In the glimmering Middle Eastern city of Dubai, where luxury is good and over-the-top opulence is even better, there’s no shortage of fancy restaurants.
Billionaire Mansion Dubai
The view from a table at Billionaire Mansion Dubai, the newly opened venue owned by Italian F1 boss Flavio Briatore, is a bit like going on safari.
Long-legged women roam in packs while men peacock in name-brand clothing.
And absolutely everything — from the white-suit-black-tie staff to the tree growing in the middle of the restaurant — is meant to catch the eye.
Located downtown in the Taj Dubai, this swanky spot doesn’t really pick up until after 9 p.m. when the brief performances — like silk ribbon dancing or sultry jazz singing — start.
The menu is split into Japanese and Italian. Dishes (like a tuna tartare with white truffle sauce or salt-crusted baked sea bass) are larger and less fussy than you would expect.
As the evening moves on, diners should be prepared for sparkler-equipped dancers or bull-masked hoverboard-riding staff to wind between tables.
Just like on safari, the more exotic animals come out at night.
Credit card max-out: 125 grams of Beluga Volzhenka Caviar ($640).
Worth the splurge: The wasabi prawns with mango and golden passion fruit salsa. This lightly battered dish is salty, sweet, crunchy and, with five large prawns, just the right size ($40).
Cavalli Club Dubai
Cavilli Club Dubai: Zebra stripes and Italian food.
Chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals hang from the ceiling of this purple-lit late-night venue where a large screen projects fashion shows on the wall.
It’s not subtle — but given that it’s done in collaboration with over-the-top designer Roberto Cavalli, that’s no real surprise.
Even the elevators are lined with zebra print fabric walls and the gold women’s bathroom is dotted with private back-lit makeup mirrors.
While Cavalli Club is definitely a party destination, it still offers a solid four-course Italian dinner.
Mains, like meaty monkfish tail poached in squid ink or Mediterranean sea bass wrapped in zucchini, are visually gorgeous if a little under-seasoned.
By 11 p.m. the DJ’s music will be pumping.
Credit card max-out: 850g of Wagyu grade 9+ New York steak ($681).
Worth the splurge: A dish of red prawns carpaccio with celery, cheese and watermelon soaked with Aperol spritz ($41).
Social by Heinz Beck
Heinz Beck, the chef behind Rome’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant La Pergola, has brought his unconventional brand of Italian cuisine to Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah.
With pristine wooden floors, retro photos and glass-fronted kitchen, the decor of Social by Heinz Beck is classic luxury with a modern twist — a mantra that also extends to the menu.
Expect to find Italian staples such as tiramisu and carbonara turned completely on their heads.
The interior goes for a European high society feel.
There’s more of a typical Dubai vibe, from the terrace which offers a vista over the resort’s grounds and the sci-fi Marina skyline across the water.
Credit card max-out: The indulgent five-course tasting menu paired with wines from around the world ($226 per person).
Worth the splurge: The Heinz Beck signature, Fagottelli Carbonara. Delicately soft pasta parcels filled with hot pools of buttery sauce ($23).
Located at the end of a pier, this romantic over-water destination offers epic views of the sun setting across the Arabian Gulf.
Corner tables on the terrace enjoy uninterrupted views of the “seven-star” sparkling Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.
The food here is fancy and elaborate — and has the price tag to match.
Oysters, caviar and lobster, topped with flourishes like truffle and foie gras, dominate the Mediterranean menu.
Portions are pleasantly large.
A rich starter of Alaskan king crab topped with caviar and saffron-infused hollandaise could easily be a main, while an elegant main of Chilean sea bass with smoked sweet potato could serve two.
Credit card max-out: 50 grams of Beluga Imperial Caviar ($776), whole line-caught sea bass ($245), or a seafood tower with oysters, lobsters, prawns, crab, salmon and more ($245).
Worth the splurge: The venue’s smoky sweet potato. Served alongside a dish of Chilean sea bass, it’s rich, sweet, caramelized and incredibly decadent ($68 for complete dish).
Ask Dubai locals for a great Japanese restaurant, they’ll mention one of the holy three: Okku, Zuma or Nobu.
All are equally impressive, but Nobu, located in Dubai’s castle-shaped Atlantis hotel on the city’s man-made Palm Island, wins by location alone.
This chain restaurant (one of 33 around the world) is well-established for fantastic food.
Absent are traditional sleek and minimalist Japanese-style interiors.
Everything in this popular dining spot is decorated in mesh screens and curved wooden beams, creating the feeling of being caught in a giant fishing net with a hugely sexy twist.
Food is a rich take on Japanese fusion with Arabic touches, ranging from a spicy salmon miso taco to a creamy cheesecake with yuzu sorbet.
Credit card max-out: The Grade A9 Australian Wagyu Beef ($223) is incredible. Diners can choose from a range of styles but “anticucho” is highly recommended.
Worth the splurge: Nobu is famed for its Black Cod Miso ($60); while this will never disappoint, the lighter lobster quinoa ceviche salad ($53) is fantastic.