How the Michelin Guide’s arrival will shake up Dubai’s dining scene

How the Michelin Guide’s arrival will shake up Dubai’s dining scene
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Updated 03 June 2022

How the Michelin Guide’s arrival will shake up Dubai’s dining scene

How the Michelin Guide’s arrival will shake up Dubai’s dining scene
  • The prestigious restaurant guide launches its Dubai edition this month. We asked the experts what it will mean for the city’s culinary field

DUBAI: The Michelin Guide — the restaurant industry’s most-respected guidebook — will launch its Dubai edition this month in partnership with Dubai Tourism. That has led some skeptics to speculate that the list will be filled with international headliners in tourist-friendly venues. But it’s not uncommon for Michelin to partner with tourism boards for its guides, and the company has stressed that “one star in Dubai equals one star in Paris.”

Michelin inspectors visit venues multiple times, anonymously. That’s something of a rarity in a region where reviewers (often non-specialist journalists like this writer) are usually invited for a free meal booked well in advance, ensuring they receive the best possible experience. None of Dubai’s thousands of restaurants will know when a Michelin inspector might be assessing their dishes. And that can only be a good thing.

Orfali Brothers. (Supplied)

Arab News spoke with three respected Dubai foodies to get their take on where the city’s dining scene stands, compared to the great culinary cities of the world, and what they hoped might be improved by Michelin’s arrival. All agreed that, in culinary terms, Dubai is in good health, but also that it has some way to go to match up to the international greats.

“I think the sign of a matured — not maturing — dining scene is when you have more homegrown concepts than imported concepts,” said Samantha Wood, founder of the impartial restaurant review website “That’s where Dubai is at now. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s on a par with Paris, London, New York or Tokyo — there’s still some way to go, especially when it comes to modern Emirati and Middle Eastern concepts — but Dubai’s certainly heading in the right direction.”

Her sentiments were echoed by chef and cookbook author Dalia Dogmoch Soubra. “When I came to Dubai in 2007, it impressed me on a diversity level; there were a lot of really good, really authentic cuisines. I know there’s this image of Dubai’s restaurants as just being expensive with not-so-great food, but I disagree. I think it’s improved a lot,” she said, adding that, in the fine-dining category, Dubai remains exorbitantly priced. “I’m not surprised that the Michelin Guide is coming; I think it’s about time that Dubai got noticed. But I don’t necessarily think the usual suspects are the best restaurants here.”

Courtney Brandt is a food writer and content creator. (Supplied)

Wood, too, stressed the range of quality options in Dubai. “Name a cuisine and you’ll find a good example,” she said. “The only city that might be comparable is Singapore, where you can get really good food across practically any cuisine under the sun. You don’t necessarily get that in Paris, Tokyo, New York or London.”

While there are definite advantages to basing your restaurant in Dubai — the opportunity for a great seafront setting, or an impressive view of the city’s famous skyline, for example — chefs in the UAE have some significant challenges when it comes to matching up to their international counterparts. One challenge in particular.

“Dubai is one of the most competitive markets in the world,” said Courtney Brandt, food writer and content creator. “I really believe in the chefs in this city, but I don’t know that we have three-star (the highest Michelin rank) restaurants in the UAE currently. There are reasons for that that are unrelated to the chefs: We don’t have access to the produce. If I’m in a three-star in France, the produce might all come from within five kilometers of that restaurant. Unfortunately, because of the growing conditions in the UAE, we don’t have that.”

Dalia Dogmoch Soubra is a cookbook author. (Supplied)

“Ingredients have to be flown in, and that affects quality, flavor, seasonality of menus, and price point. So that’s definitely a challenge here,” Wood said.

While all three women believe the situation is improving, particularly when it comes to fruit and vegetables, with the opening of hydroponic farms and locally sourced concepts, they unanimously agree that there’s a long way to go.

“I find challenges even in the ‘best’ restaurants in Dubai when it comes to good red meat,” said Soubra. “It does hold Dubai back.”

For many diners, the lack of fresh produce can be mitigated by great service, or a fantastic view, or an entertaining experience. But Michelin bases its recognition purely on food. “Service, atmosphere, location, price point — none of those come into play,” Wood explained. “It’s all about the quality of food and how the chef interprets that. It’s very focused.”

Samantha Wood is founder of the impartial restaurant review website (Supplied)

For Brandt, another thing holding Dubai back is the city’s ‘Big is best’ approach, which can lead to expensive mistakes for would-be restaurateurs. “The transiency does break my heart. To me, that comes down to market research. There’s a sweet spot that isn’t really being addressed, which is that 30- to 40-seat restaurant. We always go big here, and I’m not entirely sure why. I’d love to see a trend towards smaller restaurants.”

