1. TASTE OF ARABIA
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa
Like a scene straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights, Al Hadheerah is the place to experience traditional fare amid rolling sand dunes. Located in the idyllic Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, 45 minutes outside Dubai, the restaurant features ethnic cuisine of the region delivering an authentic Arabic buffet and live cooking with flair.
This open-air traditional Arabic desert restaurant also perfectly captures the mood of old Arabia through the lively entertainment of belly dancers, henna artists, live bands and falcon displays.The Emirati cuisine here offers guests a tantalising and extensive selection of hot and cold mezze, served with bread from Arabic bread ovens.
There are also live cooking stations where a choice of seafood, fish, beef, chicken and lamb are cooked in a variety of traditional methods that include wood-fired ovens, charcoal grills and spit roasts. The fare includes beef and chicken shawarmas, Arabic and Iranian kebabs, spiced rice, skewers of whole chickens, and plenty of fresh salads. The signature main dish is the whole lamb preparation, cooked in a large, covered metal vessel that is lowered into a pit filled with lit charcoal and slow-cooked for six hours.
Tel: 04 8096100
2. LEVANTINE SPECIALTIES
Yasoon Building, Old Town Burj Dubai
Showcasing the age-old delights and delicacies of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine, Mezza House, located in the Old Town quarter, is a quirky restaurant awash in a brilliant turquoise blue and teeming with Arabesque touches from across the region. As the name suggests, it is the mezze that is the highlight here.
Fresh, zingy flavoursmark the range of cold mezze. Highlyrecommended is the fattoush, a Levantine salad of diced fresh veggies such as cucumber,lettuce, and tomato with crunchy, toasted bread pieces. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of ground sumac add depth to this bright-tasting salad.
A few family signature dishesmake this restaurant unique. Look out for thinly sliced and delicately spiced Grandma’s potato chips and also Nassau’s chocolate – pita bread slathered with nutella, then baked in the oven and named after the owner of the restaurant.
Tel: 04 4205444
3. JOURNEY TO PERSIA
Radisson SAS Hotel, Baniyas Road
Offering splendid views of the Creek,Shabestan brings alive the whole atmosphere of ancient Persia through its traditional settings and decor. The live music will get you into the spirit of things, but it is the exquisite cuisine in this upscale restaurant that will literally transport you there.
Highly prized Caspian sturgeon caviar,a Persian delicacy, features on the menu and is served with chopped egg, onion and parsley. Certainly the most traditional food in Persian cuisine is rice. Delicately perfumed, it appears in numerous varieties, either mixed with herbs such as mint, saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, dill or with fruits including barberries, orange peel, cherries and walnuts.
Tender chunks of lamb fillet,marinated in special sauces and seasoned with spices, go well with the rice dishes. An interesting array of kebabs, marinated and grilled over charcoal fire are delicate and tender, while for the desserts, the honey sweet baklava or kotab, falooda or the very refreshing rose-flavoured ice-creams are popular.
Tel: 04 2057333
4. QUINTESSENTIALLY LEBANESE
Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa
With more than a 100 dishes on the menu, to say that the Arabic fare served here is extensive would be an understatement.Al Qasr is a lively Lebanese restaurant, where lunch is served a la carte while dinner features a set-menu. Consistently voted the best Lebanese restaurant in Dubai, the winning combination here is the authentic atmosphere with traditional bread-making, a show kitchen and nightly live entertainment provided by an Arabic band and enchanting belly dancer.
Traditional Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisines are on the menu featuring a full variety from raw meat to hot and cold mezzas to an oriental mixed grill and seafood accompanied with freshly baked saj bread.Those gutsy enough can try fried or grilled quail but a taste of the house speciality,Kheshkash is a must. Here, minced meat is cooked with special spices to perfection in tangy tomato sauce.
Tel: 04 3461111
5. TURKISH DELIGHT
Taj Palace Hotel
Exotic Turkish spices feature prominently on the menu at Topkapi, as do sausages, kebabs and various other sumptuous dishes.Named after the famous Topkapi Palace in Turkey, the restaurant is decorated in the traditional Turkish architecture.
On the wall is an ancientmap of Ottoman Turkey while quaint old-fashioned lamps adorn the ceiling. The hot mezze offers Sucuk Izgara –beef minced with Turkish spices grilled on charcoal fire, Hellim Izgara – grilled Turkish cheese and Ispanak Kavutasi – sautéed fresh green spinach with dry raisins and pine nuts.
Try the Taj Kebab, a traditional Turkish grilled meat kebab served with bewas salad and Arabic bread, and Patatesli Bezelye, a potato and green peas dish with lamb. Freshly baked Turkish pastries complete the dining experience. Kaymakli Kayisi – apricots with coated cream and crushed roasted nuts, Kabak Tatlisi – pumpkin sweet with roasted nuts and cream and Balli Muz – banana with honey and nuts will leave you pleasantly sated.
