On Tuesday, the Michelin Guide was finally launched for the first time in the Middle East, during a glitzy ceremony at Dubai Opera.
Eleven restaurants were awarded stars, including two that got two stars, but there were another 14 that made it into the Bib Gourmand category.
Named after Bibendum, the Michelin Man and official company mascot of the Michelin Group, it's "not quite a star, but most definitely not a consolation prize," according to the guide.
It recognises "just-as-esteemed" and friendly establishments that serve good food at reasonable prices.
This is what made the cut in Dubai.
Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant
Representing Emirati cuisine in the Michelin Guide is Al Khayma, which the inspector describes as a part-restaurant, part-museum, where diners eat in an inviting air-conditioned courtyard, served by staff dressed in traditional garments. “Bread is freshly cooked within view, and live music adds to the ambience,” says the guide. “Rustic Emirati dishes are carefully prepared, well-presented and full of flavour.” Expect everything from classic Middle Eastern mezze, such as hummus and tabbouleh, to more Khaleeji staples, including saloona, tharid and machboos.
Bait Maryam, which opened in 2017, is the baby of chef and founder Salam Dakkak, who can still be found in the kitchen every day — or chatting with diners in the congenial dining space, which is charmingly decorated to resemble a relaxed living room. Once a school owner and cooking teacher in Saudi Arabia, Dakkak felt compelled to bring her moreish style of cooking to Dubai and offer a taste of home to those living away from their families.
Not only was it included on the Bib Gourmand list, but Dakkak and her team were also given the Welcome and Service Award.
“This passionately run home offers a warm welcome and delicious, homestyle Levantine dishes cooked with love,” said the inspector. “Ask the service professional for the chef’s specialities and make sure to add dessert to your list.”
Open daily, 10am-11pm; cluster D, Jumeirah Lakes Towers; 04 241 8447; www.baitmaryam.com
Award-winning French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud opened his Dubai restaurant in 2020. Brasserie Boulud, a concept by the man behind New York’s two Michelin-starred hot spot Restaurant Daniel, offers contemporary, French-inspired cuisine, with classics including escargots and canard roti to tarte Tatin. It is the chef’s first outpost in the Middle East.
“Creating a little piece of France in Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk is this classically styled brasserie deluxe with its marble flooring, red leather banquettes and art deco touches,” writes the inspector. “Great value business lunch.”
Open Monday to Friday, 12.30pm-3pm and 6pm-midnight, Saturday, 1pm-4pm and 6pm-midnight, Sunday is closed; Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, Wafi, Sheikh Rashid Road; 04 281 4020; www.sofitel-dubai-theobelisk.com
The menu at Fi’lia, the Italian-Mediterranean restaurant at SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences, features the word “nonna” (Italian for grandmother) a lot. The offerings are divided into dishes by nonna, mamma and fi’lia, the last word being a truncated form of the Italian word for daughter, figlia, in what is a conscious decision to highlight the achievements — and recipes — of women through the generations.
Chef Sara Aqel created much of the menu herself, relying heavily on traditional recipes from grandmothers — her friends' as well as her own — and her mother.
“Set on the 70th floor, it offers impressive views; menus list everything from artisan pizza and pasta to contemporary twists on traditional dishes,” says the inspector.
Set in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, folly has everything needed for a restaurant to be a success: location, style, a killer view and chefs who know their way around a kitchen.
Created by Nick Alvis and Scott Price, and opened in 2017, folly has since become famed locally for its inventive and seasonal food.
“The ingredient-led menu offers precise, modern dishes which are pared-back in style, with an appealing clarity of flavour,” said the inspector. "Staff are warm and engaging.”
Open Monday to Thursday, 5pm-midnight, Friday, 4pm-midnight, Saturday and Sunday, 1pm-midnight; Souk Madinat Jumeirah; 04 430 8535; www.folly.ae
This modern sushi and yakitori neighbourhood restaurant won the judges over for its “funky” interiors, “bright and keen” service, great food and reasonable prices. Watch the chefs work as you dig in.
“Vibrant, modern Japanese dishes from sushi, uni and yakitori to sharing plates and Wagyu steak are the order of the day at this funky, buzzing spot located in a smart mall,” the inspector writes.
Open daily, noon-midnight; Galleria Mall, Al Wasl Road; 04 886 4966; www.goldfishsushiyakitori.com
The fresh Lebanese seafood dishes and nautical themes at this Club Vista Mare location won over inspectors’ hearts. Not to mention the “beautiful terrace with a great view of the beach”.
