Going out for a meal at a restaurant is never just about the food. It’s also about the service, the atmosphere (read: vibes) and the painstakingly selected menu on offer: all are small components of the bigger picture, the overall experience.
The restaurants in Dubai, a bustling and glittering city teeming with tourists from all over the world, have managed to perfect the art of giving patrons an experience alongside their meal.
At least two of the restaurants we visited had DJs, while at almost all there was an element of theatre with the service. From steakhouses to fusion restaurants, the city has ample options for adventurous foodies.
Images takes a look at three options that are not just about the food, but also about the experience.
A cut above the rest
If steaks are your thing, then World Cut Steakhouse is right up your alley.
The experience of dining at the World Cut Steakhouse starts off with entering through the doors of Habtoor Palace, a swanky luxury hotel located on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Stepping inside the lobby, done entirely in white marble with accents of gold and also featuring two staircases descending from either side, preps you for the dining experience that is to come.
From the lobby, you head towards the gilded elevators that take you straight to the restaurant which, as the name suggests, specialises in steakhouse classics.
The restaurant is in stark contrast to the bright and gold hues of the hotel yet in perfect harmony with it; dark wood panelling on the walls, dim yellow lighting and shades of earthy browns give the space a warm, inviting feel. At one end of the restaurant is a bar and at the other is a showcase displaying the different cuts of meat available on the menu.
Our reservation was for 7pm on a weekday, so an early dinner if you will. As soon as we sat down, our table was served fresh bread with separate pats of butter for each diner as well as a smoked salmon amuse bouche.
As we munched on the food, we then were presented the menu, which was deceptively simple.
A quick scan had me, by no means a connoisseur of all things meat, feeling a little overwhelmed. But this is where the staff, who were courteous and painfully patient with my bumbling, stepped in and guided me towards the Omaha steak with Béarnaise sauce and potato gratin on the side.
As our orders were rushed back to the kitchen, two waiters descended upon our table with a selection of appetisers from the menu, including grilled prawns, wagyu beef carpaccio, the fried calamari, grilled black pepper octopus and black truffle fritters.
The seafood, normally which I steer clear of, seemed like it had jumped straight from the ocean into the pan, before being served on a plate. I was surprised at how much I liked the octopus, which had seemed a little daunting at first, with its sweet and peppery taste and chewy texture.
The prawns, always a crowd favourite, were drizzled with what I presumed was honey. As for the calamari, I had a hard time trying not to chow down the entire plate which came with a basil, salt and lemon dip on the side.
But as much as we liked the appetisers, the pièce de résistance was yet to arrive. Once our plates were swept away and fresh cutlery was placed in front of us, the waiter — the same one kind enough to guide me through the menu — approached the table with a case of different knives, asking each person at the table to pick the one they would like to eat their steak with.
I again deferred to him, and he, without batting an eye, choose one of the knives and presented it to me; a small silver one with a dotted handle. Once the rest of the diners were knifed-up, the steaks were brought out.
The creamy Béarnaise sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the steak, which had been cooked medium rare as per my request. Meanwhile, the potato gratin was rich and buttery, almost melting in your mouth.
The enormity of the steak had me calling quits after consuming only half of it, which was the general feeling with the rest of table. Factoring this in, it makes sense why their menu doesn’t have a dessert section.
Price range: The appetisers are 100 AED on average. The mains start at 300 AED and go all the way up to 800 AED for the premium cuts.
Occasion: The perfect place for the ardent steak lover or for celebrating a formal occasion.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Brunch is always a good idea
Brunch is always a good idea. And brunch with a view may just be the best idea ever.
CÉ LA VI is located on the 54th floor of the Address Sky View Hotel in Downtown Dubai. In addition to the restaurant, there is also a sky bar, a club lounge and a pool deck. The entrance for CÉ LA VI is separate from the hotel, and features a bright red carpet leading to two glass elevators. There’s also a large claw machine you can climb inside and take pictures with, something that seems to be a theme with this place.
Once in the glass elevator, you are whisked to level 54, with the city visible in all its glory.
The restaurant opened at half past noon on Saturday, and by 1pm all the tables were virtually full. The place was filled to the brim with women dressed to the nines and men sporting their brightest floral shirts as a DJ played the best of pop music.
