Trending - March 12, 2023

Recognising the Region’s Culinary Scene: Bahrain Confidential Attends the MENA 50 Best Awards


Written by Charlie Cooksey

While speaking to one of the Jordanian chefs ahead of the Awards Night, I was reminded that not long ago, the region was not particularly known for its culinary offerings. Over the years, as cuisines from around the world gained popularity, the Gordon Ramsays of the MENA region began to emerge. Perhaps much credit goes to a platform like the MENA 50 Best Restaurants to highlight the region’s culinary scene through a spectacularly organised event.

Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, Individual Awards, Awards Ceremony

Over the course of three days, I was able to visit some of the restaurants and speak to the chefs. At the awards ceremony, I cheered with a glint of pride for our Bahrain-based restaurants who shared the stage with big talents from the region. While in the UAE, attending the festivities of the MENA 50 Best, I visited Zuma Dubai, a standout fine-dining spot in the heart of Dubai with a unique take on the traditional Japanese Izakaya style of informal dining. I enjoyed some contemporary Japanese dishes like the sashimi omakase from the sushi counter, a southern rock lobster with Dungeness crab, monkfish liver, oscetra caviar, and tuna belly.

I also stopped by one of my favourite Dubai dining spots – Bait Maryam. I’ve witnessed Chef Salam Dakkak’s success as a chef-owner over the years. Her beautiful Levantine restaurant, a dedication to her mother and a reflection of her home has a rich story behind it. Later, at the awards ceremony, it was heartwarming to see her receive the special Best Female Chef in MENA award.

The 50 Best Talks at the event featured some fascinating stories from industry professionals – their beginnings, their journey, and their success stories. I cannot state enough the importance of a platform like the MENA 50 Best in bringing top talent in the region to the forefront and encouraging more chefs to create, innovate, and be the best at what they do. It will definitely be the cherry on the icing to see some of these restaurants featured in the World 50 Best list this year with the awards ceremony set to take place in Spain.

MENA 50 Best – The Awards Night

On the evening of 30 January 2023, culinary stars of the restaurant world converged at Conrad, Abu Dhabi for the second edition of the Middle East & North Africa`s 50 Best Restaurants Awards ceremony. 14 cities across the region were represented on the list of 50, including three restaurants from Bahrain. For a region which over the years has gained tremendous prominence as a centre of global gastronomy, the MENA 50 Best puts talented chefs and restaurants in the spotlight.

Bahrain Confidential was invited to attend the awards ceremony and meet the culinary geniuses behind them to find out what makes these establishments stand out. It was a one-of-a-kind experience to watch restaurants in the region get recognised on a platform tied closely to the World 50 Best.

Orfali Bros Bistro was declared the best restaurant in the region. An unlicensed gastronomic bistro and test kitchen located in Dubai, Orfali Bros Bistro was founded in 2021 by three brothers originally from Syria: Mohammad, Wassim and Omar Orfali. The menu features dishes with a core Middle Eastern theme paying homage to the brothers’ Aleppian roots while capturing the multiculturalism of Dubai.

The fine-dining Indian restaurant Trèsind Studio in The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, headed by chef Himanshu Saini, claimed the second spot on the list; followed by Manama’s Fusions by Tala on No. 3 (also named Bahrain’s Best Restaurant).  In 2022, Tala Bashmi, a Bahraini chef was named Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef. Her dining space, Fusions by Tala, in Manama’s iconic five-star Gulf Hotel Bahrain, marked a record climb of 36 spots since last year, also earning it the Highest Climber Award in 2023.

Two other Bahrain-based restaurants found themselves on the list of 50. CUT by Wolfgang Puck at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay emerged as No. 25. One of eight CUT by Wolfgang Puck restaurants worldwide, the restaurant was a new entry to this year’s MENA 50 Best. Philadelphia-born Brian Becher is at the helm of the award-winning restaurant which serves a wide selection of steakhouse classics, from prime dry and wet-aged beef to premium shellfish.

Masso at the Palmyard in Bahrain was No. 31 on the list. Masso’s fresh flavours and vibrant dining experience are much sought after on the island. Inspired by the French Riviera and the Amalfi Coast, Masso blends contemporary Italian cuisine with a Mediterranean touch. Their organic garden and daily harvests that feed into the seasonal menu are worth mentioning. 

The United Arab Emirates topped the list with 18 restaurants; Israel followed with six establishments, one of which is in the top 10: George & John (No.6). Following close behind were Egypt and Jordan with five restaurants each. Riyadh’s Myazu (No.18) claimed The Best Restaurant in Saudi Arabia title. Four restaurants in Morocco made it to the list. Lebanon’s Baron restaurant emerged in the top 20. The anime-inspired Japanese eatery White Robata in Kuwait City was at No. 42.

Chef Salam Dakkak, who heads the Levantine restaurant, Bait Maryam in Dubai was named the Best Female Chef in MENA. Tel Aviv’s OCD Restaurant bagged the Sustainable Restaurant Award, and Beirut’s Em Sherif was bestowed with the Art of Hospitality Award.

The List

#1 Orfali Bros Bistro – Dubai (UAE)

#2 Trèsind Studio – Dubai (UAE)

#3 Fusions by Tala – Manama (BAHRAIN)

#4 Ossiano – Dubai (UAE)

#5 3 Fils – Dubai (UAE)

#6 George & John – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#7 Kinoya – Dubai (UAE)

#8 Fakhreldin – Amman (JORDAN)

#9 Zooba (Zamalek) – Cairo (EGYPT)

#10 Moonrise – Dubai (UAE)

#11 Reif Kushiyaki – Dubai (UAE)

#12 Kazoku – Cairo (EGYPT)

#13 Zuma – Dubai (UAE)

#14 OCD Restaurant – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#15 Lowe – Dubai (UAE)

#16 Baron – Beirut (LEBANON)

#17 Gaia – Dubai (UAE)

#18 Myazu – Riyadh (SAUDI ARABIA)

#19 Tawlet Mar Mikhael – Beirut (LEBANON)

#20 Em Sherif – Beirut (LEBANON)

#21 LPM – Dubai (UAE)

#22 Sachi – Giza (EGYPT)

#23 Marble – Riyadh (SAUDI ARABIA)

#24 A by Yuval Ben Neriah – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#25 Cut by Wolfgang Puck – Manama (BAHRAIN)

#26 Hoseki – Dubai (UAE)

#27 La Grande Table Marocaine – Marrakech (MOROCCO)

#28 Coya – Dubai (UAE)

#29 Shams El Balad – Amman (JORDAN)

#30 Sachi – Cairo (EGYPT)

#31 Masso – Manama (BAHRAIN)

#32 Animar – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#33 Coya – Abu Dhabi (UAE)

#34 La Closerie – Tunis (TUNISIA)

#35 11 Woodfire – Dubai (UAE)

#36 Sufra – Amman (JORDAN)

#37 Iloli – Casablanca (MOROCCO)

#38 LPM – Riyadh (SAUDI ARABIA)

#39 Sesamo – Marrakech (MOROCCO)

#40 Milgo & Milbar – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#41 Alee – Amman (JORDAN)

#42 White Robata – Kuwait City (KUWAIT)

#43 Zuma – Abu Dhabi (UAE)

#44 Jun’s – Dubai (UAE)

#45 Reif Kushiyaki – Cairo (EGYPT)

#46 +61 – Marrakech (MOROCCO)

#47 13C Bar in the Back – Amman (JORDAN)

#48 HaBasta – Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)

#49 Hakkasan – Abu Dhabi (UAE)

#50 Bonjiri – Salmiya (KUWAIT)

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