Save or splurge on... fine dining

Save or splurge on... fine dining
12 June 2012

DUBAI is a mishmash of cultures, with one common thread tying residents together: a shared love of good food. Eating out is a citywide pastime, owing to thousands of small-time eateries mushrooming to compete with international franchises.

If a cheap but delicious bite to eat is what you’re looking for, the city offers kiosks, roadside canteens and quirky hideaways. For fine dining, however, ambience and service add a heavy premium to the bill.

Keeping budgetary constraints in mind, cashy looks at ways to get the most out of your dining experience.

Honing in on places that provide great food for around AED 250 ($68.06) for two, attentive staff and the aesthetics of five-star dining, we bring you six options that let you save, while appearing to splurge.


Chi’Zen, Al Barsha

Finding authentic Chinese cuisine outside a thousand-mile radius of the mainland can be a challenge. Chi’Zen tries its best to present delicacies right out of Guangdong, while appealing to the Middle Eastern palate.

Its menu boasts Cantonese favourites (Char siew bao, claypot rice), giving the place a competitive edge as far as authenticity goes. Tucked away in the corridor linking Mall of the Emirates with the Pullman Hotel, Chi’Zen has the look and feel of a top-tier restaurant that might intimidate budget diners too scared to peak at the prices.

Imperial red, dark wood tables and mood lighting give it an air of opulence, but for under AED 200 ($54.45), two people can enjoy dimsum starters (dumplings and steamed buns), sides, entrees and drinks, making Chi’Zen an ideal save/splurge option.


Tehran, Jumeirah Beach Road (Umm Suquiem)

For Persian cuisine, Tehran is a cut above a lot of the pricier options in Dubai. The attentive waiting staff are armed with a list of local favourites and are more than willing to offer recommendations for first-timers.

Must-haves include the sultani kebabs, Iranian tea and any one of their rich desserts. The bill for two can stretch to a little over AED 250.


Nineteen, Emirates Hills

Contemporary European cuisine is as generic a category as ‘Pan Asian’. Still, it encompasses Western Europe’s best, while avoiding niche food that are known for their acquired taste. Nineteen at the Hills is situated right past the 18th hole at the golf club, overlooking the greens.

Known for its expansive brunch spreads and themed evenings, Nineteen offers rotisserie cuisine as its crowning glory. A meal for two typically costs AED 230 ($62.62).


Haru, Jumeirah Beach Residences

The Walk at JBR is a prime save/splurge locale, offering decent food at decent prices, while upping the ante in terms of beach views and ambience.

Japanese restaurants in Dubai generally don’t meet our save/splurge criteria of having the appearance of a premium restaurant while going easy on the wallet. Top options usually cost AED 500 for two (at premium restaurants like Okku or Nobu), while the cheaper joints offer sushi-and-bento in a mass produced fastfood setting that fail in terms of fine dining ambience.

Enter Haru. As one of the more affordable Japanese haunts in the city, Haru offers an understated menu that provides all the basics you’d find at any standard Japanese restaurant. The décor is modern Japanese, relying on blacks, wooden surfaces and yellow lighting. A meal for two (sushi, sashimi, udon options) can come in at under AED 300 ($81.68).


Copper Chimney, Springs

Copper Chimney is an Indian franchise with a strong fan base stemming from its Mumbai roots. Its affordable buffet menu offers a wide spread of North Indian kebabs, biryanis and curries daily.

Its brick walls are played up with copper pots and pans, and the colour scheme calls to mind exotic shades like vermillion and saffron, adding to the mystique of the place. A meal for two falls under AED 300.


Zahar El-Laymoun, Souk al Bahar

Restaurants along Souk al Bahar have prime waterfront views with the towering Burj Khalifa as an added bonus. The Lebanese restaurant right across the walkway connecting Dubai Mall to the Souk is perpetually busy, so reservations are advisable at the weekend.

After the sun sets and the Dubai fountain springs to life like clockwork on the hour, the restaurant is in its zone, with candle light on every table, sheesha in every corner and lively conversation flowing across the expanse.

The menu is inspired, with a wide selection of hummous and cold mezzeh. An evening at Zahar El-Laymoun is an evening well spent for less than AED 250 for two.

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What's your top save/splurge tip for eating out in Dubai? Share with cashy...


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