Dubai’s Top Themed Restos

  • Translating into “oyster shell” in Arabic, Al Mahara is a poetic nod to Dubai's pearl diving history. Its bespoke food is only second to its stunning floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Best saved for special occasions, Al Mahara promises an unforgettable meal. Its masterfully curated food and wine menu and excellent service are sure to sweep you off your feet. recommends: Salt-baked seabass, oysters, caviar, hand-dived raw scallops.

    Good to know: Sample only the finest picks with its “A Little Taste of Everything” menu.

  • Raise the roof the Asian way at Mr. Miyagi's. Burst your vocal chords singing, show the dancefloor your weirdest moves or cry with overwhelment into your noodles – Mr. Miyagi won't judge. Mr. Miyagi's street food menu draws inspiration from vending carts all over Asia. Take yourself on a supper safari with its Japanese sushi, Thai curries, Vietnamese summer rolls and Filipino beef sisig. You're sure to have gap year flashbacks with its cocktails in a bucket and cabaret troop! recommends: Thai beef salad, miso salmon, beef rib eye with tetsuya sauce.

    Good to know: Bring on the brunch buzz with its Wok and Roll brunch from AED 299 to AED 349.

  • Jerk chicken became one of the hottest dishes on Dubai's dinner table around the time Miss Lily's threw its doors open. This international Jamaican resto's got soul and it's poured a bucketload of the stuff on Dubai's social scene. Whether you're wigging out under its disco ball, grabbing a tropical cocktail from its rum bar or staining your shirt with its jerk dishes – there's always something going down here! Grab your dancing shoes and come alive at Miss Lily's. recommends: Jerk ramen, jerk chicken, oxtail stew, tamarind-glazed lamb ribs.

    Good to know: Cancel your morning meeting – Miss Lily's keeps the party going until 3AM.

  • An Arabian Nights tale brought to life, Al Hadheerah is an enchanting oasis in the desert. The award-winning restaurant takes its guests on a journey through time with its rustic setting. Step into a humble Emirati village complete with a roaring fire, inanimate camels, a well and spice souk. Be amazed by the extravagant music and dance performances, camel and horse shows and live cooking stations. Rediscover the UAE at Al Hadheerah in Bab Al Shams. recommends: Ouzi cooked in an underground pit, spinach fatayer, freshly fried lugaimat, Iranian rice with pomegranate, date cake, umm ali and mohalabiya.

    Good to know: Don't forget to explore Al Hadheerah's heritage museum and falcon display.

  • A vibrant explosion of Latin American culture, the space is a bohemian paradise. Dine, drink and dance until your feet fall off at Hotel Cartagena. Pulsing with Latin America's lust for life, this restaurant is where guests are invited to set their personalities off the leash. Fuel up for the dancefloor with South American tapas, empanadas, tacos, chicharrones and crudo. recommends: Aji tuna poke, chili prawn nachos, grilled flank steak tacos.

    Good to know: Weekends are for wilding! Roll into its Friday brunch for AED 395.

  • Get a glimpse of bedouin life at Al Fanar. Dine under the warm glow of a lantern and sip gahwa like the UAE's ancestors did at this traditional village-style restaurant. A fusion of ancient nomadic and 1960s Emirati culture, Al Fanar is a mesmerizing taste of local life. With a menu as authentic as its interiors – tuck into its meat and seafood biryani, comforting saloonas and smoky meat platters. Ditch the cutlery and eat with your hands for extra brownie points! recommends: Thereed, robyan mashwi, regag, harees, leqaimat, karak ice cream.

    Good to know: Al Fanar also sells Emirati souvenirs like retro snacks and gahwa cups.

  • Draped in Indian flamboyance, Bombay Bungalow is an homage to classical Indian aesthetics. Frozen in time, its décor nods at the Mughal era with a crystal chandelier and grandiose portraits of Mughal royalty dotting its walls. Inspired by the majestic family homes of Rajasthan – havelis – the restaurant surrounds an artificial tree. In a traditional haveli, the tree would have been a source of shade in the blistering desert heat. Bombay Bungalow's menu takes creative liberty with Indian flavors. It remixes classics like chaat, pao bhaji and ras malai to name a few. recommends: Burrata butter chicken, guac pani poori, coconut ras malai.

    Good to know: Order via its website to treat yourself to an Indian takeaway that's a cut above.

  • Designed in the likeness of neon Japanese backstreets, Akiba Dori is a food hall with futuristic vibes. Home of arguably Dubai's only Tokyo Neapolitan pizza, guests can also explore Japanese street food culture here. The licensed food hall dishes up streetside staples like chicken katsu curry, hakata cheesecake, katsu sando and much more. A hit with Dubai's urban tastemakers, its name has been on the tip of everyone's tongue since its launch. recommends: Taiyaki, chicken katsu curry, Tokyo Neapolitan pizza, beef donburi.

    Good to know: Akiba Dori is licensed, so knock some sushi back with a beer on the side.

  • For a trip back in time and a taste of simpler Emirati times, roll in for a meal at Tent Jumeirah. An homage to Jumeirah's fishing village era, this restaurant leaves no detail overlooked. Choose to sit in a wooden dhow, cross-legged in a majlis or cozied up in an air-conditioned cabana. Dressed as sailors, Tent Jumeirah's waiters swim around serving tea and fresh hummus. The menu boasts Emirati classics like balaleet, chebab, machboos, saloona and harees. Located mere steps from the ocean, Tent Jumeirah is the kind of place a meal should last for several hours. recommends: Hammour machboos, meshawa regag, karak on coal, VIP breakfast.

    Good to know: Early birds and night owls are both welcome – Tent Jumeirah is open 24/7.


  • The perfect pitstop if your feet are howling and your stomach's growling at Dubai Mall. This themed restaurant is a kid's dream come true. Refuel on your shopping spree in the company of inanimate elephants, tropical flora and gushing waterfalls. Rainforest Cafe's texmex menu is crammed with family faves like quesadillas, chicken wings and tenders, nachos, burgers, soups, pasta and meat platters. The AED 45 kid's menu boasts fun tropical-themed dishes too. recommends: Awesome app adventure, Mojo bones, Taste of the Islands platter.

    Good to know: Before pumping up the bouncy castle, consider hosting your child's birthday party at Rainforest Cafe. Its birthday package is priced at AED 109 per child.

  • Prepare for things to get wild at Mama Zonia, a restaurant with its own rainforest. A stark contrast from the concrete jungle and arid desert, this space is alive with lush plants and tropical vibes. Mama Zonia is where reality is allowed to bend, guests can transform into their spirit animals and cocktail glasses can overflow. Tuck into soulful dishes like charcoal roasted meat, wok-tossed seafood and log-fired dishes cooked for 14 hours. Unleash your wild side with frog's leg jungle curry, red snapper baked in a banana leaf and guacamole with banana chips. recommends: Jungle curry, lamb cutlets, hot ceviche, baked Brazilian chocolate.

    Good to know: Go wild on your lunch break with Mama Zonia's express lunch. AED 55 for one course or AED 77 for two courses. This runs on weekdays from 12PM to 4PM.

  • Take the edge off a blind date at Noire – one of Dubai's most unique dining experiences. Immersed in pitch darkness, guests are challenged to rely on their tastebuds to guide them through dinner. Noire is a thrilling three-course meal served over 1.5 hours. For those that can't stop thinking about hot soup being spilled on them in the dark – don't worry – Noire's waiters are equipped with night vision goggles. Lose yourself in the dark at Noire, a meal that's worth writing home about. This multi-award winning experience sure beats getting a midweek takeaway.

    Good to know: An experience at Noire is priced at AED 360 for a three-course dinner with drinks.

  • Inspired by a small Greek island, Opa's aesthetic goes all out with the Mediterranean theme. Throbbing with nostalgic touches from white walls and deep blue furniture to rustic ornaments and cascading bougainvillea, the space is an interactive postcard from Greece. Opa's menu is loaded with classics like homemade dips, vibrant salads, fresh hot and cold appetizers, wholesome mains and exotic desserts. Break a sweat after dinner with plate smashing and Zorba dancing. recommends: Seabass crudo, flaming saganaki, pastitsio, Opa baklava sundae.

    Good to know: Wet your whistle before dinner with Opa's traditional cocktails.

  • Part of Al Quoz's offbeat cafe scene, Cafe Rider is where some of the city's coolest thinkers and their motorbikes break for coffee. The industrial warehouse looks forgettable on the outside but couldn't be more different on the inside. Accented with stunning motorbikes, well-loved leather couches and metal chairs – it makes everyone feel at home; no matter what they drive. While it serves brekkie eggs and bagels and lunchtime salads and wraps, the coffee is the star here. Pick your bean and how you'd like it brewed and Cafe Rider's barista will wave his magic wand. recommends: Savory porridge bowl, black halloumi burger, espresso tonic.

    Good to know: Cafe Rider's garage services, restores and customizes bikes.