All three interviewees are hopeful that Michelin’s arrival will see Dubai’s restaurants raise their game. “I think we’ll start to see an elevated food experience with the rise of tasting menus, more creative cooking, more chef-led concepts,” said Wood.

But they expect a handful of the city’s bigger names, who might anticipate recognition, to be disappointed.

Tresind Studio. (Supplied)

“There are many concepts that are very trendy — somewhere like Nusr-Et, or Roberto’s — where you’re going for the experience and it’s not really about the food that much, as long as the food’s ‘good enough,’” said Soubra, adding that she has not been to Roberto’s since before the COVID-19 pandemic. “And there should be those places; they’re great for a Friday night, when you want to celebrate a promotion or something, and you’re 28 and you’re out with friends. But then there are those places that don’t necessarily hit the ambience and the crowd boxes, but you’re there for the food, so you don’t care.” She cited long-established seafood restaurant Bu Qtair as an example of the latter.

Soubra continued: “I hope those places that are (just) very trendy, and have made a lot of social-media noise, won’t make it — on a culinary integrity level.” She stressed, however, that because a concept is imported, doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. “Credit’s due where it’s due. I’m not necessarily a Zuma fan, per se, but if you compare Zuma Dubai with Zuma London, Dubai beats it for sure.”

The three food lovers all expressed their hope, though, that the guide will shy away from big-name international chains (unless their food truly deserves recognition) to focus on homegrown concepts.

The grilled Octopus at BOCA, which all three of our interviewess praised for its sustainable approach to food. (Supplied)

“I’m always more interested in the local story,” Brandt said. “I’m not so interested in the chain restaurants that (are) in other places. Not taking anything away from those chefs, but I want something I can experience only in this one place and time.”

“I hope the majority of (featured) restaurants are independent, homegrown, and chef-led, because only then will the guide be interesting and compelling. If we go down the route of imported concepts attached to celebrity chefs, it’s eye-rolling and very boring,” said Wood. “You want this guide to attract culinary tourism, so you want (people) to say, ‘That sounds really interesting. I want to go to Dubai.’ And the only way they’ll do that is if there’s a name in there they’ve never heard of.”

“If there are 10 Michelin stars in Dubai, or 100, then that’s wonderful,” said Soubra. “But maybe there aren’t any, right? And maybe we should just say that. What I want to see is places being judged on merit. Dubai lacks consistency of judgement (at the moment). I’m really curious to see what makes the list.”

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
Updated 15 August 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
  • DJs, rappers, producers sign up to new advisory board
  • Innovation and diversity are key pillars of this year’s event, organizers say

RIYADH: XP Music Futures has created an advisory board of industry insiders to ensure maximum diversity and innovation when it stages its second festival in November.

Among those appointed to the so-called board of advocates and advisors are American rapper Kim Renard Nazel — better known as Arabian Prince — music producer and record label founder Saud Alturki, immersive audio specialist Marcela Rada, digital media expert Natasha Stambuli, and the regional head of A&R and marketing at Sony Music Middle East Karima Damir.

Mohammed Bajbaa, who founded Saudi clothing brand Proud Angeles and fashion consultancy Proud X, Saudi rapper Jara and DJ Space Boi, will also be on the board.

XP director Nada Alhelabi said: “83 percent of last year’s attendees loved XP because of its programming. Partnering with a diverse set of professionals means guests see representation they can identify with and relate to.

“Our trusted board of advocates and advisors serve as one way for us to stay connected to communities … and deliver another great edition of valuable cultural and music exchange, tangible progress and inspire unlimited innovation.”

With its Day and Nite program and focus on innovation through disruptive, forward-thinking methods, XP is the forerunner within the MENA region for the music and creative industries.

It will not only discover and discuss how new technology is the driver of change in the music ecosystem – exploring the fast-moving Web3, the new iteration on blockchain technology and Metaverse – but also bring technology for guests to experience in immersive installations.

Its other core pillars of talent, scene and impact will work to implement ways to flourish careers in the music industry, nurture the scene through workshops and panels, and initiate dialogue around music, mental health and well-being, and their role in creating a socially conscious industry.

“The ultimate objective of XP is to accelerate the development and transformation of the music landscape across the Middle East,” Alhelabi said. “We are grateful to be driving, crafting and optimizing wonders into our world.”

The festival runs from Nov. 28-30. Music professionals and enthusiasts can register at

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  
Updated 15 August 2022

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

DUBAI: Iraqi authorities announced this week that they found an original painting by the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in the Iraqi province of Diyala on Saturday, Iraqi News Agency reported.

The painting, said to be worth millions of dollars, was seized from a drug group after a raid late July. 

