Wednesday, 14 October 2009

food in the air

the december issue of 'gulf life', gulf air's in-flight magazine is running a '50 best places to eat' feature, covering rather a large area from the gulf across to kuala lumpur!

not sure how many spots here in dubai will make the list, but i was asked to contribute. what would you have included?


Best view
Ossiano, Atlantis Hotel, Dubai, UAE
Forget those views of the Palm or Dubai at night, the floor to ceiling aquarium that runs right across this seafood lover's dream outlet puts them all to shame. Hot Spanish Michelin star Santi Santamaria makes frequent visits to his restaurant and those cooking sessions are essential stations for any serious UAE gastronaut.

Best 'dry' meal
Sanobar, Sharjah, UAE
Drinking alcohol is a complex thing in the Middle East, with consumption largely based in hotels and their outlets. Occasionally, however, it's worth venturing to non-alcohol zones if the food and experience at this family run fish restaurant are this good. Patriach owner picks the day's best catch at the fish market, it's grilled to perfection and presented with a table-groaning selection of salad, pickles, bread and humus. Unfussy, straight arrow cooking. And cheap as chips - which are also great here!

Best fusion
Zuma, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, UAE
Repeating the formula from London, but minus the celebrity audience, this modern Japanese restaurant has broken all the rules of Dubai dining - its location is out of the way, it's retained its status as 'the place' for more than six months and it's so popular it turns its tables every night. Lunchtime, it feels like an empty concrete hangar but it's easier to eat. Its crispy fried squid with green chili salt is probably the poster child for Dubai fine dining.

Best service
Empire, Monarch Hotel, Dubai
Criminally empty whenever I visit, this modern French restaurant makes the list not just for its adventurous food but mainly for the old-fashioned service which puts the rest of the UAE's "service economy" to shame. This is old school table service done to perfection - from excellent wine advice to flambeed crepes. And a great cheese trolley!

Best Japanese
Kisaku, Regent Palace Hotel, Dubai, UAE
Forget the big names like Nobu, this small restaurant in an unfashionable hotel really delivers on what the Japanese food lover wants - freshness and great taste. When you're the only Westerner in a Japanese restaurant, you know something good is happening, right?

Best for romance
Magnolia, Al Qasr Hotel, Dubai, UAE
Like a secret jewel, this modern vegetarian restaurant nestles by the water's edge, surrounded by gardens (including the chef's herb patch) and silence, except for the rippling water and the numerous birds. Surprisingly perhaps, the chef is German but her light, sure touch makes this a real treat. A real tribute to her skill are the number of dedicated carnivores who keep returning. A real gem.

Best of the best
Reflets, InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Dubai, UAE
Already acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in the world, let alone the Middle East, this showcase for multi-Michelin French genius Pierre Gagnaire is a must, provided your wallet can stand the damage. From its own private lift to the sumptuous interior, eating at Reflets is an experience and the food is sublime. Chef Gagnaire is a frequent visitor, with sell-out weeks.

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