The 13 most authentic restaurants in Dubai where expats eat

By Joan Torres 12 Comments Last updated on April 9, 2024

By far, the best thing about Dubai is that it’s the most international city anywhere and home to the biggest expat community in the world.

You might think perhaps that London and New York City could be more international than Dubai, but the difference is that in this Middle Eastern metropolis everything is genuine.

What do I mean by this? London may be a huge metropolis with nationalities from all over the world, but actually, most of these people were already born in London, which means that somehow they have a UK culture.

In Dubai, on the contrary, foreigners are just expats who go there as mere guests to work for a couple of years. They keep their particular English accent, their habits and values. They eat in their own way and drive as they do back home.

It’s not surprising that food in Dubai is about variety with restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world. But the best thing is that many of these restaurants serve 100% authentic food, where not only the chef is a native, but all the customers as well. I’ve arranged a list of what I consider to be the most authentic restaurants located in Dubai.

Authentic restaurants in Dubai

Indonesian: Betawi

Always crowded with Indonesians, Betawi is claimed to have the most authentic Indonesian food in town. Besides the classic Indonesian curry dishes such as Nasi Padang and Nasi Goreng, you don’t want to miss Siomay, which are fish dumplings with cabbage in peanut sauce. They also serve delicious hearty salads that are almost a main dish.

My favorite is Gado-Gado, consisting of steamed vegetables in peanut sauce as well. Be aware of what you order because a lot of dishes are really spicy. There are three Betawi restaurants in Dubai, but I like the one in Al Karama, as it’s the most frequented by Indonesians.

Prices: Starters (27AED), Main Courses (33AED)
Where: Al Karama, Jumeirah Lake Towers, World Trade Center (Express)

Siomay. fish dumplings with cabbage covered in peanut sauce
Siomay. fish dumplings with cabbage covered in peanut sauce

Vietnamese: Hanoi Naturally

This restaurant is located in an expat area and though you are likely to meet loads of Europeans, the few Vietnamese that live in Dubai go to Hanoi Naturally claiming that some of the dishes are prepared just like back home.

The menu is extensive and they have a large variety of Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), being  Pho Ga, made with rice noodles and chicken broth, themost traditional and authentic.

I’m not joking, but while I was eating, I felt transported back to the streets of Hanoi. As a main dish, you must order Chá Cá Lá Vong (stir-fried fish with dill and peanuts) or Gà Cà-Ri (a traditional chicken coconut curry).

Please note that though some of the dishes in the menu may seem Vietnamese, they have an added Western style. Besides those, I’ve mentioned ask the waitress for the most traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Prices: Pho(32 to 40AED), Main Courses (35 to 54AED)
Where: Jumeirah Lake Towers

Pho Ga, rice noodles and chicken broth
Pho Ga, rice noodles and chicken broth

North Korean: Pyongyang Okryu Gwan

Yes, you heard it correctly. There is a North Korean restaurant in Dubai where authentic North Korean food is served. All employees are North Korean nationals and they even perform a traditional dance while you are eating.

There is so much to say about this restaurant that I’ve written a full review. You can check it out here.

Prices: Starters(40AED), Main Courses (70AED)
Where: Deira City Center

The North Korean restaurant in Dubai
The North Korean restaurant
Rice cake at a Korean restaurant where Koreans go
Rice cake at a Korean restaurant where Koreans go

Ethiopian: Zagol Betekitfo

A small and cozy restaurant located in the heart of Al Karama, Zagol Betekifto is the preferred choice for Ethiopians, as they can find authentic Ethiopian food at a very low price. 

If you go you must order Beyayenet, the most popular dish in Ethiopia, which is made-up of different sauces, curries and lentils on top of Injera, a sour flatbread with a unique and slightly spongy texture.

Prices: Beyayenet (40 AED), other Main Courses (30 to 40AED)
Location: Al Karama, near Pyramids building

Beyayenet, the most popular Ethiopian dish
Beyayenet, the most popular Ethiopian dish

Chinese: Beef King

Its name may not sound real authentic Chinese but it truly is! According to Chinese people, this place is famous for serving the best hot pot in town and they love it! In case you don’t know it, hot pot is basically a pot where you boil water and place the ingredients into it and cook them at the table.

