Indulge in great tasting Middle Eastern eats in Al Ain.
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
Behind Al Ain’s quiet vibe is a budding food scene that worth searching out. There’s a growing list of hotel and mall-based outlets, as well as a handful of independent venues, serving an assortment of cuisines that stay true to the Garden City’s location. Here are five of the best restaurants in Al Ain where you can grab a tasty bite of Middle Eastern inspired cuisines.
Nestled in the Al Ain Rotana, this Lebanese restaurant is uplifted by elegant wooden interiors, marble flooring and traditional Middle Eastern lanterns. Chose to sit indoors or pick a table on the grassy outdoor terrace. Belly dancers and an oud player add to the authentic feel.
The menu includes cold and hot mezze selections such as hummus and moutabal, grilled halloumi, kibbeh and sojouk or spicy Lebanese sausages. The grill menu features various meat options from marinated chargrilled lamb to grilled vegetables and shish kebab. For dessert, try the rice pudding or baklava.
Zayed Bin Sultan Street. Daily 2pm-11pm. 03 754 5111, rotana.com
Al Fanar Restaurant and Café
Serving genuine Emirati food, this venue turns up the nostalgia with decor that suggests Bedouin traditions. But the real catch is the food, allowing guests to experience under-represented UAE staples. Try the balalit ma khoboz wagafi – sweetened thin noodles with cardamom, saffron and omelette – or the machboos deyay – chicken cooked with yellow rice and simmered in stock.
The saloona deyay ma khudhar is a good pick – expect a chicken stew with seasonal vegetables cooked in tomato sauce. And don’t miss the signature Emirati dessert, luqaimat – crispy fried dough balls coated in date syrup. If you’re clueless on what to order but curious to try the bestsellers, then go for the tourist set menu, starting from AED 80.
Souq Al Zafarana, near Al Ain Convention Centre, Al Jimi. Daily 9am-12am. 03 766 5200, alfanarrestaurant.com
Golden Sheep Restaurant
With a growing following, this humble restaurant features a no-frills menu inspired by Arabic staples, with prices to match -you’ll struggle to spend more than AED 100.
Some of the seafood options have an interesting twist – try the shrimp with steak sauce or the lobster with cheese. Meat fans will love the lamb chops and kebab estanbouli – grilled meat with vegetables. But the tender stuffed lamb proves to be of the menu highlights.
Town Centre, Khalifa Street, near Al Ain Pharmacy. Daily 9am-1am. 03 765 5743.
Combining classic and modern aesthetics and influenced by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture, this restaurant carries an extensive menu of Levantine cuisine. Options include grilled whitefish fillet, fish skewers served with baked potato and green salad, mussels topped with special herbs, garlic and crushed almonds, marinated grilled tikka and lamb leg with rice, topped with yoghurt, mixed nuts and gravy.
If you’re with friends who don’t like Arabic fare, the menu also features western dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, four-cheese fettuccini and penne arrabbiata. It’s all very affordable, with most dishes under AED 50.
Hili Mall, Al Hili. Daily 10am-1am. 03 765 0600, thesolidaire.com
Named after prominent musician Abu Al-Hasan – nicknamed Ziryab after the Arabic word for the melodic blackbird – this modern restaurant features an extensive selection of Arabian fare. All the traditional appetisers are on the menu including a platter with hummus, moutabal and a citrusy fattouch salad, manakesh with a choice of toppings, shawarma, arayes and musakkan rolls. Cold plates are all AED 18 and hot options AED 22.
Tthe house specialities are heavy on the meat, with dishes such as baked kibbeh, lamb Saudi kabash, Iranian kebab and the Iraqi speciality, tumman bagella, a combination of rice and fava beans topped with roast beef. If you have room for sweets, you can pick from authentic Middle Eastern favourites such as riz bi haleeb, Turkish baklava and kenafeh.
Near Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Towayya. Sat-Wed 10am-midnight, Thu-Fri 10am-1am. Contact: 03 751 4040, ziryab.ae