We gave some of the region’s most discerning foodies – chefs, restaurateurs, food stylists and critics – a virtual Dh50 note and asked them what they would buy, be it a dish, product or ingredient. The only caveat? It must be delicious.
To be clear, this is not specifically about budget eats; there are plenty of tasty street-food snacks and thrifty bites to be found across the UAE. What we’re talking about here are bang-for-the-buck items – food that tastes so good, it’s guaranteed to put smiles on faces, evoke memories, satisfy cravings and transform a bad day into a good one.
A Greek classic for a food critic
The expert: Samantha Wood, founder of impartial restaurant review website FooDiva.net.
The dish: Feta in filo with honey at Kilikio by Mythos in Depachika Food Hall, Nahkeel Mall, Dubai.
The reason: “I am half Greek-Cypriot and desperately missing a taste of home. To help appease my longing, I turn to this honey-drizzled feta filo pie. It’s best eaten piping hot at the restaurant, rather than delivery.”
The cost: Dh45
Balinese betutu for a Japanese chef
The expert: Reif Othman, chef and restaurateur.
The dish: Ayam betutu at The Little Bali, Cluster U, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai.
The reason: “Whether I’m with the family or alone, hungry or otherwise, if I’m in JLT, I’ll be visiting The Little Bali and, more often than not, ordering their ayam betutu [chicken marinated in Balinese spices, grilled and served with rice, sambal matah and lalapan]. If you do the same, I can’t see you being disappointed.”
The cost: Dh32
Chinese dumplings for a ramen restaurateur
The expert: Neha Mishra, ramen specialist and founder of Kinoya restaurant.
The dish: Dumplings with chilli sauce at Kaffe Bloom, The Onyx Tower, The Greens, Dubai.
The reason: “My go-to order for under Dh50 is this dish at the cafe located inside 1004 Gourmet. The dumplings are delicious, light, well balanced and great value for money. The dish even comes with a side order of bubble tea.”
The cost: Dh35
French classics for a cookbook author
The expert: Flavel Monteiro, cookbook author and founder of the Best of Dubai dining series.
The dish(es): Onion soup gratinee and a dish of grilled portobello mushrooms, both at Couqley, Cluster A, JLT, Dubai.
The reason: “The onion soup is something of a French classic and my go-to comfort food after a late night, and Couqley serves it topped with a lovely layer of melted Emmental cheese, and perfectly caramelised onions. My top tip is to eat it piping hot, it really brings a smile to the stomach. The grilled portobello features on the lunch specials as well as the a la carte menu. Basically, it’s fresh mushrooms baked in a light cream with Parmesan. You could have it as a side dish or if you’re peckish, have the onion soup to start and this as the main. Both are vegetarian, but meat-eaters such as myself enjoy it, too.
The cost: Onion soup gratinee, Dh47; grilled portobello, Dh35
A stylish omelette for a food stylist
The expert: Chloe Ride, food stylist and recipe writer.
The dish: MoFo omelette at Nightjar, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.
The reason: “A dish that’s as individual as the coffee shop it’s served in, the MoFo omelette always hits the spot. A super-fluffy omelette topped with spiced Szechuan beef, fermented tofu, crunchy bean shoots and black vinegar dressing, it’s the perfect mix of spicy, sour and salty, and best savoured over a casual brunch with friends.”
The cost: Dh50
Korean burger for gourmet store head
The expert: Chang Sup Shin, chief executive of Asian speciality store 1004 Gourmet.
The dish: Bulgogi burger by Ugly Burger, Dar Al Wasl Mall, Dubai (delivers across the UAE).
The reason: “Thinly sliced beef rib-eye marinated in sweet soy, grilled and layered between potato buns, onions and mushrooms, the Bulgogi Burger is ugly and it’s messy, but it tastes like gourmet Korean BBQ in a bun.”
The cost: Dh38
Soup and secret sauce for the Food Sheikh
The expert: Food Sheikh, restaurant reviewer and founder of Eat DXB.
The dish(es): Miso Ramen at Kinoya restaurant, The Onyx Tower 2, The Greens; and the double cheeseburger by Pickl, outlets across Dubai.
