With Dubai's diverse population, it's not surprising that the city has a wide range of dining options, covering everything from Thai to Tunisian. A good number of the best-quality restaurants are in hotels, but they are expensive, so be prepared to break the bank. There are also quite a few good mom-and-pop places, particularly Indian and Pakistani joints.
Traditional Emirati cooking consists primarily of dates, fresh and dried fish, and both camel meat and milk—not terribly appealing to most Westerners. (Be sure to try Dubai's fresh dates, though—they're soft, succulent and delicious.) Outside of Emirati homes, it's difficult to get a taste of local cuisine, although some restaurants do have a few traditional dishes.
Most Arabic restaurants draw on Lebanese cuisine instead, with grilled meats and meze (appetizer-sized small portions of salads, meats and dips). There are also literally hundreds of stands around the city that serve shawarma (pita-style flat bread filled with shaved lamb or chicken roasted on a spit), hummus, salad and pickles. They're good for a quick, inexpensive snack.
Dinner is usually a late affair: Tables start to fill up around 9 pm. Friday brunch is an institution in Dubai, and competition is fierce among the providers of all-you-can-eat (and drink) buffets, many with alcohol included. Some restaurants even throw in entertainment for children. In cooler weather, alfresco dining is popular, whether on a terrace, a rooftop or at the beach.
Expect to pay the following for a dinner for one, excluding drinks, tax and tip: $ = less than 50 AED; $$ = 50 AED-200 AED; $$$ = 201 AED-300 AED; $$$$ = more than 300 AED.
Conveniently located in the Persian Court of the Ibn Batutta Mall, this Arabian restaurant is a great place to wind down after a day of shopping. Try the Al Arrab grill for a variety of grilled and skewered meats for sampling and sharing. The thyme chicken tikka is also excellent. Most portions are big enough to share. $$. Most major credit cards. Phone 04-363-6568. http://www.alarrab.net.Arabian Nights
This is a friendly and unpretentious restaurant specializing in traditional Arabic dishes. The expansive setting is great for families, yet cozy enough for small groups. Ambience is relaxed and casual, and a variety of shishas
are available. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$. Most major credit cards. Al Garhoud, Dubai. Phone 04-283-3310.Ewaan
An excellent Arabian restaurant with lovely ambience and decor set at The Palace Downtown Dubai hotel. Food is buffet-style, allowing you to sample everything on offer. After 9 pm there is usually belly dancing and an oud player. $$$. Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (in The Palace Downtown Dubai), Dubai. Phone 04-888-3444.Fakhreldine
Exquisite and authentic Lebanese food served in stunning surroundings with live music. Grilled meats and fish, hot and cold meze, and Lebanese desserts. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. 19th Street (Moevenpick Hotel Bur Dubai, Umm Hurair 2, behind Eppco headquarters), Dubai. Phone 04-336-6000.Kan Zaman
An enormous outdoor seating area, decent grills and excellent shisha
form the backbone of the Kan Zaman experience. Service is lacking when it gets crowded, but you do eventually get noticed. The authentic Emirati dishes (try bowls of dango
chickpeas with lemon and butter) are nice additions. Selected Western dishes are also available, as are great fresh fruit juices. Daily for lunch and dinner. $$. Most major credit cards. Shindagah (next to the Heritage Village), Dubai. Phone 04-393-9913.Shabestan
The best Iranian restaurant in the city, Shabestan offers a gourmet taste of Persia. The fresh-baked bread is worth the trip alone, and the aromatic grills and authentic decor round things off to perfection. Slow-cooked lamb with rice is a house specialty. Live music entertains. Daily for lunch and dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. Baniyas Street (in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek), Dubai. Phone 04-222-7171.