The first quarter of 2019 has seen some beloved venues shut their doors even as a record number of restaurants launch. Gulf News tabloid! hand-picks names out of these new kids on the block for a must-try dining experience.

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Masala Library Image Credit: Supplied

Masala Library By Jiggs Kalra at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

If you grew up in an Asian household at the turn of the millennium, chances are, you had a parent at home who would fight you for the remote every time ‘Zaike Ka Safar’ aired on Zee TV. Headlined by the ‘Czar of Indian Cuisine’ Jiggs Kalra, the show made the food connoisseur a household name for bringing traditional cooking back to the table.

Kalra’s food legacy continues with the newly opened Masala Library, a restaurant that focuses on reviving traditional recipes from across ancient India and repackaging it for a contemporary clientele — think molecular gastronomy and deconstructed dishes.

Details: Open daily from 6pm until 1am.
Average price for two: Dh400, without beverages.


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miX Dubai by Alain Ducasse at Emerald Palace Kempinski

With unparalleled views of the Arabian Sea, miX by Alain Ducasse brings contemporary and classical French cuisine to the UAE food scene. Spread over three floors, you can dine al fresco on its rooftop or tuck into an exclusive meal at the private chef’s table in the central dome of the hotel.

The restaurant has also launched its Aristokrasi Brunch, offering a buffet and some plated dishes — think m’rouza-style lamb shoulder and roasted corn-fed chicken confit lemon. Although, if you ask us, we are quite intrigued by the chocolate pizza.

Details: From 5pm onwards daily.
Average price for two: Dh500. Brunch runs on Fridays from 1pm to 5pm and is priced from Dh450.


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Retro Feasts at The Beach

Relaunched with a new look and menu, Retro Feasts brings a taste of nostalgia to the table while paying homage to British pop culture of the 70s, 80s and 90s. The beachfront restaurant, which is the brainchild of Chef Luke Thomas, who became the head chef at 18, features food that will evoke childhood memories.

In addition to the signature dish — coronation chicken in a bun — highlights will include the classic fish’n’chips, the fish finger sandwich, the original New York hot dog and more.

Details: The JBR restaurant will be open from 10am to 11pm on weekdays and from 10am to 11pm on weekends.
Average price for two: Dh150.


Cheeky Chan at Four Points by Sheraton Sharjah

This hot new Asian fusion restaurant serves up an assortment of flavour-packed curries, classic wok dishes and dim sums under the guidance of Chef Darren Andow.

Must-haves on the menu include the salmon salad, the beef rendang and the curry laksa. For dim sum lovers, Cheeky Chan is offering unlimited goblets with free-flowing soft drinks for Dh59 per person every Tuesday. Vegetarian options also available.

Details: From 6.30pm until 11pm.
Average price for two: Dh150.


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ONI Lounge & Restaurant, Shangri-La Hotel

Serving authentic Japanese cuisine, ONI brings street flavours and dishes served in traditional ‘Izakaya’ sharing style plates. Using fresh ingredients sourced from Japan’s north island of Hokkaido, the restaurant’s menu features much-loved favourites such as robata, sushi, gyoza and ramen cooked at live stations. Menu highlights include wagyu beef tataki, avocado on crispy rice, tuna pizza, seafood okonomiyaki and semi-dried Japanese rockfish kichiji shioyaki, to name few.

Details: Open daily from 6pm to 3am
Average price for two: Dh350.


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OPA Image Credit: Supplied

Opa, The Fairmont Hotel, Shaikh Zayed Road

Everyone we know has been to this charming Greek restaurant, jumped up to dance the Zorba and had a smashing time, both figuratively and literally.

Opa’s expansive menu includes an assortment of grilled meats, salads, fresh fish preparations and desserts inspired by the Grecian islands. We recommend the tzatziki yoghurt dip and the grilled Cypriot halloumi to start with, while opting for the Kleftiko, or the lobster orzo as main.

End the evening on a high note by indulging in the ‘Opa’, a wedding tradition that often involves the playful custom of smashing plates to celebrate success or a special occasion. If you want to be transported right into the world of Toula Portokalos from ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, complete with dancing around tables, this is it.

Details: From 7pm to 1am.
Average price for two: Dh350.


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Mama Zonia, Pier 7

Amazonian cuisine is gaining international recognition for its vibrant flavours and novel ingredients — so naturally, it would find a place in Dubai’s ever evolving eclectic food scene.

