Top Tables

Words by Chris Anderson

8 min read

The Dubai restaurant scene is attracting major culinary talent from all over the world – meet the chefs behind the city’s best dishes

CHRIS JAECKLE, ALL’ONDA

Chris Jaeckle

“I was born on Long Island, New York, and I’ve worked in restaurants since high school. I attended Westbury Vocational School for the Culinary Arts, and went on to study at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, receiving a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts.

“I’ve worked for some of America’s greatest restaurants and chefs, including Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park and Masaharu Morimoto. We opened All’Onda in Dubai in November, and I love the restaurant scene here. It’s a multicultural destination, with a range of cuisines and styles.

“At All’Onda, the blend of Italian and Japanese may seem like a stretch at first, but it’s absolutely delicious and fun when brought together. The tagliata is very popular – our play on the Italian-American classic, veal parmigiana.

“I’d also recommend our lamb osso buco – it features the eastern spices that were originally imported into Europe through Venice, with classic northern Italian risotto. It’s soul-warming.”

All’Ondal; Emirates Palace Kempinski Dubai; +971 4 248 8870

COLIN CLAGUE, RÜYA

Colin Clague

“I originally went to catering college on the Isle of Man in the UK, and after a spot of travelling ended up in Dubai for the opening of the Burj Al Arab in 1999. I came back to Dubai in 2007 to open Rüya, and apart from a year in Singapore, I’ve been here ever since. “The restaurant scene in Dubai is very diverse. The quality of ingredients has improved dramatically over the years, and the chefs are hard-working and dedicated. You have to be at the top of your game to succeed.

“Rüya is a great looking restaurant, especially when the terrace is open, overlooking the marina. With the food, there is something for everybody – our dessert menu is over 60 dishes long! The two- cheese pide is a signature dish, but my personal favourites are the levrek – a seabass sashimi with mustard, apple and yoghurt dressing – and the keskek, a barley risotto from the Black Sea.”

Rüya, Grosvenor House Dubai; +971 4 399 9123

ROSS SHONHAN, NETSU

Ross Shonhan

“Netsu is a new restaurant concept for Dubai that spotlights Warayaki – the Japanese technique of straw fire cooking. How does somebody born and raised on a family-run cattle farm in Queensland, Australia, become an expert in that? Well, I worked in London at Asia de Cuba and later The Dorchester hotel, then I joined the Nobu Group, as head chef at Nobu Dallas, trained by Nobu Matsuhisa himself.

“Back in London, I became the head chef at Zuma, and I eventually opened my own Japanese restaurants there – Bone Daddies and Flesh & Buns, which have multiple outlets,

and Shack-Fuyu. Then came an opportunity in Dubai with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
“Netsu is a contemporary Japanese steakhouse, and the largest specialising in Warayaki outside of Japan. We offer sushi and sashimi, and traditional Warayaki dishes like bonito tataki and chilli daikon ponzu, with Wagyu beef and other steaks cooked over the straw – the soaring flames add a theatrical element to the dining experience. We expect our Korean fried chicken to be popular too.”

Netsu; Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai; +971 4 777 2232

CARLOS NUNES, BARBARY

Carlos Nunes

“I’ve spent most of my career in Lisbon, Portugal, working at a number of restaurants, including a Michelin-starred Spanish tapas restaurant. I also worked in the south of the country at Bon Bon restaurant, which again has a Michelin star, as chef de partie. I came to Dubai in October 2017 to work as a sous chef at Praia, the beach restaurant at Five Palm Jumeirah, and I’ve been here ever since. “It’s a very competitive market in Dubai, and with Barbary we went for a concept that is honest and authentic. We have something for everyone – you can come here for a fun night with DJs and dancing, or have a proper meal. “Our popular dishes include the burrata and fresh zaatar, the classic dog and crispy pork belly. Also our slow-cooked beef short rib – smoked for two hours, then grilled and slow- cooked for 12 hours! Our quinoa salad with smoked butternut squash purée is a personal favourite, as it brings together unexpected flavours.”