The reason: “Dh50 on the button will get you a miso ramen from the newly opened Kinoya restaurant. It’s a complete meal in itself – a bowl of complex deliciousness and, if you’re lucky, the queen of ramen herself, Neha, might be there to prepare it for you.
"Or go for one of the best burgers in town, the double chuck patty with Stevo’s secret sauce, cheese, home-made pickles and a potato bun from Pickl. It’s a messy, carb-heavy umami heaven.”
The cost: Kinoya’s miso ramen, Dh50; Pickl’s double cheeseburger, Dh45
Cheesy bao for a British chef
The expert: Gerard Brack, head chef at folly Workshop, Time Out Market Dubai.
The dish: Chicken bang bang by BB Social Dining at Time Out Market Dubai.
The reason: “A bobby-dazzler of a dish – the steamed and toasted bun alone is worth Dh50. The combination of fried chicken, spicy sauce, lightly pickled red onion and all-important freshly grated Parmesan [which cuts through the sharpness of the onion and mellows the heat from the sauce] make this a harmoniously flavoured little bao banger.”
The cost: Dh49
Chocolate cookies for the Maine man
The expert: Joey Ghazal, founder and managing partner of The Maine New England Brasserie Company.
The dish: Milk chocolate milkways cookies from Milk Bar, Al Wasl Road, Dubai (delivers across the UAE).
The reason: “These cookies are dangerously good – freshly baked, soft, chewy, just the right amount of chocolate. They’re the perfect late-night munchie, making the fact that I live close to the bakery both a good and bad thing.”
The cost: Dh65 for a box of five (we’re letting this slip past our Dh50 rule because you get five cookies in a box, meaning that "technically" each costs Dh13 a pop)
Edible plants for Pangolin head
The expert: Sergio Lopez, founder and chief executive, The Pangolin Group.
The ingredient(s): Chilli and calamansi plants.
The reason: “For me, the best way to enjoy Dh50 at the moment is to head down to Satwa. Once you’re there, buy two items: a chilli plant and a calamansi plant [spend any change on delicious sweets from one of the shops nearby]. The plants will not only look good on your balcony or in your home, but will also provide you with fruit year-round. It is also a great way for all the family to see produce growing in front of their eyes.”
The cost: Chilli plant, Dh20; calamansi plant Dh20 without fruit, Dh30 with fruit
Tacos and steak for a fine-dining expert
The expert: Matt Broderick, aka restaurant reviewer Fine Dining Matt.
The dish(es): Taco Tuesdays at Maiz Tacos, Cluster Y, JLT, Dubai; and Wagyu skirt steak on the lunch menu at BB Social Dining, Gate Village 8, DIFC.
The reason: “Visit Maiz Tacos on a Tuesday and in return for Dh49, you’ll get two moreish tacos that are always freshly cooked and brimming with light, balanced flavours. Wash the tacos down with home-made lemonade and chips with guacamole and salsa [included in the price] and you’ll leave one very happy diner. Alternatively, the Wagyu skirt steak on the 4B lunch menu at BB Social is served with sticky sesame beef sauce and grilled rice. It’s so perfectly balanced I had to check the menu to see if it really was only Dh50.”
The cost: Taco Tuesdays, Dh49; Wagyu skirt steak, Dh50
'The National' recommends …
The dish(es): Baklava cheesecake and iced Spanish latte at Brunch & Cake (locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi).
The reason: Because an iced Spanish latte done right is a rarity and Brunch & Cake’s version is rather special: smooth, velvety, just the right side of sweet and creamy without losing the caffeine kick. The baklava cheesecake, meanwhile, features crisp, golden, syrup and drenched filo pastry encasing a rich yet delicate rose-infused filling – pretty to look at, even better to eat.
The product: Marmite Crunchy Peanut Butter (available at Spinneys and Waitrose stores across the UAE).
The reason: This is a divisive one, so if you’re not a fan of the salty, yeasty spread that is Marmite, stop reading now. For anyone who does embrace the uniquely umami joy that only Marmite can bring, we feel it’s our journalistic duty to draw this crunchy peanut butter-Marmite fusion to your eating attention. Try it spread on a hot buttered English muffin or crumpet and report back.
The cost: Iced Spanish latte, Dh34; baklava cheesecake, Dh48; Marmite Crunchy Peanut Butter, Dh27