For decades, gastronomy has been key in the Middle East — you see the hospitable shop skewering kebab varieties or slicing shawarma on pita bread, sumac, and roasted garlic puncturing the air, streaming from the vertical rotisserie to the sidewalks.
While restaurants are obtaining Michelin stars, they are also sticking true to their roots. For some of the regional restaurants, heritage, and culture play a huge role; they keep in mind the flavors cherished for decades while embracing all the diversity that a city like Dubai, Doha, or Beirut offers, drawing influence from seasonality, local food cultures, and more.
This makes for a 360 experience, whereby diners can learn about the rich history of the Middle East’s culture through the art of food.
Here are some of those restaurants worth checking out:
Bait Maryam, Dubai
Source: Bait Maryam
This restaurant, founded by Salma Daqqaq and named after her mother, embraces home-style Levantine cooking. It scored big at Dubai’s inaugural Michelin Guide, taking home both a Bib Gourmand and The Welcome and Service Award. At Bait Maryam, you can enjoy sitting in the tranquil dining room or on the glass-enclosed lakeside terrace. Don’t forget to try fatet muskhan.
Situated in the Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, Arabian Tea House doesn’t just boast delectable Emirati-Gulf dishes but also takes you on a journey into Dubai’s past. Their breakfast with some family and friends will not disappoint you. Neither will their machboos options for lunch.
Exploring modern and vibrant themes for their food, Carnival by Tresind blends traditional with contemporary. In the bustling Dubai International Financial Center, this postmodern Indian restaurant has lively music and impressive food theatrics you don’t want to miss.
Born from Greek roots, Miya has a Mediterranean-style interior with a contemporary edge. It is set in Bluewaters Island, with a breathtaking water view. Whether it’s a Greek salad and a mouth-watering gyros, beef tartare with black truffle, or roasted octopus with hummus and salsa verde, Miya delivers the authentic Greek experience.
Jun’s, led by Chef Kelvin Cheung, embraces an Asian-North American fusion that touches on the chef’s Chinese-Canadian identity. It is known for its wildly innovative food — scallops and corn, and char siu short ribs are just some of the dishes you should try. In the heart of Downtown Dubai, the restaurant overlooks views of the Burj Khalifa and city skylines.
The Najd Village is by far the oldest and most popular restaurant serving Najd cuisine in Riyadh. Its ambiance and food have distinctive attributes. Influenced by the region’s topography and desert climates—Najd dishes are hearty and wholesome, and the food is dominated by rich stews, wheat, and rice dishes paired with fragrant spices. You have to try Jareesh and Ghorsan.
Interlacing traditional tastes with modern luxury design, Suhail serves home-style food true to local cuisine. The dishes are innovative and inspired by Saudi heritage, and the interior design is themed on a luxurious oasis in the desert. Their cheesecake is a must-try, apart from marqoq curry and lamb kabsa.
This restaurant, a cultural hub, stands out, filled with Lebanese heritage, surrounded by jasmines and trees, and inspired by many architectural styles. Bein Kanz includes a Lebanese terroir shop, an artisanal boutique, and a cafe-restaurant. The menu celebrates Lebanese ancestral culinary heritage by depicting the historical background of every seasonal dish.
This French-style restaurant and cafe holds an international cuisine focusing on Mediterranean dishes. Recommended dishes include the salmon tartare, grilled octopus, veal escalope Milanese, roasted farm chicken, and côte de boeuf black Angus.
Trendy and classy, Babel, which has outlets in multiple Arab countries, including Dubai, sources the best Lebanese ingredients for its delectable dishes. The spacious, modern, and refined restaurant is known for its interior design and architecture, which encapsulates a traditional-luxurious blend.