5 More Bites of Dubai
Dubai boasts some of the best and most opulent dining rooms in the world, and it’s amazing to consider that only a few decades ago, this oasis was a desolate desert. One day isn’t enough to sample all that United Arab Emirates city has to offer, but here is a start. (Actually, our original 5 Bites of Dubai was a start, but here are five more places to go!) Whether you’re visiting on a short stopover or for a longer, more leisurely getaway, don’t miss these local favorites. Bilhana (“bon appétit”)!
Brunch: Brunch is a big deal in Dubai; just ask locals and expats alike. While it’s hard to choose just one place to have brunch, Traiteur, a French restaurant inside the Park Hyatt Dubai, is a crowd-pleaser. The ever-evolving brunch features a globetrotting menu. Be sure to try Arabic coffee, an aromatic blend with cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, and rosewater, which the local Bedouin people traditionally serve before the meal.
Lunch: At 2,716.5 feet, the 160-story Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, and no visit to Dubai is complete without soaring to the top. You have two options: Visit the outdoor observation decks on the 148th and 125th floors via the Sky Experience and the At the Top experience (you can enter from the lower ground level of The Dubai Mall) or opt to indulge yourself while fueling up for more fun by dining at At.mosphere. Located on the 122nd floor, the restaurant holds the Guinness World Record for highest restaurant. Enter via the Armani Hotel Dubai lobby for a lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner you won’t soon forget. Guests can also enjoy cocktails and cigars in the lounge. During our recent lunch, we enjoyed starters like hand-cut beef tartare, truffles and oscietra caviar, and ratatouille with zucchini, capsicum, eggplant, and burrata; mains like Patagonia black cod, venere risotto, and Parmesan, and desserts like zuccotto (a semi-frozen, chilled dessert made with brandy, cake, and ice cream) with hazelnut and pineapple Victoria with lime panna cotta and coriander sorbet.
Drink: The Burj al Arab is a hotel of superlatives: It’s the world’s only seven-star hotel and was formerly the home of the world’s most expensive cocktail. If you want to go inside, you either have to reserve a room or make a reservation at one of the hotel’s restaurants or bar. The Skyview Bar on the top floor is a fitting place to sip drinks and take in the views of Dubai. Be sure to go before the sun sets, as the futuristic blue and green interior lights cause too much glare to get a good view at night. If mocktails are more your speed, don’t miss going to Al Mallah, a fresh fruit juice shop on Al Diyafah Street (Second December Street) that serves juices so refreshing and filling that they could replace a meal. Try the Al Mallah Special, a hefty glass stein filled with seasonal fruits like bananas, strawberries, mango, pineapple, apple, grenadine, cream, almonds, and honey.
Dinner: No visit to Dubai is complete without eating a traditional Emirati meal that begins with zaytoun (a palate-cleanser like olives) and includes starters such as pickled vegetables. Dishes are served in odd numbers with the middle course being the highlight. Enjoy a traditional Emirati meal at Al Fanar (“the lamp”), which locals refer to as “the most famous restaurant in the United Arab Emirates,” or Bastakiha Nights Restaurant, a famous Arabian eatery located in a traditional home called a Barsthi, a mixture of Iranian and Bahrainian architecture. At Al Fanar, try chicken machboos (similar to Indian biryani), the dish that originally featured camel meat and has a closely guarded mixture of seasoning that includes cardamom, dry lemon, and saffron — three of the most popular spices in the United Arab Emirates. Other dishes to try include salouna (hammor, a local white fish, with a savory sauce of potato, carrots, onion, tomato, and tomato paste). Save room for luqaimat (fried dough balls with sesame seeds and drizzled with date syrup — click here for a recipe to make at home). Emirati meals are traditionally finished with a platter of lettuce, mint leaves, and oregano, which wards off indigestion.
Dessert: A whimsical (and efficient) ride in an abra (water taxi) is a must, ferrying locals and visitors to the spice and gold souks. Catch the water taxi from Abra Station and take it to Deira Station, and don’t miss the chance to try gelato made from camel’s milk along the way. In nearly every gift shop, travelers can find chocolate made with camel’s milk, but there is only one place where visitors can find gelato made from camel’s milk. As you step off the abra, be sure to stop at the Geewin Cafe for this extra rich and creamy treat. Flavors include camel milk, saffron, and dates.