DUBAI: With the array of dining options available in Dubai, it can be hard to stand out — especially when you’re a quaint restaurant tucked away in a small storefront on the Jumeirah Fishing Harbor. However, 3 Fils is managing to do just that.
The cozy eatery has been generating quite the buzz since it first opened its doors in 2016, attracting both locals and tourists who flock to the casual fine-dining restaurant for its delicious, fresh and reasonably priced food. Even Lebanese superstar Nancy Ajram is a fan.
3 Fils is spearheaded by two Emirati co-founders and a chef, Akmal Anuar, and bills itself as “modern Asian cuisine with a Japanese influence.” The restaurant is a reflection of the chef’s own Singaporean upbringing — he helmed Singapore’s much-lauded Iggy’s before opening Zengo at Dubai’s Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa.
Despite the pandemic, the local eatery is bustling. Much of that is due to its diverse and delicious cuisine, which offers everything from fresh seafood to gourmet indomie (yes, indomie — the instant noodles). It’s also because the homegrown restaurant offers a fine-dining experience without the multicourse, pre-set menus or the overly stuffy atmosphere with a procession of waiters tip-toeing to and from the table.
We visited on a breezy November evening. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating (on a walk-in basis), and we opted for the latter. The weather was nice, the people-watching excellent, and the ambience charming, helped by the swaying fishing boats and sprawling Dubai skyline adjacent to the restaurant. The venue’s cozy design, which is fashioned with upcycled fishing materials, only adds to that charm. The decor is minimalistic: Lush potted plants, modern artwork lining the concrete walls and hanging lights that emit a soft glow throughout the interior.
We started with the seaweed salad, a simple yet delicious dish concocted out of wakame, slices of Granny Smith apples and caramelized walnuts. The starters are small and lightweight, but full of flavor. The thinly sliced beef carpaccio and scallops served with mandarin slices and sumac simply melt in the mouth.
The Asian-inspired tapas are best ordered in bulk and spread across the table. As the waiters bring food out whenever it’s ready, the table never gets overloaded.
The sushi is top notch too. We ordered a variety of rolls, including volcano, dragon and crispy eel as well as salmon and otoro nigiri (kilos of the bluefin tuna are imported weekly from Japan’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market). The restaurant doesn’t serve soy sauce — a conscious decision not to overwhelm the inherent flavors of the dishes.
The Wagyu Overload is another standout — a gourmet beef burger that hits all the right notes. Due to the dish’s popularity, the restaurant now offers a DIY at-home wagyu burger box, equipped with all the ingredients — juicy patties, fluffy potato buns, lettuce, provolone cheese, chipotle mayonnaise, fried onions — so you can recreate the dish at home.
Those who love comfort food will relish the indomie. Served with crispy strips of meat and spring onions, it’s hard to believe that the dish is based around supermarket-bought instant noodles.
3 Fils does not serve alcohol, but its mocktail selection still packs a punch, with fun and fruity drinks like the citrusy Yellowbird with lime and passionfruit, and the Forbidden Fruit with mixed berries and ginger ale.
Be sure to leave some room for dessert — 3 Fils offers two options. The African Powerhouse — a slice of velvety dark chocolate cake from Ghana served with vanilla ice cream from Madagascar — will stick in your mind long after your visit.
We also tried the karak ice cream — assembled at the table in a waffle cone with butterscotch chunks and syrup, then thrown dramatically onto the plate, where it breaks open and cardamom foam is added. The strong chai flavor mixed with the ice-cream chill makes this a really refreshing dessert.
Those with a sweet tooth also have the option to order dessert from Brix, the little sister of 3 Fils, which is situated just next door. We suggest the Ispahan — a pink-tinted sponge cake boasting rose lychee milk, raspberry meringue and cream.
The only downside to 3 Fils is that the restaurant does not take reservations and seats guests on a first-come-first-served basis. However, we can assure you that any wait is well worth it.