Tel: 04 2232222
6. MOROCCAN MAGIC
A traditional courtyard setting welcomes diners atMarrakech where Moroccan sights and sounds go hand in hand with traditional as well as popular Moroccan cuisine. Start with Harira Marrakchia, a traditional tomato soup flavoured with fresh green herbs and served with luscious dates.
The true test of Moroccan cooking lies in its tagine specialties, which are slow-cooked, resulting in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. Tagine djaj k’dra, served here, is a classic dish that perfectly combines chicken, saffron, cinnamon and almonds while Tagine fassia features fish,tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers, preserved olives and lemon.
Dessert is a must with such dreamy concoctions as Roz bil habib, rice pudding with almonds and Halaouyat, assorted sweet pastries with almond, coconut, semolina, raisins and orange blossom.
Tel: 04 4052703
7. ROMANCE UNDER THE STARS
Even before you get to the Bedouin-inspired Amaseena, the surroundings overwhelm you. Flickering candlelights illuminate the way, and gently breaking waves whisper in the distance while the lilting melodies of the oud calm the senses.
You can dine in the open-air under a starry sky or choose a private tent to unwind with family and friends. And the food will not disappoint either, with the choicest selection from a large variety of Arabic dishes. An evening buffet feast of traditional regional specialties entice the palate while live stations offer an interactive dining experience.
Regional specialties from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan tempt with their aromatic and flavourful dishes. Hot from the grills are shish kebab, shish taouk, fresh kofta kebab and lambchops.
The traditional, special occasion dish, lamb ouzi, featuring a whole lamb can be specially prepared on request. A decadent display of desserts featuring traditional sweets and puddings brings a sweet end to this Arabic adventure.
Tel: 04 3186715
8. ORIENTAL FLAVOURS
The Palace, The Old Town
With its luxurious drapery and flamboyant accessories, its regal arches, high ceilings and wooden trellis, this all-day dining restaurant evokes a truly regional theme. When it comes to the food, Ewaan is like a gastronomic tour into the intricacies of oriental cuisine, a melting pot of the finest delicacies from Arabic, Indian and Mediterranean gastronomies.
The menu is extensive; oriental flavours abound and both buffet and a la carte options are available.The Arabic influence can be found in the range of appetizers, starting from a feisty tabouleh full os lemony zest to delicious hummus and punchy mutabal, and further on to hot, crispy parcels of lamb kibbeh and an exquisite Lebanese sausage flambé, full of a fragrant mélange of herbs and spices.
For desserts, traditional items include cheese kunafa and oum ali as well as a host of miniature delicacies in individual shot glasses. Set amidst the backdrop of the towering Burj Dubai, the venue is as flattering as the fine food served here.
Tel: 04 4287951
9. LEBANON BECKONS
Le Meridien Dubai, Garhoud
Grilled, baked or sautéed, the menu at Al Mijana focuses on healthy eating options with an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, seafood, lean meat, poultry, and copious amounts of garlic and olive oil.The cuisine is traditional Lebanese and the decor emulates a typical rural Lebanese home.
The extensive mezze creates an array of colours, flavours, textures and aromas.Here, the herbs, spices and freshness of ingredients reign supreme. The side dishes too are full of robust, earthy flavours. Lebanon’s national dish, kibbeh, an emulsified paste of fresh lamb and bulgur wheat, is exemplary, as are its variations, raw kebbeh orfali and tebleh nayyeh. No meal is eaten in Lebanon that does not include bread and the restaurant freshly bakes several varieties each day, seasoned with assorted herbs and spices that serve as perfect accompaniments for both appetisers and the mains.
Tel: 04 7022615
10. MARVELLOUS MEZZE
Al Nafoorah, Emirates Towers
Hot and cold mezze dishes are Al Nafoorah’s specialities, comprising an extensive selection of hommous, foul medamas, moutabel, tabouleh, fattoush, labneh and baba ganoush, as well as inventive Lebanese dishes including chicken livers in pomegranate, and mouth-watering shawarmas.
Made to perfection is the Al Nafoorah Kebbeh, a speciality dish of freshlyminced raw lamb with basil and tomato, ground and pounded with bulghur wheat, and splashed with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh mint. Fish lovers can indulge in hammour fillet for the mains. Served with chilli sauce, the grilled and roasted fillet is stuffed with onion, garlic, tomato, chilli and coriander.
Other Gulf delights include varied lobster and shrimp dishes.For a pleasant aftertaste, try the Al Nafoorah Muhalabiya, a classic Arabicmilk,sugar and rose water pudding or skip counting calories and go for the ashta bil asal, clotted cream drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cracked pistachio nuts.
Tel: 04 3198088