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Dubai Is the Newest Culinary Destination. Here’s a Taste.


Known for his signature flat-cap and gameshow-host smile, Mr. Ani deserves plenty of the credit, from his Chinese-influenced Shanghai Me to Gaia, his modern Greek taverna, which placed tenth on the brand new Top 50 list.

On a balmy Friday night, a crowd of social media influencers, expats, Emirati men in white dishdashas, and girls with kohl-ringed eyes were packed around Alaya’s big round tables. Servers delivered modern takes on Mideast dishes — rigatoni pasta with zaatar (125 dirhams), hay-smoked yellowtail dusted with sumac and Turkish chiles (160 dirhams).

When he arrived in Dubai, Mr. Ani said, he didn’t plan to remain long, however the U.A.E. won him over.

“I even have to pay respect to a rustic that has welcomed me and given me a likelihood to grow,” he said, confiding that, as a child, he had been considered “a nothing who would go to prison.”

Here, he said, “the philosophy is ‘Every thing is feasible.’”

As a baby, Solemann Haddad’s favorite Dubai restaurant was Chili’s, that American temple of greasy roadhouse grub.

Now the tattooed 26-year-old chef, winner of the Future Great honor from the Gault-Millau restaurant guide and the Young Chef Award from Michelin, runs one in all the emirate’s most sought-after restaurants, Moonrise, an eight-seat glass box atop a 30-story apartment constructing.

“Chili’s was the benchmark,” he recalled, sitting on Moonrise’s outdoor terrace because the sun solid its last rays on nearby luxury-hotel towers. “There was almost literally nothing then.”

Curiosity soon seized Mr. Haddad, the son of a Syrian father and a French mother, and he discovered backstreet joints serving Pakistani, Indian and other far-flung cuisines.

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