Places to eat in Dubai: My Recommended Restaurants
First off, I am a frequent traveller and a big foodie, and whenever I travel the Chowhound boards have always led to me to delicious food. So now I want to try and give back, for any people visiting Dubai, where I have lived on and off for almost 25 years. Dubai has excellent ethnic food for all budgets from Asia, Africa and Europe, perhaps minus Vietnamese & Cambodian. Please feel free to add below and I can try and edit my post to include suggestions. When I say pricey, I mean anywhere from 100-250 AED per dish. When I say decently priced or mid-level price, I mean below 100 AED (around 75AED) per dish. When I say cheap I mean around 30 AED a dish or less.
Ravi's - Classic Pakistani joint with multiple locations, recommended by most locals. Cheap, original location in Satwa.
Chicken Tikka Inn - Another Dubai classic North Indian restaurant, cheap and not sure of the original location but Ghusais and Jumeirah branch open for quite a long time. Try the classic chicken tandoor tikka (comes as either a leg or a breast) and can request it spicy with some raita (yogurt)
Indego by Vineet - Upscale Indian restaurant by Michelin starred Vineet at the Grosvensor House
Asha's - Personally I find it okay, but lots of people love it. Two locations at last count, one in Mall of the Emirates and I believe one at Al Nasr in Oud Metha. Mid priced.
For Biryani - really hard to recommend since I mostly get it made on order. Maybe try Karachi Darbar for the Pakistani style, cheap. Or really any fairly busy North Indian/Pakistani restaurant should make a decent biryani. Usually quite cheap.
Saranava Bhavan - multiple locations, classic Thalis or Dosas and other South Indian fare.
Bu Qutair - old joint, sits right where the fishing boats come in, little shack by the beach. They only serve fish and shrimp, and they only cook it one way. There is no menu, you just come in and tell them which fish you want or how much shrimp by weight you need (hint: 1kg should be enough for 3 people if only eating shrimp). Recommended, make sure to get the parathas and gravy. Mid-priced
Casa Mia - Classic Italian restaurant once again under the ownership of the original Italian owners. Well-priced, good wine selection, atmosphere and food is generally quite good. At the Le Meridien by the airport.
Bussola - Quite good, Westin Mina Seyahi. Upscale, good atmosphere and nice hotel to boot.
Frankies - Oasis Hotel on JBR Walk, upscale, good lively atmosphere by the bar as time goes on. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed's jockey.
Pizza Pazza - Italian family owned, no alcohol or pork (because not in a hotel), well-priced but have only really get pizzas form there. No pork kinda kills it for me.
Jamie's Italian - Apparently just opened, good food for a good price but have only heard it from friends, have yet to visit.
Asado - Argentinean steakhouse, probably best steaks in the business. Excellent food. Pricey.
Really haven't had steaks in a while in Dubai, but any decent restaurant in a 5 start hotel should be able to give you some good steaks - see also Vu's below. For large groups try Seafire Steakhouse at the Atlantis, but have heard mixed reviews from there. I heard there is another good Argentinean steakhouse opened up in DIFC, but haven't been there yet.
Vu's - Located in Emirates towers, another Dubai classic. Expensive but excellent food, european cuisine (great steaks as well), and on of the highest floors with good views if by the window.
For sushi and sashimi I would say maybe Okku's in Monarch or Zuma's in DIFC is the best, but for fusion I prefer Nobu in the Atlantis. All three are really pricey but the food is quite good. If at Nobu for the first time suggest the black miso cod, the spicy rock shrimp tempura and the jalapeno yellowtail. Other than these three I would say maybe stay away from Japanese food, Dubai isn't really the mecca for Japanese food.
Reflets - Reflets is I believe by a Michelin starred chef, but the food really is exquisite and again really pricey. It's at the Intercontinental Hotel in Festival City. I heard there is another French restaurant opened up in DIFC, but haven't been there yet.
Ton's of good and cheap Lebanese restaurants around, but not really good for fine dining. Can try the classic chains - Automatic Grill & Restaurant (in Jumeirah and on JBR walk), Arz Lebanon (multiple locations). For classic Lebanese style shawarmas I suggest Al Reef Lebanese Bakery (Jumeirah, Karama).
Thai Terrace - No alcohol, but highly recommended in Karama. Been operating for many years. In addition there is Lemongrass (multiple locations) and another Thai restaurant in the Holiday Inn in Barsha in the ground floor which was quite good, can't recall the name.
Again a cuisine probably best explored in other areas, but Noodle House in the Madinat Jumeirah is quite good, and well-priced. When I want Chinese I usually eat here. I hear there is also Hakkasan opened up in Emirates towers.
Istanbul Flower - By the Mazaya Center, quite cheap.
How could I have forgotten the Dubai Brunch! For good food I suggest Spectrum on One is my first choice, followed by Traiteur at Hyatt and Mina Al Qasr I hear is also good. Brunch is usually around 350-450 AED, without unlimited champagne.
There isn't much classic Emirati or local cuisine or restaurants, but depending on where you are I suggest going for Mandi, which is basically a rice dish with chicken and salsa, that is traditional for the region and usually eaten sitting on cushions on the floor, can find in areas like Deira although I hear there is a place opened up in Barsha as well. There is another Mandi place in Jumeirah next to the Chicken Tikke Inn.
Well hope I covered most of it, please let me know if there are any specific things I can help you with! Generally speaking, it is hard to go wrong with food in Dubai, although I would try to stay away from restaurants on the JBR Walk in general, since those are very geared towards tourists and the price to food ratio is really not what it should be. Dubai has amazing food everywhere, just pop into any of the restaurants in the old city and you should find some good eats, enjoy!