Barbary Deli and Cocktail Club; Tryp by Wyndham Hotel; +971 4 247 6688

IZU ANI, CARINE

Izu Ani

“I was born in Nigeria and raised in London, and I first started cooking at school. I worked in hotels for a while, and then I spent six years in France, learning about the food there. After that I lived in Spain, and then about nine years ago I came to Dubai to launch La Petite Maison. Now I have my own restaurants. “Dubai is a challenging environment, but it’s full of opportunity too. The food scene will be equal to London or New York one day – it’s constantly evolving.

“What makes Carine stand out is the experience. Customers tell me they feel at home here, and it’s very family-orientated, particularly at weekends. It has a comfortable, positive ambience. From the service to the food, nothing is complicated. “The style is simple and homely. Our most popular dishes include the truffle tart, onion tart, the foie gras and green bean salad, the grilled prawns, watermelon and feta, and the sea bass in tomato sauce. The tarte tatin is a great dish – a classic with a sense of tradition behind it.”

Carine; Emirates Golf Club +971 4 417 9885

GREGOIRE BERGER, OSSIANO

Gregoire Berger

“I was born in Brittany, France, and I started my career there, training in three different Michelin-starred restaurants. After that, I worked in the US, Spain and Morocco, and then in Paris as a sous chef at La Grande Cascade. At the age of 27, I came to Dubai to be the chef de cuisine at Ossiano. “Dubai is amazing for food, with chefs from all over the world setting a level that is extremely high. Many chefs acquire international fame, having started in Dubai, but – just as easily – a restaurant can crash and burn very quickly. I love working here, and I aspire to make history with

Ossiano – we have that potential, with the décor and the service, and the food is completely unique.
“Our most popular dish is the caramelised black cod, which is served with homemade linguine, almond foam and courgette. I’m also very fond of the seared Hokkaido scallops, which are served with confit potatoes, maitake mushrooms and praliné de cèpes – a dish that is slightly sweet, but balanced with an emulsion of Pecorino Romano cheese and black truffle. There is poetry and harmony to it.”

Ossiano; Atlantis, The Palm; +971 4 426 2626

NICK ALVIS AND SCOTT PRICE, FOLLY BY NICK & SCOTT

Nick Alvis & Scott Price

“Nick and I first met in 2004, working at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridge’s restaurant in London. We always got on well, and talked about opening our own restaurant together from a very early stage. I came to Dubai in 2010 to help Gordon relaunch Verre at the Hilton Dubai Creek, and when Nick moved her, we opened Verre’s replacement, Table 9. “Dubai has really evolved in terms of its food scene. It’s really competitive now, and it challenges everyone to bring something new to the table. There’s a real vibrancy about it, and it’s very exciting to be part of that. “With Folly, we offer simple yet innovative dishes with no

more than three or four ingredients to each plate, served in small portion sizes, which allows guests to create their own tasting menu – it’s a strong concept. We also have great views from the terrace of the waterways and the Burj Al Arab.

“One of our top dishes is the roasted saddle of lamb with toasted pine nut salsa, emulsion and natural lamb jus – which has simple, bold flavours. But the whole menu is based on our experiences, our time in the UAE, and the diversity of the teams that have worked with us.”

Folly by Nick & Scott; Madinat Jumeirah; +971 4 430 8535

TIMOTHY NEWTON, OPA DUBAI

Timothy Newton

“I have been in Dubai for eight years now. I trained in Paris in 2000, then I worked in London, Australia and California before eventually coming here. I am now the executive chef of the Demind Group, taking care of restaurants such as our newcomer Opa and Bistrot Bagatelle.

“The restaurant scene in Dubai is definitely improving, but there are challenges, so you definitely tend to see more recognised brands rather than independent places.

“We’re trying something different at Opa. It’s a homegrown concept and a really unique dining experience, but we’ve tried to be fair with our pricing, while keeping the quality of the food and the service very high. Our most popular dishes are the lobster orzo, tuna tartare and baklava sundae. All of our dishes are super-fresh and vibrant, with a traditional Greek touch.

“A lot of our dishes showcase our creativity. We have a new pastry dish called Athenian pie, which is a mix of Greek flavours, but it stands up internationally.”

Opa Dubai; Fairmont Dubai; +971 4 357 0557

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