Director of the anti-narcotics media office Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the publication: “The Anti-Narcotics Directorate carried out an operation in Diyala governorate, in which a network of three defendants who were involved in the trade and transport of narcotic drugs were arrested, and a painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession, estimated at millions of dollars.”

“It is a major operation that is calculated for the anti-drugs General Directorate,” he added.

Details of the artwork have not been revealed yet. The Pablo Picasso Foundation, responsible for promoting and managing the artist’s work, did not issue a statement either. 

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign
Updated 15 August 2022

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam has landed herself yet another global campaign.

The catwalk star fronted the latest Tiffany & Co. promotional video for the US luxury label’s Lock collection alongside American skateboarder Tyshawn Jones.

The new releases feature yellow, white and rose gold bangles with sparkly diamonds that symbolize “togetherness and inclusivity,” according to the brand’s website.


A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video that the Netherlands-raised Hammam shared with her 1.4 million followers, she wore a white gold bracelet that looks like a padlock, with full pave diamonds, while Jones opted for a white gold bangle.

For the shoot, Hammam kept her look to a minimum.

She wore a black form-fitting dress and her makeup was soft and featured neutral shades — not to mention her iconic signature curly hair made for the look.

The model wore diamond jewelry in the video. (Instagram)

Hammam’s repertoire is growing day by day.

Last week, the model made headlines for starring in Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign, which celebrated the duo’s Arab roots.

The short clips, shared on Muaddi and Hammam’s Instagram accounts, were shot in Cairo.



A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video captured by British Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy, the 25-year-old catwalk star flaunted Muaddi’s new Drop 2/22 collection.

The videos and images featured Hammam in multiple scenarios, including standing alongside a white Arabian horse and posing atop intricately woven rugs.

She posed for pictures alongside women and men wearing traditional outfits and head and face covers decorated with jewelry.

Hammam is one of the most in-demand models in the industry. The now 25-year-old was scouted in Amsterdam’s Centraal Station before making her catwalk debut in 2013 by walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show.

Since then, she has appeared on the runway for major fashion houses, such as Burberry, Fendi, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Balenciaga and Carolina Herrera, to name a few.

Hammam, who has been featured in leading fashion publications, such as Vogue and V Magazine, also starred in international campaigns for DKNY, Celine, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and many more. 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

NEW YORK: The Brad Pitt action film “Bullet Train” led all movies in ticket sales for a second straight weekend, according to studio estimates this week, with Saudi Arabia continuing to earn a spot on the overseas play ranking.

David Leitch’s assassin-crowded film grossed $114.5 million globally in two weeks from 61 overseas markets. 

Saudi Arabia led the Middle East and North Africa market with $3.6 million and it ranked among the top five globally. 

Overseas play was led by France with $5.8 million. The UK is currently at $6 million. Mexico has grossed $5.4 million, followed by Australia’s $4.1 million and Saudi Arabia and Spain at $3.6 million each. 

The Sony Pictures film cost $90 million to make. 

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
Updated 15 August 2022

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
  • Netflix vampire movie has little going for it

LONDON: Hitting screens in the Middle East and North Africa, Netflix’s latest horror action movie “Day Shift” could be about to disappoint.

What is it with Netflix and sucking the life out of interesting new IPs? If it is not “Bright” or “Project Power,” it is “Outside the Wire” or “Thunder Force” — seemingly fascinating and original science fiction and fantasy movie ideas that wind up less than the sum of their parts?

So it is with “Day Shift,” the streaming giants’ new horror-action caper starring Jamie Foxx as vampire hunter Bud, and Dave Franco as his nerdy union representative. The notion that vampire hunting could be a viable career path in the San Fernando Valley, with unionized payouts for turned-in fangs and a benefits package, is moderately entertaining. Unfortunately, stuntman JJ Perry’s directorial debut never gets beyond that initial premise, all-too-quickly devolving into a tonally nonsensical plot and script, one-note characters and wooden performances across the board — it says something when a cameo from Snoop Dogg is far from the worst performance in a movie.

The film stars US actor Jamie Foxx. (Supplied)

Even having watched it, it is hard to sum up what the movie’s plot is, or why Karla Souza’s rent-a-villain Audrey (a vampire real estate mogul … no joke) wants Bud and his family to suffer. In keeping with his stunt background, the only time Perry’s movie comes to life is during some of the more inventive action sequences. There are some interesting drone shots that keep one particular chase sequence zipping along, and the choreography of some of Foxx’s vampire slaying is suitably kinetic. But everything else feels depressingly derivative — this is every vampire movie you have ever seen before, only done worse, and stretched so thin that you can see where the script is playing for time before launching into the next predictably bombastic set piece.

Much like many of its characters, “Day Shift” is a movie that needs putting out of its misery. We can only hope that, despite Netflix’s obvious quest for a new family of franchises, this one stays dead.