From Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, these are our must-order dishes this month.
Restaurants come and go in the GCC, but FACT’s passion for dining remains the same. The team can be found across the region, sampling the good, the bad and the exceptional. We eat at every kind of restaurant and experience every kind of meal, from flash-in-the-pan novelties to iconic institutions. By sparing you the guesswork, here are FACT’s favourite dishes – the let’s-order-seconds, return-worthy, and salivate in your sleep munchies. Warning: you may want to lick the plate clean. So, sink your teeth into our tried and tested recommendations. Here are the best dishes we ate in January.
Beef Brisket at BIGTBBQ in Dubai
Living in East London, I spent a lot of time devouring more BBQ than I’d care to admit. Bodeans, SMOKESTAK and Red Dog Saloon became the dining destinations of my youth. So, when a friend introduced me to a BBQ spot that might just be the best in the country, I was in awe. With a rough and ready approach, BIGTBBQ offers brisket, burgers, burnt ends and ribs inside a converted chocolate warehouse in Al Quoz. Come early, as dishes sell out quickly, but make sure you order the fatty slabs of beef brisket (AED 80) that are oh-so-tender and imparted with a stunning smoked flavour. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.
Chargrilled Japanese Wagyu Beef with Uni and Salmon Roe at Zenon in Dubai
With its Hermes tableware and AI-driven concept, there’s a lot to like at the newly opened Zenon in Kempinski Central Avenue Dubai. The culinary offering at this avant-garde restaurant is solid, though pricey, with signatures ranging from Carabineros Scarlet Prawn to Rigatoni With Cream Reduction and Caviar. With decadence on full display across the culinary offering, I was drawn to the Chargrilled Japanese Wagyu Beef with Uni and Salmon Roe (AED 295), which fuses flavours with gusto. The sweet and buttery uni offers a contrast to the char on the pretty pink cubes of Wagyu, which is harmonised by salty pops from the salmon roe. It’s a dish worth risking the Downtown traffic for. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.
Classic Chicken Shawarma at Allo Beirut in Dubai
While the job requires me to try fancy dining spots across the UAE, my heart often seeks solace in the simplicity of a good shawarma. One gem that stands out is Allo Beirut. For me, the classic chicken shawarma (AED 11), coupled with a refreshing cocktail juice, is the ultimate comfort food, triggering fond memories of Mama Noura, Riyadh. So, whenever the yearning for a taste of home strikes, this is my go-to takeaway order from Allo Beirut. – Shaheera Anwar, Staff Writer.
Fried Feta Cheese at MIKA in Abu Dhabi
MIKA has raced into Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina with a firm following. The Mediterranean restaurant is independently owned and chef-operated by Mario Loi. He prides himself on creating authentic dishes, which are influenced by his background. The Fried Feta Cheese (AED 45) is spectacular in its simplicity. “This is a popular dish,” said our waiter. We wouldn’t normally eat a slab of cheese, but when it’s this tasty, we were tempted to order seconds. The feta is encased in filo pastry and sat on wild herb honey. – Kohinoor Sahota, Deputy Editor.
Japanese Doughnuts Adagi at SUSHISAMBA Dubai
Doughnuts in a fine-dining Japanese restaurant sound wrong, but at SUSHISAMBA Dubai, they are oh-so-right. When I visited the Rio Brunch, it was love at first bite. The Japanese Doughnuts Adagi are pockets of perfection. There are no Insta-gimmicks, just an elevated take on the humble dessert. The doughnut is soft and sugary on the outside and filled with Dolce ganache on the inside. Not only did we order them three times, but if we could pack them in our purses, we would. – Kohinoor Sahota, Deputy Editor.
Mac Ferdi’s Cheeseburger at Ferdi in Riyadh
Parisian hotspot Ferdi has introduced its sophisticated ambience to Via Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Most guests come purely for the Mac Ferdi’s Cheeseburger (SAR 98), which is available in limited quantities each day. The burger is generously filled with a beef patty, confit fried and raw onions, Ferdi’s special sauce, mustard and pickles. Beautifully juicy thanks to the flavoursome patty, the burger provides a hint of saltiness and a more than generous slathering of cheese. Sandwiched between a fluffy bun, it’s a surefire contender for the title of Riyadh’s best burger, and given its international notoriety, it’s easy to see why. The result is messy but delightfully delicious. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.
Spicy Rigatoni at Carbone Riyadh
Few restaurants in the world have been name-checked by rappers. Carbone made its way into Drake’s 2022 track Spin Bout U, where he rhymes, “You know how it goes when they can’t get a reservation up in Carbone”. People flock to the Italian American restaurant purely for the signature Spicy Rigatoni (SAR 190). This simple yet seductive pasta plate deserves all the acclaim bestowed upon it. The seductive sauce is creamy but belies its spicy nature, with the heat coming to the fore with each mouthful. It’s comfort food executed to perfection and a dish that has spawned a thousand copycat recipes. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.
The Foie That Wanted To Be An Apple at Leña Dubai
Spanish chef Dani Garcia has opened Leña in Dubai, which showcases the power of cooking over charcoal. The menu spans starters, robatakayaki, jewels from the sea, and fire-grilled steaks. However, The Foie That Wanted To Be An Apple (AED 85) left this editor-in-chief floored. Similar to Dinner By Heston Blumenthal’s Meat Fruit, this dish plays culinary tricks on you. It is shaped like a green apple, but when you cut into it, a foie gras micuit is revealed. Served with green apple salad, caramelised walnuts and toasted bread, it’s a rich, luscious treat. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.
Wagyu Boeuf Tartare at Chez Wam in Dubai
The FACT Award-winning Chez Wam is now open for lunch, so it was only fitting that I made a return visit this month. Chef Hadrien Villedieu’s Wagyu Boeuf Tartare (AED 100) remains one of the most innovative takes on the classic French dish we’ve ever tried. Not only does it combine an addictive Yakiniku herbs dressing with a crispy texture from the wasabi crackers, but the dish is engulfed in a smoky finish. The East meets West theme is prominent throughout the menu, but this (and the ever-popular Foie Gras Burger) remain the restaurant’s most desirable dishes. – David Tapley, Editor-in-chief.