As the Indian festival of lights, Diwali is also a feast for the stomach. And with the coronavirus having put a dampener on last year’s events, this year’s celebrations are being accompanied by renewed vigour across the shiny emirate. Consequently, although Diwali day falls on November 4 this year, one-off treats are illuminating restaurant menus across the country for most of the week.
As Sandeep Ail, resident chef at Punjab Grill, says, “Diwali is a time during which the Indian expat community residing in Dubai bond and mingle with family and friends, and that is represented as a whole feast of Indian fusion plates through our culinary offerings. We want to spoil our guests with an extravagant menu.” Eateries and culinary establishments across the city are clearly thinking similarly.
We’ve rounded up the best special menus for your enjoyment.
Punjab Grill, Dubai
Already a favourite up in the capital, Punjab Grill opened its doors at The Oberoi Dubai last month and is celebrating its first Diwali with a typical modernist Indian fusion menu. Ail is trying his best to make ragi (the ancient grain known outside India as finger millet) hip and trendy again, turning it into homemade noodles teamed with a coconut broth and sesame-crusted shrimp. Or try the kheema matter karanjis, made with minced lamb and winter peas, and a secret in many coastal households, and the Patiala shahi fish in a secret royal Punjabi masala. If you’re staying vegetarian, he’s offering you Masala Maska Bun and Kundapur paneer bites (paneer with ghee-roasted spices), and makkai saag with missi roti, plus a selection of more familiar fare. Dessert options include the intriguing kesar peda pavlova, and zameen chakri shahi tukda – but there are also motichoor ladoos and chocolate cake.
Details 11.30am to 11.30 pm, until November 10
Call 050 194 1107
If the coronavirus has left you with empty pockets, the casual dining restaurant Dhaba Lane has an attractive proposition: a five-course meal for Dh52 or Dh55, depending on whether you want the vegetarian or non-vegetarian option. Selections include palak patta chaat, a superb spinach treatment, and fish in a batter of curry leaves. The Instagram-friendly dal makhan maarke (buttery black dal) is also on the menu. Owner Eti Basin says they’ve added a nod to the other major event in Dubai, with an Expo-themed moong dal ka halwa. At least that way, you won’t have to stand in line or brave the crowds.
Details All day from Sundays until Wednesdays from October 31 to November 14. On weekends, the menu is available a la carte. The offer is valid at both Karama and Al Garhoud.
Call 04 358 3554
Dubai International Hotel
Being on the move is no excuse for a quiet Diwali. Wherever it is you’re off to, the airport hotel has a crowd favourite you’ll enjoy, says Kushaland Bailwal, Indian Specialty Chef, Dubai International Hotel. His repertoire of classics – think Awadhi mutton biryani, dal Bukhara, Lucknowi chicken biryani, malai kebab and gulab jamuns – comes served in desi-style steel plates for maximum nostalgia. Smartphones at the ready, you’ll want to WhatsApp these photos to your family.
Details Available around the clock from November 1 to 7 at Cadiz – Ahlan Lounge @ Gate B26, The Gallery, West & East Side Bars, Sky Bar, and to guests ordering room service at Dubai International Hotel
Call 04 224 4000
We’re not sure about a desi fondue, but what’s not to like about pav bhaji? Pav bhaji fondue, then, is an actual dish being served this Diwali at SpiceKlub in the Mankhool/Bur Dubai area. Other fusion creations include malai broccoli, a rasmalai pistachio cake and mithai macaroons in traditional flavours. That’s in addition to galouti kebabs and a wide variety of chaat – palak chaat, papdi chaat and pani puri. A special range of Diwali mithai truffles are available as a box of 12, featuring six different flavours: Rose kaju katli, paan and coconut, mawa and lotus crumble, milky pedha and chocolate, besan ladoo and Nutella, soan papdi (is it really Diwali without soan papdi?) and chocolate. Yes, we said Nutella.
Details 10am to 10pm, until November 30, a la carte, with special takeaway packages, from Dh36
Call 04 399 2230
Frontier fare remains a big draw among the various Indian cuisines, something India Bistro at the Dubai World Trade Centre is counting on this Diwali. Authentic fare with a modern presentation is how the restaurant’s Sanjay Vazirani describes it. The festive menu features nine of the restaurant’s signature dishes for Dh89, in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Pick from pani puri, samosa chaat, peri peri chicken, zaituni paneer tikka, burrata butter chicken, railway mutton curry, chicken tikka masala, dal makhni, purvaanchal ka saag, dum biryani, slow-cooked Awadhi chicken biryani and gulab jamuns. You can also order items a la carte; everyone needs their own personal burrata butter chicken.
Details Available for lunch and dinner, November 3 to 6
Call 04 548 8336/052 652 9353
The vegetarian hotspot is doubling down on its Rajasthani desert roots, with a Marwari thali featuring classics from the Land of Kings. For Dh30, the thali features dal batti churma, mirchi kutta, gatta curry, garlic chutney and rice, accompanied by a glass of lassi. Those ordering the Diwali thali will also be served their desi ghee motichoor laddoos. Yes, real ghee – you think kings ever settled for less? Besides, there’s plenty of time to begin that diet after Diwali.
Details November 4 to 6 at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 453 3364) and Oud Metha (04 379 5493) branches