Anthony Bourdain in Dubai: 5 Spots Where Tony Ate

Dubai looms large in the imagination of every traveler: the small Emirate has become known for doing everything bigger and wilder – even when nature says otherwise. It certainly doesn’t seem like a place that Anthony Bourdain would have traveled… but always one to challenge our expectations, Tony did visit Dubai.

Anthony Bourdain visited Dubai to film season 6 (episode 19) of No Reservations; it was his only visit to Dubai and indeed to the whole of the U.A.E. As usual though, he packed a lot into his trip, and showed us at home a range of experiences and cultures that make Dubai into the global metropolis it is.

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Dubai or find yourself hungry while already there, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find a guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Dubai, as well as what he ate. Let it guide you to sample the different cuisines and flavors that this city brings together.

This post was originally written in May 2023 and was updated most recently in May 2024.

Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in Dubai

Before jumping into the list, I thought it would be helpful to have a map to orient you to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Dubai. 

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai Map
Click to interact with the map.

Ready to learn about each one and what Tony ate there? Read on!

Ravi Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai - Mutton Achar

Anthony Bourdain’s first stop on this food tour of one of the seven Arab Emirates, Ravi is a working-class restaurant giving migrant workers from South Asia a taste of home. Here, familiar Punjabi and Pakistani dishes are served, providing an array of delicately aromatic curries and freshly baked naan bread.

Following a refreshing starter of lightly salted curd and water, Tony is served a mutton achar, stewed sheep’s meat in a curry sauce, and served with chillis and lentils.

Avalanche Café @ Ski Dubai

A shining example of just what extravagance can be achieved with enough resources, Ski Dubai is a 20-story high indoor ski slope in downtown Dubai. An avid skier, Bourdain enjoys exploring the pistes for a while, before enjoying a suitably alpine hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and marshmallows, at the indoor Avalanche Café that is part of the complex.

Bu Qtair Cafeteria

Tony’s next stop in Dubai is Bu Qtair. Located next to the harbor, it unsurprisingly specializes in seafood, cooked to spicy perfection. Today’s offering is grouper and prawns, slathered in a fiery rub and grilled, then served with freshly ground coconut curry to help temper the heat, and paratha bread on the side, a type of flaky South Asian flatbread.

Verre at the Hotel Hilton Dubai (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai - Duck Confit

Many famous chefs were tempted by the big money to open establishments in Dubai, but Gordon Ramsey was the first to test the waters with the now-closed Verre, serving modern European cuisine in the Dubai Hilton.

The relatively empty dining hall belays the quality of European classics on offer here, as Bourdain is served quail and mushroom pithivier (a small enclosed pie made by baking two disks of puff pastry), duck Confit, and celeriac remoulade (an old favorite of Tony’s), and blanquette of veal cheek with pomme purée and shallot cream sauce.

Bait Al Mandi

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai - Lamb Mandi

Not one to shy away from the traditional cuisine of the Arabian peninsula, Anthony’s next stop is Bait Al Mandi, literally “the house of Mandi.” Mandi is a popular dish across the region, and the one on offer here is a fine example.

Preparation involves starting with a bed of saffron rice, adding meat (in this case, lamb), seasoning with crushed cardamom seeds, cinnamon, bay leaves, garlic, cumin, pepper, and ginger, and finally steaming until very tender. A variation on the more commonly known Indian biriyani dish, mandi originates from Yemen and was originally cooked in an underground pit.

Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Dubai

In addition to the main restaurant experiences Bourdain enjoyed in Dubai, he also had a few meals that weren’t at restaurants:

The Empty Quarter is almost a misnomer, as it is used to describe the Rub’ al Khali, an area of desert in the southern third of the peninsula. Following on from some off-road desert driving, and a brief introduction to camel racing (no jockeys involved), Bourdain dines with local Bedouins on the dunes. With hospitality to travelers seen as paramount in the traditions of this part of the world, a breakfast spread of Emirati specialties is laid out.

This includes harees (pureed lamb onion & wholegrain meal mashed together), asida (mix of wholegrain, dates + butter cooked down into a near porridge), and a main course of the slow-cooked goodness of lamb tharid (lamb, chickpeas, onion + coriander, cooked down slowly until tender); a fitting meal to enjoy under the canvas of a desert tent.

Anthony Bourdain in Dubai - Lamb Ouzi

Returning to the city, and definitely saving the best for last, Bourdain is treated to his self-proclaimed “best meal of the trip” as a guest of honor at a local family home. The house filled with aromas of saffron, cumin, and coriander, Tony is welcomed to an Emirati Friday night, where friends and family alike gather to enjoy a traditional feast.

Following a starter of crispy pancakes served with oil and mehyawa (a fish sauce, indigenous to the region) and khameer bread, Anthony experiences Emirati variations on more traditional South Asian dishes including Samosas (small triangles of meat or vegetables, deep fried), battered onions (a localized version of onion bhaji), fried locally caught zubaidi fish, otherwise known as pomfret, and kachumber, a salad of tomatoes, onion, and lots of lemon.

The spectacular main course then arrives: ouzi lamb, slow-cooked legs of meat seasoned with saffron and cardamom, served on a bed of rice, garnished with yet more saffron, berries, and pistachios. As the sun sets across this city built on dreams, Anthony Bourdain acknowledges firsthand one of the tenements of Arab culture – “no guest is allowed to leave until bursting at the seams”.

Dubai Food Tours to Try

In addition to visiting the restaurants above, you might want to hire a local guide and book a food tour to dive deeper into the culinary side of Dubai. Here are a few tours you might want to consider:

Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Dubai? Let me know in the comments!

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Matt Young is a street food fanatic and world traveler, currently splitting his time between Europe and South East Asia.

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