This year is set to be a veritable culinary treat for Dubai diners on the prowl for new restaurants. Some openings were pushed back in 2020 owing to the pandemic, while a fresh crop of established chefs and franchisees look to the emirate for their forthcoming ventures.
Here is a list of restaurants to look forward to in 2021.
Opening this month is a gargantuan space that stretches from The Walk in JBR through the beach up to The Beach Mall. The 9,300-square-metre venue will include 20 bars, three restaurants and a beach club, in a bid to cater to every personality and pocket.
The project includes Bla Bla Beach Club and three restaurants. The former is located opposite Bluewaters Island, which has a Bali-themed bar on the ground floor and eight concepts on the first floor, including an Irish bar, a Hollywood-inspired space and a vinyl-clad record room and bar.
The three licensed restaurants will serve Italian and Japanese cuisines, and Texas-style barbecue.
The remaining 10 or so bars will be housed in a 2,000-square-metre tent, also due to open this month.
Time Out Market
Also due to open in the first quarter of this year is the largest food hall in the UAE, which will feature 17 local restaurants and concepts at its Souk Al Bahar space in Downtown Dubai. The 13 confirmed so far are: Reif Japanese Kushiyaki; Little Erth by Nabz&G; The Mattar Farm Kitchen, which does smoked meat; Scoopi Cafe; Two Leaves by Project Chaiwala; Masti; BB Social; Folly by Nick & Scott; Vietnamese Foodies; Pickl; Pitfire; Brix; and Nightjar.
The Dubai outpost marks the seventh Time Out Market, which has branches in Lisbon, Miami, New York, Boston, Montreal and Chicago, with Porto, London and Prague to follow.
The Cannes hotspot was meant to open in 2020. One of the French Riviera’s most famous party spots, Baoli is popular with the likes of Bono, Jay Z and Eva Mendes. The ninth-floor spot is likely to follow a similar concept as its flagship – a restaurant, bar and outdoor terrace – when it opens its doors, (“soon”, we are told) at Gate Village 11 in DIFC. It will serve a fusion of Mediterranean and Asian fare, with a focus on fresh seafood.
Another restaurant that was meant to open in 2020, the New York import is now scheduled for the last quarter of 2021. Its lofty location (the 51st floor of The Palm Tower) and vibrant offering (a blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, culture, music and design) remain unchanged.
With branches in London, Miami, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, Sushi Samba is a well-established presence on the culinary map, perhaps thanks to its ability to adapt to local palates. Its Dubai outpost, for instance, already has brunch on its agenda.
Sushi Samba's chief operating officer, Omar Gutierrez, told The National: "When we designed the restaurant we were conscious of how we incorporate that Friday and Saturday brunch feel … we don't want it to feel like an afterthought."
Atlantis, The Royal restaurants
The (new) crown jewel of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis, The Royal, is slated to be completed by the end of this year. Also throwing open doors in late 2021 is its roster of high-end restaurants from some of the world’s most sought-after chefs and franchisees.
Here are some you could score a table at come New Year’s Eve 2022.
Hakkasan Group will bring the third outpost of its resto-lounge Ling Ling to Dubai in late 2021. The dining-to-dancing concept draws inspiration from izakayas, the pairing of craft beverages with Cantonese food. Designed by Parisian studio Gilles & Boissier, Ling Ling Dubai will be located on levels 22 and 23 of Atlantis, The Royal, overlooking the luxury resort's 90-metre sky pool.
Ling Ling currently has branches in Oslo and Marrakesh, with one planned for Mexico City later this year.
Little Venice Cake Company
British baker Mich Turner will open her first cake atelier outside the UK at Atlantis, The Royal, also at the tail end of this year. On the menu are the celebrity-favourite cake artist’s homemade fudge and florentines, “posh” doughnuts, tea loaf cakes, layer cakes and pinata cakes, fruit tarts, biscuits and all things chocolate. The cafe will double as a showroom, thanks to its a peek-in-and-drool glass kitchen, and chefs will hold masterclasses there, too.
Through Little Venice, Turner has created cakes for the British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II, as well as Emma Thompson, Madonna, Pierce Brosnan and David Beckham, among others. Chef Gordon Ramsay has described Mich as "the Bentley of cake makers".
The brainchild of chef and restaurateur Gaston Acurio, this Peruvian restaurant focuses on a specific food category called novoandino (literally new Andean) cuisine. On the menu are mashed potato dumplings topped with seafood, Peruvian-style sashimi, street food such as chicken thighs, veal heart and octopus in potato cream, ribeye chimichurri and braised Asado beef cheeks.
Acurio is best known for his Peking guinea pig or cuy, served with a rocoto pepper hoisin sauce and wrapped in a purple corn pancake. This will be served on a made-to-order basis with a leche de tigre citrus-based marinade of lime and aji peppers.
La Mar Dubai’s interiors, meanwhile, are inspired by the design of a “fisherman’s wharf”.
The cevicheria also has branches in Lima, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Miami.
Greek chef Costas Spiliadis opened his famed Mediterranean restaurant in Montreal in 1979, and it now boasts outposts in New York, Athens, Las Vegas, Miami and London.
The sharing-style concept will focus on fresh seafood, grilled or baked in sea salt to concentrate on its natural flavours – a Milos signature.
A raw bar with wild Greek oysters, whole-fish sashimi and tartar aside, the restaurant’s signature dishes include the Milos Special, a tower of paper-thin, crispy fried courgette and aubergine slices over rich tzatziki and Kefalograviera cheese.
At Atlantis, The Royal, Estiatorio Milos will feature six-metre-high ceilings, Greek marble, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and an open-show kitchen, as well as rooftop seating.
Ariana’s Persian Kitchen
Iranian-American chef Ariana Bundy will debut her restaurant named after her cookery and travel series Ariana's Persian Kitchen.
From Caspian-style fillet kabab and rose-scented sea bass to Persian ice cream with saffron, pistachios and rose water, the restaurant will serve Persian classics with a twist on a garden terrace at Atlantis, the Royal, while a show kitchen and private dining room feature within.
Chef Jose Andres had a dream to introduce the flavours of his native Spain – from tapas to traditional cheeses – to the United States. In 1993, he opened the first Jaleo in Washington, followed by branches in Maryland, Virginia, Las Vegas and Florida.
The UAE’s first outpost will offer sharing-style small plates that combine authentic Spanish and local ingredients.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The experimental British chef is known for adapting food traditions that date back to the 1300s, a concept he will also bring to his Dubai arm at Atlantis, the Royal, at the end of this year.
The London and Melbourne branches of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, for example, features roast marrowbone (c1720), spiced squab pigeon (c1780), goats' milk cheesecake (c1390) and meat fruit (c1500), a chicken liver parfait dish that looks like an unpeeled mandarin.
The chef developed an interest in the history of food, particularly European medieval cuisine, after reading The Vivendier manuscript that details French recipes from the 1400s.