Eating out in the UAE is a diverse experience: you can sample multiple cuisines everywhere from palatial chambers to hole-in-the-wall eateries. Today's foodies desire, nay, demand variety.
And the ongoing Dubai Food Festival offers just that. Here’s what you can expect from the fifth edition, which starts on Thursday, February 22 and runs until March 10.
1. The Beach Canteen, Kite Beach
The heart of the festival, Beach Canteen will return to the stretch of Jumeirah Beach behind Sunset Mall. Here’s where you can register and pick up tickets for all the activities lined up for this DFF, as well as enjoy a host of dishes, live shows and DJ sets, masterclasses and generally soak in the carnival-like vibe.
First-time food concepts at the venue this year include Bait Maryam, Zapiekanka, Poke Poke, Hub 1833 and Nablus (known for its artisan kanafeh). Boutique Le Chocolate will conduct chocolate-making and tasting sessions for the next three Saturdays at 5.30pm. Burn off the calories with an XYoga session at 11am on March 10, followed by a healthy meal on the beach. The venue will also host the colourful and creative Dubai International Kite Fest on March 9 and 10.
2. Bites at The Beach, JBR
On the other side of town, The Beach at JBR has developed its own culinary concept, Bites at The Beach, in conjunction with DFF. The event will offer up tapas-style versions of dishes from the restaurants dotting the famed destination. Top of our list: kebabs (Dh25) from Bombay Bungalow; cheese koftas (Dh25) from Butcha; lasagne (Dh25) from Big Chefs; truffle burgers (Dh30) from Leopold’s of London; and kunafa (Dh10) from Tike. Popular Moroccan joint Almaz by Momo has a set menu priced at Dh99 per person. Those brave or simply hungry enough to try every dish (and we’ve mentioned but the half of them here), will be eligible to enter a cash-prize raffle.
3. Fine dining, flat rates at Restaurant Week
One of the most popular DFF events, Restaurant Week runs until March 3. That means you can spend the better part of the next nine days enjoying a three-course menu put together by 15 of Dubai’s finest, for just Dh199 per person, per meal. That’s less than what you’d pay for a single dish of delicacies such as black cod (Lima), glazed beef short rib (Jean Georges) and charred Baltic salmon (Scape).
The participating eateries cover about a dozen cuisines among them, and include Jodhpur Royal Dining, Pai Tai, Toro & Ko, Asia Asia, Simply Italian and Rockfish. Most of the menus offer well-thought-out vegetarian options, notably mushroom ravioli with truffle cappuccino at Villa Beach Restaurant and a veggie Wellington with spiced carrots at Bread Street Kitchen; as well as enticing desserts, from churros and chocolates to sorbets and semifreddos.
4. Street food from Bollywood Parks to Dubai Creek
Three events dedicated to street food will be held at various locations this DFF.
Dubai Parks and Resorts is hosting an Indian culinary bazaar, with all-you-can-eat options included in the ticket price (Dh170) for Bollywood Parks today and tomorrow.
On Saturdays, head down to The Backyard, Steigenberger Hotel at Business Bay, from 5pm to 11pm, for the Thai Street Food Festival, which includes live-cooking stations and a corner dedicated to signature massages from the country’s therapists.
The tail-end of the event will mark the return of Dubai Street Nights al Al Seef, which brings together the region’s favourite home-grown food concepts and graffiti artists, as well as a flea market of local brands and crafts, from March 1 to 3, from 5pm to midnight.
5. Dh25 dinners at Dubai's hidden gems
Earlier this year, residents took a poll to choose their favourite offbeat restaurants from a list of 35 “hidden gems” in old and new Dubai. The top 10 venues will offer diners a one-time meal for Dh25 for the duration of DFF. The two-course menu will include each eatery’s signature dishes. Leading the way with 3,000 votes is seafood joint Fish Hut at Oud Metha, known for its butterfly prawns in garlic sauce; followed by JLT’s fusion cafe The Place, best loved for its berry pistachio pancakes; and, in third place, Sri Lankan joint Ayubowan, also in JLT, for lovers of coconut and spice. The list also takes in Goan Grub Shack at Umm Hurair, Filipino restaurant Hot Palayok in Karama and Emirati tea cafe Chai and Co at Al Warqa.
6. Free open-air cinema (with food trucks)
Last Exit 11 and Last Exit Mad X will run Movies to Munch, an open-air cinema experience that takes in three free screenings of popular Hollywood films every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, until March 10. This Friday (and on the next two Fridays), you can catch Alice in Wonderland at 6pm, Turbo at 8.30pm and Ghostbusters at 10.45pm, while Lego Batman, Rio 2 and Aliens vs Predator are on the charts for tomorrow (and the following two Saturdays). Thursdays are dedicated to the latest versions of Thor, Star Wars and Men in Black. The al-fresco set-up, complete with bean bags, is ideal to enjoy the still-cool weather and the assorted food trucks dotting the arena.
Those who don't want to brave the drive, can head to City Centre Mirdif and City Centre Me'aisem, which are hosting an event called Outdoors, and will screen films such as Finding Dory, Fast & Furious, La La Land, Lion King, Logan and Guardians of the Galaxy, each day at 5.30pm.
7. Who are the celebrity chefs in town?
Award-winning chefs are a big part of food festivals in the region, and DFF is no exception. Headlining the event this year is restaurateur and celebrity chef David Myers, who will not only conduct a cooking masterclass and Q&A session at Beach Canteen this afternoon, but will also host a more personal dinner party at his newly opened Bleu Blanc restaurant. David’s Chef’s Table at Renaissance Downtown Hotel will welcome a group of six guests this Friday and Saturday at 7pm, who can watch Myers put together a three-course meal followed by a sit-down dinner with the Michelin-starred chef, where he’ll share stories of his global travels and gourmet travails.
8. One for the kids at The Outlet Village
While most venues and events are child-friendly, The Outlet Village will dedicate three weekends, starting Friday, solely to entertaining the kids this DFF. The Italian-piazza-style venue will host art masterclasses for young ones who can try their hand at creating artworks from food remains, as well as have a giggle at the food-themed photo booth set up opposite The Deal. Both activities are free of charge, and will be held from 1pm to 8pm Friday and Saturday, and then on March 2-3 and March 9-10.