Besides hot pot, you should also taste the jellyfish salad, an authentic delicacy for Chinese people. If you come with a group try booking one of the private rooms. Do you know what’s the best part? In a private room you can bring your own alcohol, but don’t tell anyone 😉

Prices: 50AED aprox for hot pot (depending on the ingredients you choose)
Where: Tecom, next to Carrefour

Jelly fish salad, a popular Chinese
Jellyfish salad

Uzbek: UZB Avenue

During the weekends, Uzbek expats come to UZB Avenue for lunch. The restaurant is decorated in a very traditional style, like in actual Uzbekistan.

All waiters are Uzbeks and they always recommend you to try the beef tongue, which is typically fried and served with a mild garlic cream sauce.

It’s so tender that it literally melts in your mouth. Other must-try traditional dishes are Kurza-Shurva, lamb soup cooked in a clay pot with vegetables and spices, and Plov, a rice dish mixed with meat, raisins, carrots and chickpeas.

Prices: Soups (35AED), Main Course (40AED)
Where: Al Barsha 1

Uzbek Beef tongue, fried in a mild garlic cream sauce
Beef tongue, fried and served in a mild garlic cream sauce

Southern Indian (Kerala): Calicut Paragon

For South Indians, this is like the temple for Keralan food. No restaurant can prepare it better and Indians tend to say that the food in Calicut Paragon is better than Kerala itself. Why? Because you get the same food but it’s much more hygienic.

The restaurant is always packed with Indians and on weekends it may be even hard to find a table. The menu is endless but Indians say that fish is the main specialty. My suggestion? You must order the fish cooked inside banana leaves and covered with 1001 spices.

Don’t forget to order appam, which is a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk and used as bread.

Prices: Starters (20 to 30AED), Main courses (30 to 50 AED)
Where: Al Karama, Al Nahda

Fish cooked inside banana leaves and covered with 1001 spices
Fish cooked inside banana leaves and covered with 1001 spices

Northern Indian: Gazebo

India is probably the most diverse country in the world, and not only culturally and ethnically, but also its food is extremely varied across the regions. North Indian food has nothing to do with Kerala cuisine and north Indians say that Gazebo serves the best biryani (a complex dish consisting of rice and meat) and chicken tandoori (from the Punjab) in town.

Dubai has around six Gazebo’s. Go to the one at Bur Dubai to experience the most authentic Indian vibe.

Prices: Tandoori (35AED), Biryani (40AED)
Where: Dubai Internet City, Mankhool, Mirdif, DIFC, Deira City Center Area, Bur Dubai

Chicken tandoori from Gazebo, the best one in Dubai
Chicken tandoori from Gazebo, the best one in Dubai

Pakistani (North Pakistan): Wakha

Even though the restaurant serves Shenwari food (the Shenwari are an ethnic tribe in northern Pakistan and east Afghanistan), Pakistanis from all over the country love going to Wakha to enjoy their delicious meat.

The chef always recommends trying Shinwari Lab Karahi, tender lamb slowly cooked with tomatoes, vegetables and other spices, as well as the lamp chops. Honestly, it’s the best meat I have ever tried in Dubai.

Prices: depends on the quantity of meat, but usually it’s around 60 AED per person
Where: Al Barsha, next to Mall of the Emirates

Shinwari Lab Karahi, a Pakistani dish con sisting of tender lamb slow cooked with tomatoes
Shinwari Lab Karahi, tender lamb slow cooked with tomatoes

Lebanese: Mezza House

There are plenty of Lebanese restaurants in Dubai, but Mezza House is the best choice for many Arabs. It may be a bit pricier than the other restaurants on this post, but it’s definitely worth it.

If you sit at the terrace you get to see fantastic views of the Burj Khalifa and it’s always packed with Arabs, including Emiratis, smoking shisha. You should only order Mezza (appetizers) as this is their main specialty.

All dishes are excellent, but my favorites are hummus Beirut (regular hummus with some additional spices), shankleesh (aged cheese tossed with chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions and pine nuts), kibbeh nayeh (an Arab steak tartare) and Soujuk in pomegranate sauce (sausages cooked in a fruity juice).

Prices: Mezza (25 to 38AED)
Where: Downtown Boulevard

Filipino: Dampa

My Filipino friends say that this is the best Filipino restaurant for seafood and that’s what they serve exclusively.