The food includes cold and hot mezze staples, salads and classic dishes with fish, including kebab, biryani and curry. There’s also a small kids’ menu.
"Head to the fresh fish counter to choose what you’d like to eat; simple yet delicious dishes let the ingredients speak for themselves," says the guide.
Open daily, 8am-midnight; Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah; 04 553 9575; www.ibnalbahr.me
Indya by Vineet
Located at the Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Indya by Vineet serves "vibrant, modern Indian cooking".
The restaurant is located poolside at the hotel and serves a street food-style menu with "choices from the earth (vegetarian), land (meat) and sea". Indian chef Vineet Bhatia is behind the eatery.
Open daily from 12.30pm-3.30pm, 6pm-midnight; Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa; 04 399 5555; www.indya-dubai.com
Buzzing neighbourhood eatery Kinoya has an authentic izakaya feel. Started by chef Neha Mishra in The Greens, there are five ramen varieties on the Japanese menu, alongside sushi, sashimi, robata and tempura.
"Ingredients are good quality, cooking is careful, prices, low and flavours, delicious," says the guide.
Loyal patrons will know to watch out for a rotating specials, often created with seasonal ingredients.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, noon-1am; The Onyx Tower 2, The Greens, Dubai; 04 548 6776; kinoya.ae
A chic eatery at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the design of Ninive reflects the style of a Bedouin tent, with low-lighting care of lanterns, plush rugs, low tables and cosy sofa seating. The guide describes menu highlights as "well-priced dishes from all over the Middle East and North Africa".
The cuisine spans the Middle East and North Africa, with influences from Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Morocco, offering a taste of the "region’s culinary history" created using modern techniques.
Open Sunday to Thursday, 6pm-2am, Friday and Saturday, 6pm-3am; Jumeirah Emirates Towers; 04 326 6105; www.ninive.ae
Orfali Bros is a modern, minimalist bistro in Jumeirah 1's wasl 51. It is the kind of place chefs like to eat, including folly's Nick Alvis. "They're doing some really cool stuff and I love the food," Alvis has previously told The National. The menu is an exercise in boundary-pushing, experimenting with taste, textures and ingredients to create something unique, from red umami prawns to fluffy pides in various creative flavours.
Open daily, noon-midnight; wasl 51, Jumeirah 1, Dubai; 04 259 2477, www.orfalibros.com
Reif Japanese Kushiyaki
The casual-dining concept in Jumeirah is helmed by chef Reif Othman with a focus on kushiyaki — Japanese grilled meat and poultry held together on a kushi (skewer). Aside from the chicken and beef skewers, there are also clay pots, ramen, gunkan sushi, gyoza and raw dishes to be had. A star dishes section reads like chef Othman's greatest hits, with wings, angel hair pasta, steamed bun burgers and Wagyu sandos.
Open Monday to Thursday, noon-11pm; Friday, noon-midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 11am-midnight; dar wasl mall, Al Wasl Road, Dubai; 050 235 7071, www.reifkushiyaki.com
Deira restaurant Shabestan is synonymous with authentic Persian fare in Dubai. Located in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, it has been run by one family for three generations.
With views overlooking Dubai Creek, the menu features classic Persian dishes, with grilled meats, fish and vegetables, including a selection of authentic starters.
Open Wednesday to Monday, noon-11pm, Tuesdays from 12.30pm-11pm; Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek; 04 222 7171
New to the Dubai food scene, Teible opened its doors in February at the Jameel Arts Centre.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Peter Ahn, Teible aims to offer a vibrant menu designed around an increasingly important eat-local philosophy, which is motivated by a four-pillar value system: sustainability, seasonality, simplicity and integrity.
Fresh produce takes centre stage at Teible, with executive chef Carlos Frunze working closely with farmers across the UAE. A home-grown food-for-thought concept in every sense of the expression, Teible takes diners not only on a culinary journey, but also an intellectual one of curiosity, surprise, experimentation and awe.
The guide notes that the menus "showcase seasonal, local — and occasionally fermented — ingredients in great value dishes".
Open Wednesday to Monday, 8am-4pm and 6pm-11pm; Jameel Arts Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai; 04 243 6683; www.teible.com
Scroll through the gallery below to see the Michelin Guide event in Dubai