In the glimmering Middle Eastern city of Dubai, where luxury is good and over-the-top opulence is even better, there’s no shortage of fancy restaurants.
Some are more decadent than others. Here are our top nine stops for the travel set on Dubai’s fine dining circuit.
Be prepared for exquisite dishes by Michelin-starred chefs, with price tags to match.
1. Billionaire Mansion Dubai
The view from a table at Billionaire Mansion Dubai, the newly opened venue owned by Italian F1 boss Flavio Briatore, is a bit like going on safari.
Long-legged women roam in packs while men peacock in name-brand clothing.
And absolutely everything – from the white-suit-black-tie staff to the tree growing in the middle of the restaurant – is meant to catch the eye.
Located downtown in the Taj Dubai, this swanky spot doesn’t really pick up until after 9 p.m. when the brief performances – like silk ribbon dancing or sultry jazz singing – start.
The menu is split into Japanese and Italian. Dishes (like a tuna tartare with white truffle sauce or salt-crusted baked sea bass) are larger and less fussy than you would expect.
As the evening moves on, diners should be prepared for sparkler-equipped dancers or bull-masked hoverboard-riding staff to wind between tables. Just like on safari, the more exotic animals come out at night.
Credit card max-out: 125 grams of Beluga Volzhenka Caviar ($640).
Worth the splurge: The wasabi prawns with mango and golden passion fruit salsa. This lightly battered dish is salty, sweet, crunchy and, with five large prawns, just the right size ($40).
2. Cavalli Club Dubai
Chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals hang from the ceiling of this purple-lit late-night venue where a large screen projects fashion shows on the wall.
It’s not subtle, but given that it’s done in collaboration with over-the-top designer Roberto Cavalli, that’s no real surprise.
Even the elevators are lined with zebra print fabric walls and the gold women’s bathroom is dotted with private back-lit makeup mirrors.
While Cavalli Club is definitely a party destination, it still offers a solid four-course Italian dinner. Mains, like meaty monkfish tail poached in squid ink or Mediterranean sea bass wrapped in zucchini, are visually gorgeous if a little under-seasoned.
By 11 p.m. the DJ’s music will be pumping.
Credit card max-out: 850g of Wagyu grade 9+ New York steak ($681).
Worth the splurge: A dish of red prawns carpaccio with celery, cheese and watermelon soaked with Aperol spritz ($41).
3. Social by Heinz Beck
Heinz Beck, the chef behind Rome’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant La Pergola, has brought his unconventional brand of Italian cuisine to Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah.
With pristine wooden floors, retro photos and glass-fronted kitchen, the decor of Social by Heinz Beck is classic luxury with a modern twist – a mantra that also extends to the menu.
Expect to find Italian staples such as tiramisu and carbonara turned completely on their heads.
The interior goes for a European high society feel. There’s more of a typical Dubai vibe, from the terrace which offers a vista over the resort’s grounds and the sci-fi Marina skyline across the water.
Credit card max-out: The indulgent five-course tasting menu paired with wines from around the world ($226 per person).
Worth the splurge: The Heinz Beck signature, Fagottelli Carbonara. Delicately soft pasta parcels filled with hot pools of buttery sauce ($23).
Located at the end of a pier, this romantic over-water destination offers epic views of the sun setting across the Arabian Gulf.
Corner tables on the terrace enjoy uninterrupted views of the “seven-star” sparkling Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.
The food here is fancy and elaborate – and has the price tag to match. Oysters, caviar and lobster, topped with flourishes like truffle and foie gras, dominate the Mediterranean menu. Portions are pleasantly large.
A rich starter of Alaskan king crab topped with caviar and saffron-infused hollandaise could easily be a main, while an elegant main of Chilean sea bass with smoked sweet potato could serve two.
Credit card max-out: 50 grams of Beluga Imperial Caviar ($776), whole line-caught sea bass ($245), or a seafood tower with oysters, lobsters, prawns, crab, salmon and more ($245).
Worth the splurge: The venue’s smoky sweet potato. Served alongside a dish of Chilean sea bass, it’s rich, sweet, caramelized and incredibly decadent ($68 for complete dish).
5. Nobu Dubai
Ask Dubai locals for a great Japanese restaurant, they’ll mention one of the holy three: Okku, Zuma or Nobu.
