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Following a review of more than 500 restaurants, bars, cafés, pubs, afternoon teas, brunches and breakfasts, ITP Media Group's Time Out Dubai has announced the winners of its annual restaurant awards. The Time Out team visit anonymously and pay for their own meals, so they get the same experience as any other guest.
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Best Asian Restaurant - PLAY Restaurant & Lounge
\nThis restaurant has pushed the boundaries since opening and continues to refresh its menu with new and interesting takes on Asian food. It’s fusion in the most creative and successful way possible. There isn’t a bad dish to be had.
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Best European Restaurant - Marina Social
\nThis is a restaurant that continues to improve and innovate. With one of the world’s leading chefs, Jason Atherton, behind the scenes and a cracking team led by Tristin Farmer here in Dubai, Marina Social has serious pedigree. It’s the kind of place you can go to with your mates, on a date or with your family. The food is playful, nostalgic and executed perfectly. We’ve never had a bad experience here.
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Best French Restaurant - La Petite Maison
\nYear after year Dubai sees new restaurants come and go, but one thing never changes – the quality of food and service at La Petite Maison. It’s right up there with the best in Dubai and the list of dishes that we love goes on and on (burrata, lamb cutlets, grilled tiger prawns).
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Best Indian venue - Tresind
\nIt has been busy every single time we’ve been in, no matter what day of the week or time of evening – so Trèsind must be doing something right. Well, we reckon its doing a lot of things right. Flavours are incredible, creativity is off the chart and the fun-factor here is high. Done right, it’s an experience that will take you a few hours, but you’ll need that time to take it all in. Molecular gastronomy done with passion and flair. Brilliant.
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Best Italian restaurant - The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri
\nDIFC, it seems, has the Italian category locked down. Just over the road from Gate Village, in Burj Daman, is this stunner. It’s no exaggeration to say that the food here is some of the very best we’ve tasted in the city this year. The menu is simple, elegant and tasteful. Much like the restaurant as a whole.
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Best Japanese venue - Zuma
\nWe’ve written about Zuma many times and been lucky enough to eat in it regularly, but we can still wax lyrical about its many merits. Another restaurant that never wavers or has a dip in form. The food, cooking, service and atmosphere are all, always, brilliant.
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Best Latin American Restaurant - COYA
\nAnother restaurant that can battle it out with the best in the city. In this category it comes out on top, thanks to its sense of occasion, artistic interiors, vibe and wonderful dishes. COYA takes Peruvian food and does amazing things with it, from ceviches and tiraditos to anticuchos skewers and Josper-grilled lobster. Our Restaurant of the Year in 2016 is still firing on all cylinders.
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Best Lebanese venue - Al Nafoorah
\nA luxurious Lebanese dining establishment, Al Nafoorah is a culinary gem that outshines all of its regional peers. The menu is full of authentic flavours and dishes executed perfectly and with flair – just try the lamb chops, mixed grill and creamy hummus, and you’ll know exactly what we mean. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to Lebanese food, but this is a restaurant that does it better than anyone else in the city.
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Best Middle Eastern & North African Restaurant - Aseelah
\nOpened with the mission of putting Emirati food back on the culinary map, Aseelah takes the ingredients and recipes of the UAE’s forefathers and turns them into stylish, modern dishes. An absolute triumph from chef Uwe Micheel who spent years researching the subject before perfecting everything that would end up on the menu.
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Best North American & Caribbean venue - Weslodge Saloon
\nA Canadian bar that showed us there was more to the cuisine than poutine. Amazing views, a stonking soundtrack and high-end comfort food won us over. We love the Southern-fried chicken, lamb ribs and burgers, but is it wrong we keep going back for the onion rings?
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Best Thai Restaurant - Thiptara
\nWith an idyllic setting sitting over the waters of Burj Lake, this restaurant seems to exist in an ecosystem all of its own. You’ll be transported far from the hustle of the city (but you can still see The Dubai Fountain, if you like) and presented with the fragrant, fresh and light tastes of Thailand.