At one point it became difficult to hear the conversation going on at the table due to the music and the laughter of the rest of the diners, but I didn’t mind. I was content to sit back and enjoy the music as well as the stunning views of the city, which were visible through the restaurant’s glass walls.
The food at CÉ LA VI was billed as contemporary Asian, and the brunch menu ticked all my boxes. The wait between courses was a little long in my opinion but there were no complaints about the food itself.
First, there was the quintessential bread option, which was seaweed parker rolls and butter drizzled with honey. The appetisers consisted of barbecued ribs, which were tender and smothered in a sweet and rich sauce, a burrata salad with arugula, and grilled octopus.
The mains consisted of black truffle risotto, pan seared salmon and grilled striploin alongside stir fried seasonal vegetables and the classic french fries. Out of all these, the risotto, which can only be described as decadent with truffle shaved over the top, was my favourite.
Dessert was a simple affair, with a platter of several options being served to the table. The platter included fresh fruit, coconut sorbet (which felt like a treat in the summer heat), a raspberry and honey curd tart and pana cotta.
Also by this point, half the people at the restaurant were out of their seats and swaying to Daddy Yankee’s ‘Gasolina’, while some had migrated to the balcony outside where there was a large swing where you could take pictures.
Overall, the place was cool and hip and ideal for large groups of people in their brunch era. For me, it was the perfect place to get all dressed up and have a meal with my girlfriends. I wonder though, if this place was this lively at 1pm on a Saturday, what’s it like at night?
Price range: Brunch starts off at 390 AED.
Occasion: Put on a cute outfit and some heels, and go out with your girlfriends for a chill and relaxed time.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Downtown is where it’s at
As is customary, I saved the best dining out experience for last.
Jun’s, located in Downtown Dubai, describes itself as “a modern fine dining experience where the food is simple in presentation and massive in flavour”. That pretty much sums everything that I could ever have to say about this place.
After a packed three days of galavanting across the city, I was craving something simple and perhaps familiar. And Jun’s surprised me by exceeding my expectations.
The place itself was crawling with people in their 20s and 30s, sharing a laugh with their friends and significant others as a DJ blasted hiphop and R&B music. The atmosphere was only amplified by the small table lamps and egg-shaped light fixtures overhead.
Chef Kelvin Cheung is the man behind the magic. He very kindly came over to our table and introduced himself. A natural storyteller, the chef had an elaborate backstory for each of the items on his menu, all of which was inspired by his experiences of growing up as an Asian in Canada as well as the time spent working in India.
We were served a tasting menu which started off with mushroom pani puri. Next came scallops and corn, fresh and light, followed by one of my favourites of the night, carrots on a slice of sourdough and laying on a thick smearing of labneh.
We were also served Chef Cheung’s take on chaat, called the za’atar chaat which was tangy with crispy tempura on top, and his rendition of chicken and waffles drizzled with maple syrup, both of which were wiped clean mere seconds after they were served.
The main course was braised lamb neck and kimchi fried rice. The meat was tender and virtually fell off the bone as it was plated. And by now, the table was sighing in contentment at the fabulous meal that had been served by Chef Cheung and his team.
However, dessert was yet to come. One of which was a mango creation, which looking at their menu I’m sure was the mango pana cotta, and the other was a simple cheesecake.
Unlike the other dishes on the menu, the chef said that the cheesecake was simply there because he saw how none of the restaurants knew how to make a good cheesecake. And the cheesecake itself was rich and accompanied with fresh berries and cookie crumble.
For me, the meal at Jun’s was the most enjoyable because the menu featured food that we all knew and loved but that was elevated with the inclusion of local and seasonal ingredients.
Oftentimes, its the simplest things in life which bring the most joy and I can definitely see myself returning to the restaurant with my gaggle of friends in tow the next time I am in the city.
Price range: The appetisers are between 50 to 120 AED and the mains go from 100 to 375 AED. Dessert is between 55 to 65 AED.
Occasion: The perfect place to go with your significant other or for a celebration with your friends.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by Dubai Economy and Tourism. All the meals and activities were paid for by Dubai Economy and Tourism.