How it works
The festival, now in its fifth year , brings together top restaurants serving mini-versions of their signature dishes, celebrity chefs doing demonstrations, gourmet food shopping and live music all outdoors in the Dubai sunshine. The three-day event takes place at Dubai Media City; there’s an entry fee and festival-goers pay for the dishes and drinks separately. Here’s our guide to getting the best out of the fest.
The celebrity chefs
There are more chefs than ever this year, from old favourites to new faces. Joining for the first time are UK TV chef Gizzi Erskine  and locally-based Ariana Bundy, author of Pomegranates and Roses, and Food Network stars Jenny Morris from South Africa and the Spice Prince of India, Reza Mahammad. Back once again are international food stars Gary Rhodes, Richard Sandoval, Vineet Bhatia, Atul Kochhar and Giorgio Locatelli, all of whom have local restaurants. They will all be on hand, doing demonstrations, leading cooking classes or just chatting to customers at the stalls. Autograph hunters, bring your cookbooks for signing!
Taste of Dubai lets you test out some of the city’s top restaurants for a fraction of the price and none of the commitment to a three-course meal. Want to try Korean food for the first time? It’s here, at Sonamu. Love the sound of a meal prepared by Gary Rhodes  but can’t fork out for the full slap-up-meal experience? Get a bite of his meals for Dh30, and meet the man himself in the bargain. This year sees 30 restaurants participating, with 12 of them new to the festival, and others veterans who bring back top dishes every year (such as Nobu and its miso black cod dish). Restaurants serving include: Armani/Amal (Indian) and Armani/Ristorante (Italian) from the Armani Hotel; Asado (Argentinian) and Thiptara (Thai) from The Palace Hotel, No 5 Bar & Lounge in the Ritz Carlton DIFC, Rivington Grill (British), Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (American), Rhodes Mezzanine (British fine dining), Nobu (Japanese), Gaucho (Argentinian), Ronda Locatelli (Italian) and The Gramercy (American).
Five dishes not to be missed
There will be 150 dishes on offer, and there’s no way we can list them all, so we’ve narrowed it down to a top five you can start off with.
Roasted aubergine “bhuna baigan aur simla mirch” with peppers and burrata cheese, coriander, garlic and kasuri salt (Dh25), by Rang Mahal at JW Marriott Marquis. You won’t be able to stop eating this light, chilled but incredibly flavoursome starter mixing India and Italy, from Michelin-starred modern Indian chef Atol Kochhar’s first Dubai restaurant.
Char-grilled prawns with lime, chili and garlic sauce (Goong mare nam pow, Dh30) by Mango Tree, Souk Al Bahar. This Thai restaurant’s juicy, spicy-sour char-grilled items are always winners.
Churrasco-style grilled flank steak, with biro biro rice, black bean stew and chimichurri sauce (Dh30) by Frevo, Fairmont The Palm. This is a brand new restaurant serving Brazilian-style barbecue — and this is a rare chance to try delicious, unusual flank steak.
Tenderloin Wellington and truffle mash (Dh30) and mac and cheese (Dh10), by Seafire steakhouse, Atlantis. A favourite from last year, get your portions of these top dishes in early — the demand is always intense.
Dulce de leche cheesecake (Dh15) by Gaucho, DIFC. Many of the outlets are serving cheesecake as a dessert, but we’ve never gone wrong with this dish of cake incorporating Argentine milk caramel.
The Philips Chef’s Theatre will have 33 cookery demonstrations over the three days, by Rhodes, Erskine, Kochhar and other international chefs, as well as local stars. In the Kenwood Cookery School, get hands on with the stars as they lead cookery classes in which you can join in the cooking. (on a first-come, first-served basis, with each masterclass open for registration 30 minutes before they begin. Check the TOD website for all timings.
Liam Gallagher’s given them the seal of approval, so we think The Counterfeit Beatles have got to be worth a listen. They’re just one of the bands performing on the entertainment stage, which will provide a live music backdrop to the eating all day. Catch them on Saturday afternoon at 4pm; later that night are UK indie band The Noisettes . Locally-based acts Lisa Theunissen and The Makers, Rachael Calladine and The Everyday People, and The Boxtones will perform throughout the festival.
Need inspiration for a post-TOD diet? Juice king Jason Vale is your man. He returns for the second year to share his juicing recipes in the Phillips Chef’s Theatre. Catchi him on Thursday at 6pm and 9.20pm; Friday at 7.10pm and 21.40pm; and Saturday at 3.50pm and 6.20pm.
Dine in the dark
Locally-based private chef Andy Campbell is running this event which will appeal to fans of Masterchef Australia. Diners are blindfolded and served three large canapés. If you can identify 20 ingredients from a list of 100, you will be entered into a prize draw -- the prize is a fine dining experience at home by Campbell worth Dh5,000.
Get your tickets today and it’s only Dh60; buy them on the door for Dh80. VIP tickets are Dh220 per person in advance and Dh240 on the door, giving you fast track entry, access to the VIP enclosure, two free drinks at the VIP bar, three free dishes from any participating restaurant and entry into a free prize draw. Get your tickets from tasteofdubaifestival.com. All ticketholders are are entered into a prize draw to win the Ultimate Dining Experience worth Dh15,000: 30 vouchers worth Dh500 from every participating restaurant, to be used throughout the year.
Taste of Dubai in numbers
By Natalie Long, tabloid! Editor