The season of lights is here! Check out this list for hidden gems all over the city that are perfect for festive Diwali dining to celebrate the Hindu festival of light.
Words: Nichole Miranda
Take a stroll down memory lane with dinner at Junoon. A modern take on classic Indian fare, the restaurant puts a contemporary spin on traditional recipes. The menu is designed to be a culinary map of India, featuring signature dishes from all over the country. Turn your experience up a notch by pairing your meal with Junoon’s grape program – a list of bespoke beverages handpicked to complement what’s on your plate.
Junoon will leave you spoilt for choice, and if making your mind up is too much of a challenge, opt for any one of the restaurant’s various tasting menus. It isn’t Diwali without a bite of something sweet. Wade through the sugary delights on Junoon’s dessert list, losing yourself in a pink pool of falooda or the gentle richness of the Malai Pearl.
Junoon is located at the Shangri La Hotel in the Trade Centre Area. 12pm-3pm, 7pm-12am (12pm-3.30pm and 7pm-12am). 04 405 2717. Tasting menus from AEd 220 per person.
The brainchild of Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, Rang Mahal is a sensory explosion on a plate. Boasting a shelf laden down with several awards, every morsel served is a work of art. Sip on bespoke blended drinks at the bar while touring through Indian alleys with Rang Mahal’s Street Food of India tasting menu. This experience is priced between AED 100 to AED 160 per diner.
To sample the restaurant’s crown jewels, opt for the Chef’s Notebook tasting menu instead. This experience is priced at AED 195 dirhams. Chef Kochhar approaches cooking with eco-sustainability in mind, and strives to serve responsibly sourced fish at his restaurants around the world.
JW Marriott Marquis in Business Bay. 6pm-11.30pm. 04 414 3000
Sattvik food goes beyond just vegetarian fare; the diet requires fresh food that’s been expertly prepared. The Sattvik regimen typically avoids food that has been processed, produced in a can, or polluted with chemical fertilisers. On a mission to promote mental clarity and clean energy through the diet, Sai Dham has carved a name for itself with its thalis. Happy to scoop endless piles of rice and vegetables onto your plate, it won’t stop until you’re close to bursting.
Wholesome and simply delicious, the food cannot be faulted (apart from it being spicier than you’d expect). Pro tip: tame the heat with a tall glass of tender coconut water or salted lassi. If a thali is too much for you to handle, keep it low-key and opt for some classic dishes off the a la carte menu.
Sai Dham is close to Lamcy Plaza in Oud Metha. 11.30am-3.30pm and 7pm-11.30pm (12am Fridays0. 04 335 8788. Thalis start from AED 16.
Putting a luxurious spin on Indian restaurant staples, House of Curry has bounced back to life as Bombay Bungalow. The recently rebranded restaurant boasts an innovative menu by, chef consultant, Hari Nayak. Ideal for intimate dinners with friends and family, the dishes served here are ideal for sharing.
Keeping your camera at the ready, revel in a host of avant-garde dishes like burrata butter chicken, gruyere pav bhaji, and calamari bhel. It’s not just the food you’ll want to bathe in Instagram filters. The restaurant looks like a slice of the Mughal era – draped in foliage and ornate furniture. Soak up the seaside vibes while unwinding over hearty Indian soul food.
Bombay Bungalow, JBR The Walk. 12.30pm-12.30am. 04 449 8595. Two can eat three courses for under AED 200 each, with soft drinks.
Carnival by Tresind
Discover edible theater this Diwali at Carnival by Tresind. Your table is a blank canvas to the culinary team, and you can bet it’s going to get splashed in color. Injecting traditional Indian recipes with post-modern flare, the dishes at Carnival are essentially art installations.
While most restaurants welcome you with a smile and nod, Tresind is renowned for going above and beyond. So, following in those footsteps, Carnival welcomes diners with a flurry of bubbles. This is followed by a scrumptious feast of creatively concocted dishes, performed rather than just served. While Carnival offers an a la carte menu, the best way to experience it is by opting for the 15-course degustation menu, which is AED350 for vegetarians and AED 375 for carnivores.
Carnival by Tresind, DIFC. 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. 04 559 7893.
Spice and Ice
For a wallet-friendly taste of the Indian molecular gastronomy trend, book yourself a table at Ice and Spice. Founded by the same culinary genius that brought Pizza Express to Dubai, this restaurant uses science as its secret ingredient.
Move over palak paneer and butter naan and make room for Japanese gyoza and Swiss fondue (with an Indian twist, of course). While most folks chomp into a pani puri and expect it to explode with cilantro juice, the one at Ice and Spice erupts with liquid nitrogen fumes instead. Bring your carnivorous appetite along, Spice and Ice serves up a delicious array of tenderly prepared meat and seafood – in addition to wholesome veggie fare.
Find Spice and Ice in JLT’s Cluster A. 12pm-1am (3am Thursday/Friday). 04 275 9088. Two can eat for under AED 300. Friday brunch is AED 199 per person (including drinks).
Leaving thrills and frills at the door, Calicut Paragon focuses solely on its food. Opening its doors in 1930s Kerala, the brand has gracefully aged over time, traveling across the Arabian Gulf to Dubai. Considered one of the best Indian restaurants for coastal cuisine, the eatery is tucked in a little crevice in old Dubai. Highly recommended by celebrity chef, Atul Kochhar, Calicut Paragon has nailed south Indian comfort food.
Launch into a Diwali feast starting with a pillowy appam and dunk it into a steaming bowl of tamarind-spiced fish. Sample the south’s fiery fare with a spoonful of the restaurant’s various meat dishes. Recover from the third degree burns with a soothing bowl of curd rice. Call it a night with a warm bowl of freshly cooked payassam (rice pudding).
Calicut Paragon has branches in Karama: 7am-12.30am; 7am-11am and 1pm-12.30am Friday. 04 335 8700. Al Nahda: 11.30am-12.30am (Fridays 7am-1am). 04 251 2545 or 04 2988858. Two can eat well for under AED 100.
Cafe Funkie Town
Exporting Bombay’s iconic Parsi culture to Dubai, Cafe Funkie Town dishes out timeless classics. Despite Indian cuisine sweeping across the UAE, Parsi fare doesn’t enjoy enough time in the limelight. Inspired by the community’s “eat well, drink well, and have fun” philosophy, a hearty Parsi breakfast is guaranteed to send you straight back to bed.
Cafe Funkie Town teleports guests to Bombay’s railway stations with its antique lamps, Bollywood posters, and retro Indian music humming in the background. Sink your teeth into signature Parsi dishes like kheema pav (AED 30 – minced meat and peas in a buttered bun), a fluffy omelet stuffed with potato chips (AED 22), and lagan nu custard (custard pudding – a sugary superstar at Zoroastrian weddings).
Cafe Funkie Town, JLT’s Cluster Q. 10am-11pm daily. 04 3689697 and 04 3689627.
For more edible delights, check out our sister sitewww.thegreatfoodclub.com