I'd add another recent recommendation to the list:
Kabab BQ on Umm al Sheif next to Maria Bonita. We live in Umm Suqeim and have always meant to try this restaurant ever since it opened and finally did so. Excellent Pakistani food. Comparable to Barbecue Delight in Oud Metha but in our neighborhood. Very good kebabs, daals, rice and curries. Nothing exotic on the menu (that is, to anyone used to the Dubai food scene!). The four of us dined well for under 200 AED including several crushed ice/mint drinks. It's lovely to be able to sit outdoors while the weather is still good.
The French restaurant in DIFC is probably Le Petit Maison. My husband has lunch there often as he works in DIFC and praises both the food and value.
Another South Indian place I'd like to suggest is Calicut Paragon in Karama, facing the square. It specializes in Kerala food, especially seafood and has a selection of lovey fish curries. The dry fries are excellent and the biryanis among the moistest in the city. Very good value. We were there a month ago and the four of us dined for around 125 AED!
JBR walk is mostly popular with the non-western expatriates rather than tourists. At least that's how it looks to me given the place is packed with Arab families at night. But if you're happy with Paul or LPQ for a leisurely weekend breakfast or lunch, it's perfectly fine. There's also a Syrian restaurant somewhere along the walk where we once ate and it was surprisingly good.
Your list looks fairly comprehensive but let me add several suggestions:
Gazebo. Several locations including in Bur Dubai and Internet City. Excellent North Indian/Punjabi restaurant with a mix of first rate kebabs, biryanis baked in clay pots and curries, as well as the usual naan and daal. The food is on the rich side but is hugely popular with the upper middle class Indian expatriate community and was recommended to us by several of our Indian friends. One can eat well for less than 100 AED per head (or even 50 AED/head).
Kamat is a South Indian restaurant with several locations throughout Dubai. Vegetarian, specialising in dosas and the lunchttime thali platter. I usually go to Kamat once a month for lunch and always get the thali platter. Very good and better than any thalis I've had in India. The platter is 20 AED and is served with a choice of roti or puri. Once again this place is popular with the Indian expatriates.
Ban Khun Mae: In additon to what you already recommended, I'll confess that one of the best sources for Thai food in Dubai is actually a food stall called Ban Khun Mae in the upstairs food court at the Mall of Emirates. It's tucked in the far corner of the court, next to KFC. Cheap and wonderful Thai food, quite comparable to what we've eaten in Thailand. The secret is getting out and now they offer home delivery, so if you are at the mall and want a cheap and excellent Thai meal, check out Ban Khun Mae. They have a binder with pictures of the dishes on offer which includes a large selection of Thai salads, curries, noodle dishes and a couple other dishes I've never see at any other Thai place in Dubai. A family of four can eat well for 150 AED.
Hit or miss. Some very odd combinations are on offer. We generally order from the following places:
Pizza Connection in the Greens. Owned by a pair of Italian brothers. Decent Italian style pizzas with thin crust and light toppings.
But Bussola at the Westin is certainly the best oven-fired pizza in Dubai and one of the few places where you can have a beer with the pizza or pork toppings. Average pizza is probably around 100 AED so it's not cheap by pizza standards.
Al Mallah on Al Diyafah in Satwa offers excellent and cheap Lebanese fare, including all the usual mezze dishes and some of the best schwaramas in Dubai. Dirt cheap. Can sit outside when the weather is lovely. Diyafah Street doesn't bring in the crowds it once did but it's still one of the few places in Dubai that resembles a boulevard where you can leisurely stroll up and down after a meal.
Karam Beiruit at the Mall of Emirates (and also at the Dubai Mall) is another upscale Lebanese place that we were sent to by our Canadian-Lebanese neighours. Very good Lebanese food in a pleasant restaurant environment, and the restaurant at MoE overlooks the ski slope while the Dubai Mall location overlooks the water fountain. They feature a number of mezze dishes that aren't available at the cheaper Lebanese restaurants. Excellent hommous and baba ganoush.
Pars Iraniak Kitchen. Several locations. Quite decent.
Noon - o - Kabab. Several locations including at Times Square Centre and Ibn Battuta Mall. Excellent Persian kebabs and stews and quite cheap. Good choice if you're in a mall but they also do takeaways.
Lime Tree Cafe. Several locations. Very popular among Western expatriates. Great lunches with a modern "healthy" Australian/North American/UK approach to the food. One of the few places in Dubai where the dishes feature lots of vegetables. Excellent selection of cakes to follow including the best carrot cake I've ever had.
Other popular western (non alcoholic) brunch/lunch restaurants include More (several locations) and Jones the Grocer.
We rarely do brunch but I have enjoyed Saffron at the Atlantic.
re: Roland Parker
Good additions. Some I have been to and definitely second, especially: Gazebo, Kamat, Karam Beirut, Pars. I also order NKD quite a bit, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend to visitors who want to experience Dubai food. I need to check out Jones the Grocer (heard a lot), Pizza Connection and definitely Ban Khun Mae. Al Malla I feel has really gone downhill from what it used to be, I used to love the shawarmas there. Lime Tree Cafe and Noon - o - Kabab have eaten at, but nothing really stuck out, will give them another swing at some point.
Paul, LPQ are probably the best choices on JBR, aside from Sarai, which I believe is the Syrian place you mention. The food at Sarai is quite good, just at the intersection before the Oasis Hotel on the walk.
re: Roland Parker