You should eat in the Filipino style and order the Sea Feast, which consists of all types of seafood (mussels, clams, prawns and crab) mixed with white steamed rice and a special sauce.

There are neither plates nor cutlery. They serve it directly at the table on a plastic tablecloth and you eat with your hands. They give you disposable plastic gloves. You can order a large variety of sauces. The traditional Filipino one is with lemon, but Filipinos say that the Cajun sauce is more delicious.

Prices: Sea Fest (140AED 3 person)
Where: Deira City Center Area

Dampa in Dubai is the favorite restaurants for Filipinos
Dampa fest, rice, and cheap seafood 🙂

Arab (Gulf): Mahareb

I will dare say that this is my favorite one. Why? First of all, because they serve traditional food from the region. Typically, they serve Yemeni food, which is pretty much the same as the traditional Emirati food. And second of all, because you eat directly on the floor. I love it so much.

The place is always packed with Arabs from the Gulf, including Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE. You need to try Mandi Meat, one of the most famous dishes in Yemen from the Hadramut region.

Prices: Main courses (25 to 60AED)
Where: Al Safa

The food in Mahareb, a Yemeni restaurant in Dubai
The Arab food in Mahareb

Thai: Smiling BKK Original

To be very honest, this used to be a Thai restaurant where Thai workers used to eat, since they served traditional Thai food at a very low price.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was so good, became so famous and won so many prizes that prices were increased drastically.

Thai workers can’t afford going there anymore and you’ll end up paying 100AED, but they still serve the same food and all employees are Thai. There are two Smiling BKK located in the same area, but the authentic one is called ”Original”. Don’t get confused.

Prices: Starters (35-40AED), Mains (50-90AED)
Where: Al Safa 

Thai Glass noodles in smiling BKK
Thai Glass noodles

More information for your trip to Dubai

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

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Authentic restaurants in Dubai


Thanks mate! I’m heading to Dubai for the first time in a few days and heard they had good Indian food which I have been dreaming of for a while after 3 months in Central Asia. Will check Gazebo out. Nice one!

Hi Duncan! Yes, you should definitely try Gazebo! And actually it’s one of the most inexpensive ones of the list. When are you going exactly? Hope you enjoy there and let me know if you need anything. I lived there for almost 3 years, so I know quite a lot of stuff! You’ll enjoy the weather now. I am about to finish the budget city guide, but still need some days. Maybe it’s ready before you arrive

I would definitely add Aroos Damascus for Syrian food in Al Muraqqabat, Deira.
Or Saroujah in Dubai Marina.
For egyptian typical Al Amoor in Hor El Anz East or in Barsha.

Hey Basem! Thanks for the reply! do you have any pictures of it? and what are the highlight dishes? I would definitely add them, but I’m not in Dubai anymore 🙁

I was recommended this blog by way of my cousin. I am not positive whetjer or
not this post is written by way of him as nobody lse recognize sych precise approximately my difficulty.

You are wonderful! Thank you!

Great Blog. Thanks for sharing the great information and I would like to mention Espana Restaurant & Bar in the Irish village. They serve Mediterranean cuisine, blended with the flavors of different continents.

I’m looking specifically for UNLICENSED restaurants – non-hotel restaurants or unlicensed hotel restaurants – non-touristy in Dubai and within say a half-hour/45 minute drive out of the city. Unique places. “Local” places. “Neat” places with either romantic or just plain funky ambiance and great food. Most of the lists focus on the hotel restaurants with a liquor license. Chef-owned restaurants. Family owned or small investment group owned restaurants. Places where local foodies and “in the know” frequent “tourist/business” visitors know and go and recommend by word of mouth. There’s a need for such a list! Thank you!

We certainly found Indonesian Betawi restaurant so amazing As we spent here last summer we got very good experience as regard their food cooking and very tasty dishes and.
Very cooperative Faculties we got really impressed to visit apart from that it was heart touching environment to be relaxed.
I would definitely recommend to all visit Indonesian Betawi restaurant near JLT to make your journey happy and joyful.

These are all fantastic suggestions. We are going in
December and trying to figure out best area to stay which would be close to most of the restaurants you have suggested. Any ideas would be great.

This is very informative as a food vlogger. Looking forward to connect with you on your other social media platform. Keep up for publishing more

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