As part of a series of culinary guides to various areas in the UAE, The National explores Dubai's up-and-coming neighbourhood of Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC) where home-grown cafes intermingle with quirky new concepts. Some of these one-of-a-kind restaurants are definitely worth braving the Hessa Street traffic for.
While this is not all that the community has to offer, it's a selection of the best, newest and most popular.
A hidden gem in every sense of the word, Socialicious is a restaurant that offers a variety of fusion Asian dishes. You can’t go wrong with any of its Thai curries (there are both red and green varieties, with options of chicken, seafood and vegetables. Dishes such as the beef rendang and Burmese mutton curry are well worth the journey there.
For fusion options, try their selection of baos – from shiitake mushroom to prawn tempura – or waffles with fried chicken. The quality of the food is top-notch, and the restaurant is cosy, with an outdoor seating area that features greenery and hanging lightbulbs, making it the perfect spot during the cooler months. The restaurant also gets bonus points for its extensive tea menu − with offerings from black to oolong and blooming tea.
Open daily; 11am to 11.30pm; Condor Castle Residence, District Circle 2, JVC; 04 240 0204; www.socialicious.cafe
The Desert Wok
If you’re on the lookout for Chinese and Indo-Chinese food, Desert Wok should be on your radar. This quaint joint is a hot spot for residents, and it’s not unheard of for people to drive here for the chicken lollipops, crunchy beef or mixed fried rice.
The interiors, featuring long booths, can get full rather quickly, so takeaway is always a good option if you live nearby. But the portions more than make up for this. Some favourites include the Shanghai noodles, stir-fried dry chilli prawns and Szechuan-style chicken or vegetables.
Saturday to Thursday, 11.30am-11.30pm; Friday, 1.30pm-11.30pm; Hassan Building, District 13; 04 447 5022; www.thedesertwok.com
It’s acquired something of a cult following over the years, and there’s a reason why this eatery is always packed. Run by Emirati Mo Abedin, Sticky Rice dishes out deliciously authentic Thai food – from spicy tom yum soup to pad Thai. The restaurant had a tough year in 2020, closing for a while because of Covid-19 and the death of co-owner Amena "Mama" Rakkuson earlier this year, but it reopened in September 2021 with a larger seating area and its mascot, a plush toy named Kew.
If you happen to visit, be sure to ask for their specials as they are always introducing new dishes, be it Mama’s sankaya pandan custard with soft buns, kalipap (crispy chicken and potato puffs) or Hainanese chicken on rice. They also have dishes with plant-based meats, and their soft serves are often raved about.
Open daily; noon to 10pm; Sobha Daffodil, JVC; 04 580 8350; www.stickyrice.ae
For healthy home-style Indian food, most JVC residents head to (or order from) Nalini’s Kitchen. Founded by home chef turned entrepreneur Nalini Sodhi Iyer, the restaurant offers a number of breakfast options – from the ubiquitous avo toast to millet upma.
Meanwhile, the rest of the menu is quite extensive, featuring both Indian and western favourites with a healthy twist (Thai red salmon curry sits comfortably between semolina-crusted fish and rajma chawal). Nalini’s Kitchen also has vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali options for a value-for-money meal.
Sunday to Thursday, 10am-11pm; Friday to Saturday, 9.30a to 11pm; closed Mondays; Maple 1, Emirates Gardens 2; District 14; Jumeirah Village Circle; 04 276 4376; www.naliniskitchen.ae
One of the newest entries into JVC’s eclectic food scene, this traditional Irish pub opened its first Dubai branch in September and has quickly become a popular hotspot. Its location on the rooftop of Circle Mall ensures there are some pretty great views outside, but there’s plenty to feast your eyes inside with its kitsch setting, which features everything from antiques to an old telephone box.
On the menu are hearty pies, pizzas, burgers and steak, and we recommend the loaded chips (options include 24-hour smoked mesquite brisket and McCafferty’s Irish chicken curry) for sharing-style bites. There are also a number of promotions, such as a Friday brunch and a traditional Irish Gaeilge night every Wednesday to ensure customers keep coming back. Booking in advance is recommended as the place gets busy, especially on weekends.
Open 11am-2am daily; Circle Mall; 055 784 9220; mccaffertysjvc.com
Goose Island Tap House
Another 2021 launch, Chicago-born Goose Island made its Dubai debut in Five Jumeirah Village hotel and is a fun place to be on a weekend. The vibe is laid-back with TVs streaming popular games, pool tables and, for those who fancy a few swings of a golf club, a golf simulator.
On the menu are a wide range of pizzas and burgers, and vegans won’t feel left out with options such as the caul-me vegan cauliflower wings in crispy sesame coating. If you have room, you can end the meal with a jumbo ice cream sandwich (Dh110). But, you’ve been warned, this one’s designed to share.
Sunday to Wednesday, 4pm-2am; Thursday, 4pm-3am; Friday, 12.30pm-3am; Saturday, noon-2am; Five Jumeirah Village; 04 455 9989
The Coffee Mug
Don’t be fooled by the deceptively simple name. This quaint home-grown eatery is actually a fusion Korean joint, best for Korean-style poke bowls, spicy chicken wings, barbecue items, banchan and the like. The gimbap, a dish of rice, veggies and meat all rolled up in dried sheets of seaweed, is well worth a try.
Saturday to Thursday, 10am-10pm; Friday closed; Gardenia 2, Emirates Gardens 1, JVC; 04 557 7691; www.coffeemugnmore.com
Located right next to The Coffee Mug is this hole-in-the-wall joint where you can pick up classic cafeteria food, from fried rice, noodles and other Indo-Chinese dishes to shawarma (available in regular and spicy versions after 4pm). There are only a few tables outside, so this one’s more popular for takeaways and late-night orders. Most residents order shawarma and chai straight from their cars.
Open daily; 7am-1am; Gardenia 2, JVC; 04 4434735
The quirky and wonderfully colourful Soul Street is an Insta-worthy restaurant offering dishes from around the world. On the menu, you’ll find tandoori empanadas sharing space with nasi goreng, lotus crisps, kale fattoush and shrimp kushiyaki. It’s a strange yet delightful mix, but there really is something for everyone.
Meanwhile, there’s an indoor and outdoor seating area, live music from a resident DJ and a popular Nomad brunch keeping things lively. And, if you visit in the evenings, you’ll find it transformed into a happening hot spot.
Open daily; noon-3am; Five Jumeirah Village; 04 455 9989; www.soul.st