All are equally impressive, but Nobu, located in Dubai’s castle-shaped Atlantis hotel on the city’s man-made Palm Island, wins by location alone.
This chain restaurant (one of 33 around the world) is well-established for fantastic food. Absent are traditional sleek and minimalist Japanese-style interiors.
Everything in this popular dining spot is decorated in mesh screens and curved wooden beams, creating the feeling of being caught in a giant fishing net with a hugely sexy twist.
Food is a rich take on Japanese fusion with Arabic touches, ranging from a spicy salmon miso taco to a creamy cheesecake with yuzu sorbet.
Credit card max-out: The Grade A9 Australian Wagyu Beef ($223) is incredible. Diners can choose from a range of styles but “anticucho” is highly recommended.
Worth the splurge: Nobu is famed for its Black Cod Miso ($60); while this will never disappoint, the lighter lobster quinoa ceviche salad ($53) is fantastic.
6. At.mosphere Burj Khalifa
It’s hard to miss the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, during any Dubai visit.
While most folks head up to the viewing platform (from $35) for amazing views of Dubai from the sky, a more luxurious option is to book a dinner at At.mosphere. This fine-dining restaurant is as super slick and expensive as you might expect.
Tables by the floor-to-ceiling windows offer urban sunsets while a multicourse tasting menu lays on the decadence. There’s wasabi roots from Japan, Australian Wagyu beef, lobster and more, all offered alongside suggested wine pairings.
Credit card max-out: The seven-course experience tasting menu with wine pairing will set you back a steep $436 per person.
Worth the splurge: A hand-cut beef tartare served with caviar is deliciously rich (part of a tasting menu at $185 per person).
Theatrics and incredible food star at Enigma, a newly opened venue in the luxurious Palazzo Versace Dubai which is creating a real buzz.
Chefs change every four months, bringing with them set menus that are revealed on the night.
First there was Quique Dacosta (whose Spanish restaurant has three Michelin stars) whipping up smoking truffle creations.
Until June 20, 2016, it’s Bjorn Frantzen (famed for the fine-dining Restaurant Frantzen, which was awarded two Michelin stars after only two years of operation) with a 12-course Nordic-inspired tasting menu.
Dishes are elaborate, decadent and incredibly creative. Meals can take upwards of three hours.
For extra indulgence, cocktails can be grabbed on the column-lined terrace while the sun sets over the Dubai Creek.
“It’s essentially a pop-up in a five-star deluxe hotel with chefs changing four times a year,” says Samantha Wood, founder of restaurant review website foodiva.net.
Credit card max-out: The “full story” 12-course tasting menu costs $231 at weekends.
Worth the splurge: The beautifully presented scallop in its own shell served with dried roe on a bed of a fir tree (not priced individually).
8. La Cantine du Faubourg
Popular with Dubai’s in-the-know crowd, this French restaurant is one of those places where folks go to see and be seen.
Billowy white fabric and high ceilings create an inviting cafe vibe.
In cooler months, the venue’s terrace is packed with high-heeled well-groomed fashionistas.
Like Le Petite Maison, another posh cafe beloved by locals, Cantine features French cuisine done well.
Dishes include smoked salmon blinis with caviar and buttery sea bass served on a bed of black quinoa.
Optional supplements of seared foie gras ($16 for 30gr), black truffle ($19 for 2gr) or caviar ($20 for 5gr) allow for customizable amounts of decadence.
Credit card max-out: Enjoy 250gr of Imperial caviar ($1,361) or order the 500gr chateaubriand steak ($133).
Worth the splurge: “Les coquilletes de mon enfance,” an elaborate mac ‘n’ cheese dish with truffles and gruyere ($25).
9. Al Muntaha
Like the Burj Khalifa, the ostentatious “seven star” Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is one of those properties that defines the Dubai skyline.
While the reservation-only venue’s launched a few new offerings lately (including an outdoor terrace beachfront restaurant and Gold on 27, an incredibly decadent bar with foie gras-infused whiskey cocktails), its staple for luxury dining is Al Muntaha.
This contemporary European venue sits 200 meters above sea level, providing amazing views of the Arabian Gulf alongside deliberately fancy food.
The atmosphere is subdued, all clinking silverware and sophisticated diners.
Credit card max-out (and worth the splurge): Expect to pay several hundred dollars per person.
Danae Mercer is a freelance travel journalist who lived in Dubai for over two years.