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Best Afternoon Tea venue - Al Bayt
\nCombining rich Arabian hospitality and surroundings with a quintessentially English pastime just works. And Al Bayt pulls it off better than anyone else. Everything you’re served looks so pretty it’s almost a crime to eat it, but once you take a bite you’ll be glad you did. Delicious and a real treat.
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Best Breakfast venue - Baker & Spice
\nThis restaurant is something of an old favourite of ours, having won Best Café two years in a row in 2013 and 2014. We keep returning to it, though. Not just for the great views of The Dubai Fountain and friendly staff, but for the amazing baking and what is hands-down the best shakshuka in town.
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Best Brunch venue - Zuma
\nA multiple award winner, this restaurant gets it perfect pretty much all of the time, and brunch is no different. The quality of what is on offer is staggering. From super-fresh sashimi to perfectly grilled wagyu rib and street food skewers to delicious dim sum, the buffet showcases an abundance of amazing produce and cooking. And you get a main course on top of that. Just flawless.
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Best Café venue - Bystro
\nThis café has continued to go from strength to strength since opening and is a great place for families, friends and couples at any time of the day. It’s another venue that is constantly updating what it offers to stay ahead of the curve, though the brilliance of the cakes will always remain.
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Best Pub Food - The Eloquent Elephant
\nThis pub has a style and charm all of its own, which is down to the friendly staff as much as the interesting décor. The chef keeps tweaking the menu, adding new and interesting dishes and using quality ingredients. It’s a cosy place to dine and it does a mean curry.
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Most Romantic venue - Ossiano
\nThe food served at this seafood restaurant is amazing. Add in that it’s an atmospheric underwater (kind of) pad, and the romance will blossom. With live music setting the scene, everyone dressed to the nines and the rippling shadows of the water, this is the ultimate venue for special occasions.
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Best Seafood Restaurant - Catch
\nOne of the coolest, funkiest spots in town. For a fresh and creative take on seafood, this is the clear winner. There’s an excellent bar area, regular live music and a brilliant new brunch. But the regular menu (especially the sushi rolls and whole-roasted sea bass), is superb. A worthy winner.
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Best Steakhouse - J&G Steakhouse
\nIt’s the first time this restaurant has taken part in the awards and is straight in at the top of its category. The service here is possibly the best we’ve experienced this year, and when it comes to the meat, well, it’s top-class; cooked perfectly and with seriously good sides. No steak has quite lived up to those we ate here this year.
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Best Newcomer – Casual Dining - 3 Fils
\nIndependent and in a stunning setting, fresh produce arrives every day. The small, exciting menu is superb, but there are also daily off-menu additions that beg to be ordered. You can see the chef cooking for you – the place is so small it’s hard to miss him. The intimacy also adds to the warm atmosphere, it really feels like you’re part of the family here.
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Best Newcomer – Fine Dining - RUYA Restaurant
\nThis venue won us over almost instantly. Its picture-perfect setting offers great views and is a relaxing spot. Entertainment is also on point and service is excellent. Of course, the food is great, too, and chef Colin Clague has been improving and adding to the menu since it opened. From a huge slab of chilli-rubbed rib-eye steak to a simple eggy pide, the food is delicious.
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Best Chinese venue - Royal China
\nThe smart DIFC spot has moody décor, is stylish and atmospheric, and has an impressive terrace for outdoor dining. The ceremony surrounding Chinese food is preserved here, and the cuisine is allowed to shine with traditional dishes as well as some innovative touches. It’s also good value considering the quality.
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Best budget venue - Cafe Isan
\nA warm welcome is always guaranteed at this Thai spot specialising in cuisine from the North East of the country. The menu is filled with familiar and some not-so-familiar sights, and it all comes in at extremely good value.
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Restaurant of the Year - PLAY Restaurant & Lounge
\nThis restaurant was an instant hit upon opening in 2015. We loved the food so much that it picked up the Best Newcomer – Fine Dining award at last year’s ceremony. Since then, it has continued to be a roaring success. Slick, stylish and lively, this is a restaurant where it feels like the chef is having as much fun – fusing and pairing incredible, often surprising flavours – as the swathes of diners lingering long into the night. Not only is this the city’s Restaurant of the Year, it’s also the most aptly named.