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Gourmet food in UAE is taking on Paris, New York and London


Chefs and owners pose for a photo on stage during the launch of the Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 selection, first edition in the United Arab Emirates, on June 21, 2022.

Giuseppe Cacace | afp | beautiful pictures

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — While the economic outlook for much of the world is projected to be tough in 2023, the Gulf is in a buoyant mood.

This is partly due to the lucrative football craze in Qatar, but also because the region’s tourism sector has never been so good.

This is especially true for the United Arab Emirates, with its economy growing more than 6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

As for the United Arab Emirates’ hospitality sector, there’s a lot to talk about – literally, if the growing number of luxury new fine-dining restaurants is anything to go by. may happen. Locally licensed eateries must be part of the hotel — with some exceptions in the DIFC financial district — so this is an important business relationship.

And more than ever in this part of the world, the competition to be the most lavish and laudable is already high — as exemplified by the competitive spirit displayed at the opening of the Michelin awards. Guide Dubai of the United Arab Emirates a few months ago.

Abu Dhabi has three one-star restaurants — Antonio Guida’s Talea, for “Cucina di Famiglia” or home-style Italian cuisine; Hakkasan, a restaurant that celebrates traditional Cantonese flavors; and trendy Japanese restaurant 99 Sushi Bar — notable for creations like whole king crab legs au gratin, with wasabi, tobiko and yuzu mayonnaise.

Down the road in Dubai – Abu Dhabi’s buzzing neighbor and unofficial rival – are 11 impressive Michelin-starred restaurants, including the upscale Italian restaurant Armani Ristorante at the foot of the landmark. the city’s most famous skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.

Chef Giovanni Papi confirmed to CNBC that this year’s awards from the likes of Michelin have attracted foodies, locals and tourists alike. “Since our latest recognitions and awards, we have seen an increase in gourmet guests,” he said.

The kitchen at Armani Ristorante is currently showcasing an ambitious truffle-themed degustation menu with prices starting at 949 dirhams ($258) a head — or 1,559 dirhams with wine pairings. It includes intricate dishes like the Bottoni Ripieni, which includes button-shaped ravioli filled with braised lamb and artichokes, Castelmagno cheese fondue and lamb ragout.

Although there are officially no three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UAE yet, November saw three-Michelin-star chef Pierre Gagnaire visit his Pierre’s TT restaurant at InterContinental Dubai. The French conductor is a frequent visitor to Dubai and one of the more serious global chefs, setting up the culinary show in the emirate.

In just a few nights, wealthy guests sampled creations like pan-seared squid with black garlic, Paris mushrooms and rockets.

Gagnaire commented at the event: “The culinary industry here is growing rapidly… this visit left me amazed to see the remarkable achievements that the country has made in developing the culinary profession in such a way. sophisticated and there could be no more inspiring venue than Dubai for a diner.”

Michelin leaders agree, saying the UAE is now on par with major global gourmet destinations like Paris, New York, Singapore and London.

Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, told CNBC: “Selection criteria for all Michelin Guide restaurants are the same according to our global standard review process, in which inspectors Anonymous staff reviews all the dishes and only evaluates the quality of the dishes.

“We’d say the Michelin Guide’s restaurants in the UAE are on par with the big cities.”

Local food?

For some local foodies, however, there is a truth to consommé – the fact that although this year’s Michelin list includes dishes from across Europe and Asia, none of its restaurants. The UAE specializes in star-studded Middle Eastern cuisine.

Speaking to CNBC, Samantha Wood, founder of popular restaurant review website FooDiva.net commented: “The UAE’s heavy reliance on imported produce, despite a growing selection of ingredients. Locality is a disadvantage – this leads to the high prices associated with restaurants here. What’s more disappointing, however, is that some of our local bounty maximizers are not being recognized. found in the Michelin guide.”

Wood added: “Of the 11 one- and two-star restaurants in the Dubai guidebook, only two are independent, chef-led restaurants — although there’s a lot of talent here. The restaurants themselves. This should be Michelin recognized at the highest level, rather than focusing on imported celebrity chef concepts available anywhere in the world.”

The Most Valuable Prize

Michelin Bib Gourmand awardees have been recognized for their Middle Eastern cooking – a category for restaurants that offer a three-course gourmet experience that costs an average of 250 dirhams. Winners include family-style Levantine restaurants Bait Maryam and Al Khayma, with rustic Emirati cooking.

Interestingly, restaurants with a Bib Gourmand distinction have created a successful niche for themselves. Far from being a Michelin sideline, they are being enjoyed as Instagrammable spaces for a special dining experience — perhaps without the austerity of a Michelin star card.

A prime example is Fi’lia on the 70th floor of the splendid new SLS Dubai hotel. This trendy eatery offers “fresh ingredients from wood-fired and ovens, handmade breads and pastas” with a distinctly upscale vibe. Think gnocci and caviar with rosemary butter, and 1kg of salted bran.

The management at Fi’lia is very pleased with their culinary ranking.

“Our goal was never towards a Michelin star, and we are pretty realistic about that,” Claudio Cardoso, culinary director of the SLS Dubai hotel, told CNBC.

“On the other hand, having Bib Gourmand really reflects Fi’lia’s always-on goal, affordable food with good quality ingredients. It’s all about delicious food that everyone can afford. felt… the same way our mothers used to.”

And with this culinary boost to the UAE’s tourism sector, the leaders announced plans to boost the tourism industry and increase the sector’s contribution to the national GDP from the current 177 billion UAE dirhams to a whopping 450 billion dirhams by 2031.

According to Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the strategy plans to attract investments worth 100 billion dirhams and bring 40 million guests to the region.

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