Dubai is a true melting pot, and this is reflected in the city’s abundance, when it comes to dining opportunities, and you will find that almost every ethnic cuisine is represented here. Before I moved to Dubai, I had never had Filipino food, and my knowledge of Indian cuisine was limited to a few encounters with butter chicken, which I’ve later found out, isn’t real Indian food at all.
To get a table during the weekend (Thursday-Saturday) at the most popular restaurants in Dubai, a reservation is essential, and some places will call you back to confirm your reservation on the day, so make sure you leave a valid phone number. During the winter season, the most popular tables are usually outside, so be specific regarding which table you want and if you want to sit outside, make sure you tell the person taking your reservation.
Some of Dubai’s most upscale restaurants will also require that you leave your credit card details when you make your reservation. If, for one reason or another, you fail to show up, the restaurant reserves the right to withdraw a certain amount from your card.
You’ll find most fast food chains down here so if you’ve never been to IHOP, Wendy’s and 5 Guys, take the chance to see what it’s all about. Many big shot celebrity chefs also have branches of their signature restaurants in Dubai, so whether you’re looking for Jamie’s Italian, Nobu or Gordon Ramsay, look no further, they’re all here.
Since it requires a special license to serve alcohol in Dubai, you cannot take for granted that you can get a glass of wine with your meal. Many traditional eateries and restaurants in the older parts of Dubai do not serve alcohol (also due to religious considerations) and because drinking in public is not allowed either, most of the restaurants with outdoor seating facing the street, also do not serve alcohol.
Most of the upscale restaurants located inside large, international hotels serve alcohol, but if a glass of red wine along with your steak (or your kebab) is crucial to you, make sure you check in advance, whether the restaurant is licensed.
Even though the service overall has become a lot better since we first moved down here, I am still surprised now and then by how even some of the more upscale restaurants fall short, when it comes to service. The food is impeccable, but when it’s served by a waiter, who can’t tell the difference between a black truffle and a button mushroom, and who has never tasted the wine he/she is trying to sell you, the overall impression gets a bit meh.
Another annoyance when dining out in Dubai is the ridiculously high prices charged for mineral water, so beware, when the waiter ask you to bring a bottle of water to the table and if possible, ask for a local brand.
For a cheap, solid and often spicy meal, take a walk in Karama, Bur Dubai, Deira or Satwa. Shawarma is sold from small shops along the street for a couple of dirhams and if you are looking for more exotic food, these areas also host some really good Filipino, Indian and Lebanese restaurants.
One thing you should not miss while in Dubai is Friday brunch. This is the time to indulge in everything from sushi to American pancakes along with unlimited drinks (with or without alcohol). Friday brunch is available at most hotel restaurants and even though it is pricey (typically 300AED-500AED including alcohol) you shouldn’t miss it, as Friday brunch is as much Dubai as it gets.