From a fusion of Arab-Armenian fare to a gourmet burger joint launched by up-and-coming Emirati chef Faisal Naser, here are five restaurants rooted in the Arab world that opened this year.
Restaurateur Evgeny Kuzin and chef Izu Ani have partnered to open Alaya, which the latter calls "our tribute to the Middle East", in the Dubai International Financial Centre on July 28.
Expect a menu that is lavish in its use of fresh herbs; spices such as cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; and nuts such as pine, pistachio, almond and sesame. Dishes include labneh khiar with garlic and radish; kale tabbouleh with cashews; artichoke dolma; shish kofte; chicken musakhan; and date cake with milk ice cream.
The interior is done up in rich colours and intricate patterns, and takes its cues from marquetery and traditional tapestry.
Open daily, noon-1.45am; Gate Village 4, DIFC; 04 570 6289; www.alaya-dubai.com
A popular lounge-restaurant from Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighbourhood, Amelia opened its UAE outpost at the Address Sky View in Downtown Dubai on July 13. The intimate venue calls to mind the Art Deco era of the 1930s, with illuminated decorative panels, plush seating and geometric ornamentation.
The restaurant serves a fusion of Nikkei, or Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, using fresh Mediterranean ingredients. Diners can sample all manner of ceviche, tiradito and sushi, plus meat and vegetables cooked in iron pots, Josper ovens and on Robata grills.
Dishes include Lubina ceviche with wild sea bass, chulpe, red onion, sweet potato, coriander and aji limo; Wagyu bao with shiitake mushrooms, baby rocca, fontina and truffle cream; duck breast with shallots and honey cream; and the signature Mariscos Mezclado iron pot, a linguini pasta with lobster, calamari, prawns, aged Parmesan and kimchi cream.
Open daily; 7pm-3am; Address Sky View; 04 328 2805; www.amelialounge.com
The Armenian fusion restaurant opened on Bluewaters Island on June 30. The name is a play on the word vagabond, or explorer, as realised in the melding of Armenian and Arab cuisines that have influenced each other for centuries.
Chef Sufyan Al Kebata (of Ninive, La Cantine and Twiggy) offers a menu that’s at once authentic and eclectic. Think manti, which combines beef ravioli with mint, yoghurt and tomato sauce; lahmajoon, or Armenian pizza, with lamb mince, tomato, onion and parsley on a crispy base; khorovats, or grilled meats; gapama, a pumpkin stuffed with spiced rice, meat and nuts; and rose petal matzoon.
Open Monday-Thursday, 5pm-midnight; Friday-Sunday, 5pm-1am; Bluewaters Island; 056 800 0990; www.vagadubai.com
After taking the Abu Dhabi fast-food market by the storm, Emirati chef and restaurateur Faisal Naser opened his uber-cool gourmet burger joint Lento in Dubai on June 15. Known for its smashed burgers, Lento serves a delectable honey butter fried chicken sandwich, a Korean burger, and one with spicy umami sauce.
Also on offer at the Dubai outpost are specials such as aji Amarillo prawns, seafood paella, honey lasagne and Emirati fish 'n' chips; plus lentoast (French toast with creme Anglaise, yuzu and salted caramel gelato) for dessert.
The restaurant seats only 30 guests, and the industrial-chic interior is done up in grey, tan leather, repurposed wood and wild foliage. A figurine by American artist Kaws sits on the DJ booth, while hip-hop vinyl records are displayed on the wall.
Sunday-Thursday, 1pm-11pm; Friday and Saturday, 1pm-midnight (closed on Mondays); Umm Al Sheif, Dubai; 04 252 5968
Latticework lanterns hanging from high ceilings and intricate mosaic tiling transport you from one of Dubai’s busiest malls to the streets of Morocco. Amazigh, which opened at City Centre Mirdif in March, serves authentic yet modern Moroccan dishes — from breakfast through to dinner — and delectable desserts.
Early birds can start the day with fetour fassi, a traditional breakfast with egg belkhlii and chorba fassia, with harsha, msammen, butter, honey, yoghurt and marinated olives; or the Amazigh salad, with kale, butternut squash, apple, honey, raisins, feta cheese and pecans.
Chef-recommended mains include stuffed chicken pastilla with Moroccan spices and almonds; and tajine with olive oil, charmoula, purple olives and pickled lemon. For dessert, look no further than the jawhara, a Moroccan mille-feuille of sorts with custard, orange blossom, edible petals, almonds and madjool dates.
Open Monday-Thursday, 9am-11pm; Friday-Sunday, 9am-midnight; City Centre Mirdif; 04 491 9669