Recently opened at the ever popular Pier 7, the restaurant brings the taste of the rainforest region, with traditional preparations of authentic dishes — some you’ve probably never even heard of. Steering away from creepy crawly delicacies (in case you were wondering), there’s a dedicated raw bar with a selection of freshly caught fish such as the red snapper ceviche, marinated in coconut, habanero and pineapple, with a topping of truffle pearls.

Dishes we recommend are the Yuzu Ponzu watermelon creation, which comes in an avocado sauce topped with puffed quinoa. In true South American style, meat lovers need to opt for the prime beef short bibs, cooked in the log fire for 14 hours.

Details: Mama Zonia is open daily with a Friday ‘Don’t Feed the Animals Brunch’ and a Tuesday Glamazon Ladies Night and daily happy hour from 5pm-8pm with 50 per cent off selected house beverages.
Average price for two: Dh460.


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Punjabi Dhaba, Oud Metha

Serving the best kadi pakoda we’ve tasted in Dubai, Punjabi Dhaba is far removed from the juggernauts found in five-star hotels in the city. This tiny little gem tucked away in the bylanes of Oud Metha serves up home-cooked fare that often results in lines forming outside its doors on Friday evenings.

If kadi pakoda isn’t your thing, opt for the rajma or chole rice combos for Dh18 and pack it with its enormous Peda Wali Lassi, which is a meal in itself.

Details: From 9am to midnight.
Average price for two: Dh100.


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Mantis Image Credit: Supplied

Mantis, DIFC

Get those posh frocks out as this DIFC hotspot finally opens its doors after a scheduled launch last November was postponed.

Fast becoming a go-to for the late-night food and party scene, Mantis is spread across a sprawling 789 square metre space located on the podium level in Emirates Financial Towers. The venue is pegging itself as a new addition to “Dubai’s VIP entertainment culture”, with a menu that includes Asian and South American-inspired dishes, along with classic European favourites — think hand-crafted sushi rolls and sashimi, fresh oysters, and ceviche. The venue later transforms into a club.

Details: From 9pm from Wednesday to Friday.
Average price for two: Dh400.


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Tasca Image Credit: Supplied

Tasca at Mandarin Oriental Jumeira

Chef Jose Avillez sets the table for traditional Portuguese cuisine, served with a contemporary twist. With a menu based on a sharing concept, Tasca introduces patrons to a range of Portuguese classics, from the sea and the land, such as giant red shrimp, piri piri chicken with smoked avocado cream and a surf and turf platter with blue Portuguese lobster. The restaurant offers both indoor seating and outdoor terrace dining.

Tasca is Chef Avillez’s first international opening. His other restaurants include the Michelin-starred Belcanto in Portugal.

Details: Open daily from noon to midnight.
Average price for two: Dh450.


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Taverna Greek Kitchen, Souk Madinat Jumeirah

The homegrown concept brings the much-loved flavours and dishes of the Mediterranean with an open-style kitchen and cosy surroundings, allowing guests to be transported to a local Greek family-run restaurant.

The concept is based on a sharing style with a wide variety of mezze including cold plates, salads and appetisers. Highlights include Ksidato or slow braised octopus, classic Greek dishes such as tzatziki, taramosalata and athinaiki. The menu offers a variety of fresh seafood, which is cooked to order.

Details: From noon until midnight.
Average price for two: Dh350.


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Mama Pho at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah

If you’ve been to the newly opened hotspot on The Palm Jumeirah, you would know The Pointe is where the influencers in Dubai congregate over the weekend for their trigger happy Instagram captures. While it was a tough choice to pick just one to make the list, our passion for Vietnamese and Thai food, straight from Mama’s kitchen won out.

Mama Pho, with its rustic wooden furnishings, relaxed vibe and waterfront location, is ideal for a laid-back midweek or weekend bite. Mama Pho’s menu includes good, honest pho — with two options available - Vietnamese Noodle Soup and Tom Yum Goong. Other must-try dishes include lobster wonton, Thai green papaya salad, aromatic lychee duck and delicate lotus seabass.

Details: From noon to midnight.
Average price for two: Dh300.


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Hitchki Image Credit: Supplied

Hitchki, Grand Millennium Hotel, Barsha Heights

The modern Indian resto-bar franchise from Mumbai finally heads to Dubai, offering up a new spin on many childhood favourites. Think Charlie chapli kebab, crispy chicken Khurana, spinach risotto with cottage cheese and crispy okra, among others.

Those with a sweet tooth must try the signature Baratiyon Ka Swagat (welcome the wedding guests), a chocolate filled fondant with paan pasand jelly and pink candy floss. Also, fans of singer Fahmil Khan can catch him with his band performing on March 27.

Details: From noon until 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends.
Average price for two: Dh280.