Cuban experience. The menu has everything from Mar Negro to Banana Cubana deserts and, of course, an after-dinner Cuban cigar.
Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
Contact: 02 5098888
The cuisine at Bord Eau is delightfully French in every way imaginable. With the exception of two dishes, everything you see on the menu is flown in all the way from France and changes every three months on a seasonal basis. And naturally, being a French restaurant, they have some of the best of what France is most famous for: reds and whites galore.
Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill
Marina Towers, Dubai
Contact: 04 4224333
Hippopotamus' claim to fame is "classic meat dishes cooked in the authentic French way". And what they promise, they deliver. Everything from the classic French Onion Soup for starters to a chocolate fondant for dessert is impeccable. Already a hit eatery in France, and with over 86 outlets internationally, it's only a matter of time before Hippopotamus becomes the chic place to dine at.
St Tropez Bistro
Contact: 04 2869029
What's the point of trying French cuisine if you don't indulge in a little bit of escargot, frog's legs or fois gras? And St Tropez Bistro, in the bustling Century Village, is the place to play French, if you are so inclined.
Contact: 04 3373959
Strange that despite the number of Filipinos in Dubai, most of us haven't been to a decent Pinoy restaurant yet. Tagpuan to the rescue. It's a regular Pinoy haunt in the heart of Karama that serves traditional classics such as Sotanghon Guisado, Palabok and Calderetta. Keep in mind though that the place fills up rather quickly despite two levels of seating, plus an outdoor area, so make a booking.
J.W. Marriott Hotel, Dubai
Contact: 04 6077977
Although German cuisine isn't totally alien to Dubai residents, we're sure plenty of people haven't tried German food, simply because they don't know what they're ordering. That's when Hofbrauhaus comes to the rescue. Although the names of dishes are still complicated, the staff are friendly enough to explain the menu to you.
Contact: 04 359888
With everything on the menu made by relatively famous Greek chef Yannis Baxevanis, everything from the sundried tomatoes to the feta cheese cooked into basic family dishes tastes like a dream come true. And with the outdoor balcony seating available, this sounds like the perfect season to try out Elia.
Al Khaleej Palace Hotel Deira, Dubai
You know you're getting the real deal when the clientele at a restaurant is primarily Japanese. And while most of us may be tempted to tuck into sushi, why not give some of their other dishes a try? Glutinous rice, teriyaki, tofu, tempura... all of it makes for a an enjoyable and authentic meal.
Seoul Garden Hotel
Contact: 04 3377876
Would you even have thought of trying Korean if it wasn't for this list to prod you on? And what a shame it would have been, for Korean food is among the most exquisite you'll taste. At Seoul Garden every table is set in a private dining room, which gives you enough privacy to learn how to eat this food well. For the weak-stomached, the traditional kimchi or seangseon guii (fish) is the best bet. However, the more adventurous can try everything from cow's feet to intestine stew.
Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort & Towers
Contact: 02 6444309
Mexican food, although easy on the palate, can be quite heavy on the stomach. But if you're determined to get your fill of nachos, cheese, refried beans, fajitas, enchiladas and burritos, El Sombrero is an excellent way to begin your foray into the world of South American cuisine.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club by Sheraton
Contact: 02 5588990
Imagine pristine beaches, lazy days, bronzed skins, olives and aperitifs... and then make your way to Casa Verde, one of the best Mediterranean joints in the capital. And while the food may not be terribly fancy, it does taste quite genuine.
The Green Community, Dubai
Al Manar Mall, Ras Al Khaimah
Contact: 04 3411449; 07 2277640
As most of us are used to Italian cuisine, Mediterranean should not pose a mind-shattering difference. Start easy with linguine or aglio. It's the sauces that make all the difference though – with everything from tomato herb to carbonara covered, this is a fun, affordable and friendly place to begin your love affair with Mediterranean food.
Contact: 02 6811900
Although most people haven't tasted Mongolian food, the variety served at Royal Orchid is a mix between Thai and Chinese. Quite a good option if you do want to expand your gastronomical knowledge, but still stick to something relatively safe.
Contact: 02 6328860
It's rare to find a Nepali joint in the country and even rarer to find people who crave to try the cuisine. But we need to warn you that once your tastebuds have experienced the flavours of Himalayan Mystical Momos (the Nepalese version of dim sums), or the Bhuteko Masu, The Curry House (which was formerly known as Kathmandu) will keep you coming back for more.
Al Ain Hilton
Contact: 03 7686666
Stepping into this quaint Persian joint is like taking a trip into the Persia of old. The seating is in private compartments enclosed by carved wooden shutters and the food is everything you dreamed Persian delicacies would taste like. With everything from kebab-e-daryaesh to chargrilled meats, Al Khayam will instill in you a love for Persian cuisine.
Pars Iranian Kitchen
Contact: 04 3984000
If you don't try their creamy bread-based pastries, your visit just won't be worth it. The food here is about as genuine as Persian cuisine gets. Even the faint of heart will enjoy the Kashk-e-bademjan, a vegetarian dip to eat with traditional warm flatbread.
Opposite Russian Embassy
Contact: 02 6713687
It works out well that this rather famous Russian restaurant is located next to its embassy. It's the perfect option for those who wish to be adventurous and try out something totally alien to their tastebuds. From the blinis (cheese pancake with yoghurt and cream sauce) to the zharkoye (meat and veggies), it's an experience you won't forget.
Russian Home Restaurant
Oud Mehta, Dubai
Contact: 04 3346050
More homely than a restaurant, this place will put you at ease before you even begin you palatable odyssey. The food all tastes wholesome, homemade and healthy and if you want to do this right, just jump mouth first into the most exotic dishes on the menu. You won't be disappointed. New diners have to try the Kvas, a popular drink made from from wheat, rye or barley.
Contact: 04 3496677
This place should have a warning on the door "For the fun loving only". Your dining experience at Smiling BKK becomes fun even before you order your food. Just one look at the menu should have you laughing out loud. With dishes called Fook Mi and Welcome To The Jungle, you'll be well on your way to enjoying one of the best, if not quirkiest, Thai experiences of your life. For those a little wary about the dishes, the ingredients in most are simple enough. But it was the desserts that had me floored. Try the sticky rice with mango slices, or the bread pudding with crushed ice.
Khalifa Street, Abu Dhabi
Contact: 02 6261112
You can count the number of Vietnamese restaurants in this country on your fingers and if you live in Abu Dhabi, you're among the lucky ones. As the Hanoi chef is Vietnamese, you can be sure that when you're eating pho (a rice noodle soup), you've got the real deal.
Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai
Contact: 04 3438888
While it's true that most of us haven't yet tasted Vietnamese food, it's also true that it would be a shame you avoid the experience. For Vietnamese food, with all it's indulgent flavours and aromas, is one of the best cuisines in town. You can't leave the restaurant without trying some Bak Choe or chicken pho (the most popular soup in Vietnam).