While Dubai has no shortage of posh, white tablecloth eateries, those hungry for a more local flavor would be wise to look to Al Diyafa Street. Though officially re-named 2nd of December in 2011 in honor of the 40th Union Day—the holiday that marks the Emirati unification in 1971—the mile-long strip between the Satwa roundabout and Union House is still known by locals and most taxi drivers by its former name. It’s also known as the best place in town to have a multi-course, progressive meal at the plethora of old-school ethnic eateries that line the main drag—many of which have been serving home-style food for decades.
To explore this delicious bounty for yourself, start at Pars Iranian Kitchen where Hamid, an elderly baker from Shiraz, stands before a blazing outdoor oven filled with pebbles on which he spreads thin, sesame encrusted dough for a chewy, nutty flatbread that’s incredible smeared with salty cheese and fresh herbs. Along with the bread, order their kashk-baadanjan, a mash of fried eggplant, garlic, and caramelized onions infused with creamy kashk (whey), and take an order of their special rosewater profiteroles to go. For dinner, head across 2nd of December Street to the venerable Ravi Restaurant, a well known and loved Pakistani joint that has been open longer than most of the skyscrapers towering over the street. Order the ghee- and cumin-heavy dal fry and succulent, well-spiced ground mutton kebabs along with warm naan or roti bread. Alternately, saunter a block west to Al Mallah, another 2nd of December stalwart, that’s been serving Lebanese specialties like fresh-from-the-oven man’oushe flatbreads covered with soft white cheese, olive oil and a tart wild thyme and sumac za’atar spice blend for over 25 years. Or check out relative newcomer, Tipanan, a Filipino restaurant overlooking the roundabout that draws crowds with its massive, steaming bowls of slow-simmered bulalo (a beef marrow broth laced with fish sauce, garlic, onions and cabbage); meltingly tender garlic, vinegar- and soy sauce-marinated chicken adobo; and the halal version of the classic snack of chicharrones, made here with salty, fried chicken skin and served with tart pink vinegar. For dessert, walk a few blocks down the road to Firas Sweets for a thick slab of knafeh, a gooey, soft cheese topped with crisp-fried vermicelli soaked in cardamom and rosewater syrup. They also offer a more unusual version of the Palestinian dessert made with semolina flour instead of the more common noodle topping.
Pars Iranian Kitchen 2nd of December St. (just before the Satwa Roundabout); 971-4/389-8444 or 971-04/398-8787.
Ravi Restaurant Al Diyafa Rd. (green and white awning, just south of the Satwa Roundabout); 971-4/ 331-5353.
Firas Sweets 2nd of December St. (between Satwa Roundabout and Al Wasl Rd.); 971-4/358-0489.
Al Mallah 2nd of December St. (one block west of Satwa Roundabout; 971-4/398-4723.
Tipanan 2nd of December St. (northwest side of the Satwa Roundabout; 971-4/358-7883.