DUBAI has always been that wanderlust city, with its futuristic skyline and ultra-modern skyscrapers. Among its claims to fame is the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building, and the one we see Tom Cruise scaling at in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
But beyond a burgeoning city, this metropolis is also an imperial food haven.
In fact, the city just ended its Dubai Food Festival — it featured many foods specialising in Emirati cuisine – a veritable melting-pot affair influenced by Indian spices, Levantine specialities, Persian ingredients and the Bedouin lifestyle, just to name a few.
There are already a thousand reasons to justify a voyage to the City of Gold. Here are five more reasons for you: restaurants which promise a culturally splendid culinary experience.
01: Arabian Tea House Cafe
This quaint tea house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood – once known as Al Bastakiya – preserves an important cultural identity unique to the UAE.
At its core, the Arabian Tea House Cafe is about the rich culture and hospitality of the Arab people. Located in a traditional wind tower house, stepping into the café transports you back to the past – a time more relaxed, informal and fitting of its original heritage.
Visit the cafe to get a taste of traditional Arabic hospitality, and to be spoiled by a selection of local cuisine paired with more than 100 selection of teas from all around the world.
Arabian Tea House Cafe, Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, Bastakiya Opposite Musalla Post Office, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, +971 4 353 5071
Its namesake referring to Arabic cuisine as a combination of Mediterranean, Levantine, Persian, Yemeni and Indian cuisine, Siraj in Souk Al Bahar is one of the first restaurants to bring Emirati-Levantine cuisine to the table.
In the restaurant stands seven arches representing the seven Emirates, with golden horses signifying the unbreakable elements of Emirati culture.
A dining experience like no other, this is pretty much akin to time travelling to the earlier days of Dubai. Think Arabic calligraphy, walls adorned with poems by HH Sheikh Mohammed (UAE’s Prime Minister), all tastefully lit with indoor lighting.
If a sophisticated restaurant set within the world famous Arabian Souk overlooking the Dubai Fountain is what you’re looking for, visit Siraj for a relish of the city’s eclectic culinary scene.
Siraj, Souk Al Bahar, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, +971 4 513 6207
03: Aseelah Deira Creek
If you wish for a bougie-r dining escapade, try the Aseelah Deira Creek for a reinvented, Emirati fine-dining alternative.
Set in the heart of Old Dubai, the Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek restaurant offers a contemporary twist on traditional flavours in both its interior design and menu.
Savour a selection of authentic Emirati dishes that combine indigenous ingredients with European cooking methods and presentation techniques. Classics include the Samak (fish in gravy with spiced rice), along with unique creations like the camel sliders.
Aseelah Deira Creek, Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek, +971 4 205 7033
04: Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
This isn’t a restaurant, but the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is nevertheless one of the best places in Dubai to experience a traditional Emirati meal.
The centre, located in the Al Fahidi district, is a great place to sample authentic Emirati cuisine in a traditional backdrop while learning about the nuances of Dubai’s cultural norms and traditions.
For a humbling Emirati experience, tuck into either breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the courtyard’s cushioned floor in the centre’s beautiful merchant house, while having a casual exchange with the Sheikh.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Al Musalla Rd, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, +971 4 353 6666
05: Al Fanar Restaurant
This kitsch spot boasts decor referencing back to Dubai’s pre-oil days. Though it’s located in the Festival City mall, the restaurant is designed as an old courtyard house.
Must-try classics include the chicken machboos (a bezar-spiced rice dish) and tender naghar mashwi (grilled squid). Come enjoy dining with a view, in a stylish, rustic ’60s setting of Dubai.
Al Fanar Restaurant, Festival Bay, Dubai Festival City Dubai, +971 4 232 9966
This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia.