What it’s like: Dubai foodies have long complained about not having a good, high-end Arabic restaurant to go to here. Qbara singlehandedly changed all that since it opened to rave reviews late last year. As you walk in from the valet parking, the sensor-fitted doors slide, open-sesame style, to let you into the cavernous space, and it is impossible not to be impressed. While big, the interior is cleverly designed to be intimate at the same time, with separate sections seamlessly flowing into each other, and a massive bar anchoring it all together which the upstairs lounge overlooks. Intricate wood carvings, a mosaic of suspended mini carpets doubling up as wall décor, filigreed teardrop-shaped light fixtures, mood lighting, and their own mix of Arabesque lounge music all come together to create an atmosphere of understated stylishness. Refreshingly, the staff are excellently trained and knowledgeable, and are happy to recommend from the menu. Start off with one of their delicious topically named cocktails – qbara20 for instance, to celebrate Expo 2020 – then opt for a selection of their mezze-style small dishes. The food is Pan-Arabian, drawing from across the region, from Morocco to the Emirates, reimagining familiar flavours (think sumac and tahini) in a contemporary way. And the execution of each dish is flawless. Whether it’s the fried calamari – crispy outside, perfectly succulent inside – or the sumac dusted grilled prawns with a chunky chermoula sauce on the side. The mains, known as qbara dishes, all sounded tempting, but our picks, of the slow-cooked pigeon with the ancient grain freekeh and dates, and the marinated poussin with sumac onion and dried yoghurt, were both delicious. Arabic desserts tend to be quite overpowering, but not here. The saffron yoghurt that we decided to share – topped with a playful candyfloss hat – it totally hit the spot, not too sweet, but the quintessential flavours intact. With the atmosphere, food, and service just so, Qbara just begs the question – what are they doing right that so many others, sadly, get wrong here in Dubai?
If you want to go: Around Dhs600 for two, without drinks. Ramadan menu is Dhs450 per head, call 04-7092500.
Best for: A glam evening out
– Sudeshna Ghosh