Dubai’s top young chef talks about some of his favorite places to eat in the emirate.
The culinary scene in Dubai is heating up; in 2022 alone, the Michelin Guide, Gault & Millau, and MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants all made their local debuts. But it wasn’t only international celebrity chefs being lauded. Solemann Haddad, the 26-year-old behind one of the hottest tables in town, Moonrise, took home this year’s Michelin Young Chef Award.
Opened last September, Haddad’s omakase-style restaurant is drawing the city’s epicurean crowd with dishes built on memories of the food he ate growing up in the United Arab Emirates, his Syrian-French heritage, and techniques he learned at culinary school in Japan. Moonrise’s current menu lets the team show their depth of talent through a diversity of dishes and culinary techniques. There’s cured and charred fish, hot and cold sauces, Emirati honey and Aleppo chili pepper, and a bread course inspired by the flavors of garlic naan but elevated with Brittany butter, garlic confit, brown miso, and a dusting of freeze-dried pickled sakura petals.
Haddad explains the inspiration for each course to his appreciative diners. As he says, “everything tastes better when you know the story behind the dish.”
So where does he eat when he’s not in the kitchen? Here’s what he tells us:
Pak Darbar, Al Quoz
“Taste-wise, the Al Quoz branch of this Pakistani chain is the best. It’s really popular with laborers and when I go at night, it’s filled with taxi drivers switching shifts. Everything is really good, but don’t miss the chapli kebab. It’s butter-based and they usually add bone marrow so it’s very juicy. You can’t go there and not order it.” pakdarbargroup.com
“Syrian chef Mohammad Orfali serves high-quality food inspired by Middle Eastern ingredients, which is something you don’t find too much in Dubai. You can’t go wrong with the corn bomb, the shish barak à la gyoza, and the Aleppo pistachio cake. Always sit indoors to feel the restaurant’s vibe.” orfalibros.com
“What I like most about Italian food is parmesan — it’s like soy sauce, you can put it on anything and it tastes good — and Marea’s garganelli is Dubai’s best parmesan pasta.” marearestaurant.com
“You’re guaranteed world-class flavors, execution, and service here. On the tasting menu, look out for the tartlet made from a Punjabi-style stew — it reminds me of hotel buffets I went to with my parents as a kid. Also, the pulled duck seasoned with spiced jus, rolled in a nasturtium leaf like a dolma, is delicious.” tresindstudio.com
“Chef Akmal Anuar’s salmon carpaccio with caviar cream is the best raw fish I’ve ever had. Start with that, then get the burger, the beef skewers, and an assortment of everything else. And sit as close to the kitchen as you can.” fb.com/11woodfire
This article originally appeared in the September/November 2022 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Moonrise Kingdom”).