Chefs from Michelin-starred kitchens are flocking to the UAE city, and homegrown talent is expanding.
(Bloomberg) — Restaurateurs in Dubai are ready for their third, fourth and fifth acts.
Some of the city’s best-known chefs and operators going bold this season, while others are opening new outposts of restaurants that have been big hits in London—a concept that works well in this expat enclave.
The contours of the expansion reflect the fact that the city has been in the culinary spotlight for the past few years. Local tourism agencies have showered publicity on restaurants and chefs, sponsoring food festivals, television shows and lists and awards. Michelin inspectors came through the city for the first time in 2022, as did the regional Middle East/North Africa awards from the World’s 50 Best restaurants organization. Dubai dominated this year’s list, taking six of the top 10 spots.
The most popular restaurants used to be franchise expansions from foreign chefs, but now many of the top operators live and work in the emirate and are creating distinct concepts. One of the biggest opening is the Guild, which fills a massive space in the city’s business district with several distinct dining areas.
Restaurants have also become increasingly important for hotels in Dubai’s competitive market. The blockbuster Atlantis the Royal hotel, which opened at the start of the year with a rare private performance from Beyoncé, has already opened a lineup of restaurants from celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs. Next year, Björn Frantzén is opening two spots.
Later this year, the same developer behind Atlantis— Kerzner International—is bringing in even more top chefs to accompany two new hotels opening in Dubai at a venue called the Link.
It’s one of eight most exciting venues in Dubai this season. Read about them, below.
From longtime Dubai restaurateur Tom Arnel, the guy behind favorites such as Tom & Serg and, more recently, Hawkerboi, comes the Guild, where the focus will be on European cuisine. Five years in the making, the 20,000-square-foot space is at the foot of ICD Brookfield Place, the new destination office for bankers in the Dubai business district.
Entering feels like walking into a jungle—minus the animals and humidity. Botanicals real and fake drip from the walls: kentia palm trees, ficuses, zz plants and snake plants. The Guild has been opening in phases that Arnel is calling, in typically dramatic Dubai fashion, “Act I,” “Act II” and “Act III.” Act I includes a patisserie and brasserie called the Nurseries, with housemade sweets and pastries, and lunch service that includes dishes such as confit duck leg and lobster linguini.
Meanwhile, the Potting Shed is a separate, slightly sunken area, for which Arnel said he drew inspiration from London’s Chiltern Firehouse. Act II, which opened this week, includes the Rockpool for seafood such as grilled Hokkaido scallops; the Salon for formal dining, with dishes that will include black truffle risotto, wagyu and prime steak and garlic snails; and the Ritz Room for private parties. Act III will be the Aviary, a cocktail bar that will stay open late.
Ensconced in a cantilever that connects brand-new skyscrapers in northern Dubai, the Link intends to feed both local residents as well as guests at two new hotels: the luxury One&Only One Za’abeel and fitness-themed Siro, both Kerzner. Arrazuna, an elevated food hall from Finnish-Turkish chef Mehmet Gürs, will serve cuisine from the Levant and the Arabian peninsula. French cuisine will come courtesy of La Dame de Pic from acclaimed chef Anne-Sophie Pic. Chef Dabiz Muñoz is bringing his signature mohawk haircut and his StreetXO concept to Dubai. Chefs Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones will open a Thai restaurant called DuangDy; Chef Paco Morales’s Qabu will serve Andalusian cuisine; and the site’s Japanese restaurant will be Sagetsu from chef Tetsuya Wakuda. All are slated to to open in December.
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Row on 45
Celebrity chef Jason Atherton has been opening a collection of restaurants and bars at the Grosvenor House hotel this year. The last of the four spots is the posh Row on 45, which will serve a 17-course tasting menu in three “acts.” (Again, very Dubai.) Act I takes place in a Champagne lounge that is meant to feel like an old-money parlor in a baronial residence. Act II is the meal. The third act, the “Grand Finale,” is desserts and drinks, including premium cognacs and rare whiskeys, in the “chef’s library.” The restaurant has space for 22 guests per night. The meal costs 1,145 dirhams ($312) per person, drinks not included. Opening night is Sept. 21.
This pan-Indian fine dining concept, which has a Michelin star at its London dining room is planning an outpost in Downtown Dubai for December, with executive chef Surender Mohanin overseeing the menu. The restaurant group opened its first dining room in Bangalore in 2001; it has since expanded to Doha and has locations around India. The Dubai menu isn’t confirmed; here’s hoping it will include dishes that are popular on the London menu, like old Delhi butter chicken and Tellicherry pepper and garlic soft-shell crab.
Hoe Lee Kow
Dubai has more than 13,000 restaurants, but it hasn’t had many destination Korean restaurants. Now it’s going to have two. One is Hoe Lee Kow (get it?), from noted Dubai chef Reif Othman, who has built a mini-empire of Asian restaurants in the city, including Reif Japanese Kushiyaki. His latest includes offerings like Reif lunch box (stocked with kimchi fried rice, bulgogl and Napa kimchi), as well as grilled wagyu galbi and Jeju island scallops. The restaurant had a soft opening in July; it officially launches Sept. 27.
Dubai’s other notable Korean restaurant opening is Gimi, a place with a hawker-stall vibe and Chinese, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian influences. Dishes include bibimbap made with Korean rice, tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and scallion and beef randang. The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol but offers nonalcoholic cocktails and opened on Sept. 12. The location in Jumeirah—one of Dubai’s older neighborhoods, close to the beach—is down the street from 11 Woodfire, another restaurant from the Atelier House Hospitality group behind Gimi.
Transplanted from London, Italian restaurant Signor Sassi is settling onto one of the most interesting culinary locations in Dubai — the newly revamped rooftop of the St. Regis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah. The St. Regis Gardens, as it’s called, is also home to two-Michelin-starred Trèsind Studio and Chez Wam. Two other restaurants, steakhouse Leña and Jazz-Age styled Aretha, will also be opening at the location. Dishes at the new Signor Sassi, which will open Sept. 25, include lobster alla Catalana, pizzas and braised beef short ribs.
Maison de la Plage
Some beach clubs are better known for the lounging scenes than bikini sandwiches. But Maison de la Plage, from Izu Ani, one of Dubai’s most well-known chefs, will undoubtedly be focused on the food. The French Mediterranean menu will feature dishes such as rigatoni with truffle, the “Izu” burger and a niçoise salad. The restaurant is backed by Fundamental Hospitality, the group behind Dubai favorites such as Greek restaurant Gaia and Shanghai Me. If you haven’t heard of these dining spots yet, you probably will soon: The group plans to open 100 restaurants globally in the next five years, including Gaia in London, Marbella and Miami by the middle of next year.
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