Dubai might just be the best city outside Lebanon for Lebanese food – and the arrival of renowned Beirut seafood restaurant Babel to these shores has only bolstered that reputation.
Set over two floors (the upper level of which is licensed), the restaurant features a market-style display of fresh fish, in addition to a menu of classic hot and cold mezze, grills and desserts. And to do a meal here justice, leave no element behind in your ordering.
Staff are swift and keen to offer recommendations – handy if you don’t know your Sultan Ibrahim from your silver pomfret.
Prices are just as pleasing – with mezze starting at around AED25, and whole grilled or fried fish from AED125 per kilo.
Kick off with either the octopus or prawns à la Provençale, both served in piping-hot cast-iron skillets, both absolutely worthy of your attention, lavished with heaps of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.
Get your greens in with a bowl of freshly chopped tabbouleh or face-pinchingly zingy fattoush, before ploughing in to whatever goodies you’ve been smart enough to order from the grill. (Skip the hammour if you’re serious about sustainability.)
Hand-sized Sultan Ibrahim are served ever-so-lightly dusted in flour and deep-fried. They are, in all honesty, rather a nightmare to eat (not one for those panic-stricken by tiny fish bones) but the rewards are seriously tasty.
While the kitchen suggests a number of different cooking styles, if you’re ordering a meaty red snapper, bream or bass, get it done charcoal grilled, plain, and served with oil and lemon.
Try and resist the temptation to liberate the superb fish from the plate while it’s still being filleted tableside by your hardworking waiter.
For Lebanese seafood – by the sea, no less – in Dubai, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop babbling about Babel.
Three to try
Octopus à la Provençale
You’ve had octopus before – but not like this. So thinly sliced it looks like slivers of garlic, cooked in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, this is a highlight of the cephalopod genre.
Fried Sultan Ibrahim
Small fish delicately fried in a dusting of flour. Simple. Tasty. Superb.
Can you really say you’ve eaten at a Lebanese restaurant if there was no hummus on the table? This minty incarnation is a top choice.
Where: La Mer South, Jumeirah 1
Contact: +9714 419 0220