It was February of this year when I went for the Mad Hatter’s birthday party at Sugar Factory. Read about it here. Guess what? The year has not yet ended and yours truly has been signed up as a brand ambassador for the Sugar Factory. Considering the fact that this place is a regular hangout for celebs like Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Britney Spears, Drake, Nicole Scherzinger, Kim Kardashian and Eva Longoria – this my friends is a pretty cool thing, even if I do say so myself :p .
So, the first order of the day was for me the go and try out the brand-new menu at Sugar Factory Dubai and give my honest opinion on the new additions (I know right? What a hard life!) So that’s just what I did.
I got to try some of the new items and liked most all them but I am going to list some of my favorites here.
Whatever you do, please do try out the Bao Wao which is a trio of soft Bao buns filled with crispy chicken and sriracha sauce, buffalo chicken and beef teriyaki respectively.
I also recommend the chicken Cheetos blowout burger. The name is pretty self-explanatory but let me describe it just in case. Think of crispy chicken fried with a melted cheese filling, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, beef bacon and ginger tomato chili jam along with Cheetos and truffle mayonnaise in a brioche bun. It is called the ‘cheese blowout’ burger because every time you bite into that crispy breaded chicken, your mouth is flooded by warm gooey cheese. The smooth texture of this cheese along with the crunch from the Cheetos and the crispy chicken itself is an experience that should not be missed.
If you enjoy your meats like me, you will love the slow braised lamb shank with wasabi mashed potato. To be honest, a pure meat dish can always be a hit or a miss depending on various factors but I ordered this anyway because I knew it would look great on instagram! Guess what, this chance paid off because not only did it look awesome in the photos but the tender meat was literally falling off the bone and together with the wasabi kick from the mashed potatoes, it provided a well-rounded and fulfilling experience.
Another interesting addition to the menu are the mac and cheese pops. Think deep fried balls of crumbed macaroni and cheese on a stick, served on a bed of marinara sauce. Sounds insane right? They taste was out of this world too. That moment when you take the first bite and the cheese explodes in your mouth is just so unforgettable. I can still recall that experience as if it happened just a moment ago.
One thing I noticed about Sugar Factory was that the presentation and theatrics form a part of the overall experience. From the giant goblets of wonderful smokey mocktails to the desserts that were given finishing touches at your table – everything had a performance element to it. The way the Mai Tai was poured and presented, the method of using a blowtorch to burn through a deconstructed Tiramisu ball – everything required our full attention and it was almost as if we were a part of the interactive process.
At the end of the meal, we were presented with a mirrored tray on which the chef created a dessert called the canvas of the world in front of our eyes. It had among other things, a chocolate fudge and Nutella cake, Oreo Soil, Lotus Soil, Fanta cake, fruit caviar, a chocolate ice cream stick and a deconstructed Tiramisu. Head over to my instagram account to see a short video of the dessert being created. The finished tray is pictured above.
Whether you feel like trying out something familiar and simple like a pasta or a pizza or if you are in the mood for an elaborate creation, the new menu at Sugar Factory has something for everyone. I will be returning again soon because there are still some items that I need to try. Meanwhile, if you have any recommendations, please do let me know!
Ok, so it took me a while to get there. All the cool kids were instagramming ‘La Mer’ to the moon and back and I was still nowhere to be seen. It took so long that I was worried it may not even be so cool by the time I got there. Literally. it was actually really far. Especially if you live on the wrong side of Sheikh Zayed road but if you are around Satwa or Bur Dubai, a hop, skip and a jump will get you there.
It all seemed to be worth it when we reached. I wanted to do a little dance and tell people that I had ‘arrived’. More on that in another post. Of all the beautiful little cafes and restaurants at La Mer, one definitely stood out. Not just because it was one of the largest standalone restaurants bang in the middle of La Mer Central but also because of its name and colorful logo. That is how we decided to eat at the Sugar Factory.
A quick google search revealed that Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Britney Spears, Drake, Nicole Scherzinger, Kim Kardashian and Eva Longoria are among celebrities who have either endorsed or have been spotted at the Sugar Factory. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
There couldn’t have been a more appropriate name for this place. It was like the Mad Hatter was hosting a tea party at Willy Wonka’s house. It was just like any other mad tea party but bigger and better with bright red leather couches and all the bells and whistles possible because of course, this was Willy Wonka land.
The theme of the shindig was ‘Carnival Eats’ and God knows I like a themed party. Had it not been for the fear of diabetes and old age, I would have indulged in an insane milkshake type thing but was happy to settle for the passion fruit mojito.
Sticking to the theme of the party, we ordered the signature rainbow sliders which were 5 colorful mini buns stuffed with a grilled angus beef patty and melted cheddar. Along with lettuce and tomato, it was smothered in a secret sauce and my personal favorite – caramelized onions. Now the thing with sliders is that there is relatively little room to add stuff so you’ve got to choose your ingredients carefully. The most important ingredient of course, is the meat and I am happy to report that the thick angus patty in these sliders would receive a rating of ‘fantastic’ from any burger connoisseur.
The secret sauce (whatever it was) seemed to work and the crispy crunch of the caramelized onions provided a great finishing touch to these little meaty treats. Also, allow me to say that they were among the best looking burgers I have ever laid my eyes on. It was almost as if someone had plucked the little coloured dots from the sugar factory logo and placed them on a platter. They were such a visual treat that these sliders are now number 7 on my best burgers in Dubai list. Click Here for the complete list.
Since this was Willy Wonka’s place and it was the Mad Hatters party, we thought it would be alright to take it up a notch and have a waffle for lunch. Luckily, the Sugar factory’s rendition of a waffle was as crazy as mine could have been on that particular day! The Tex Mex was served warm with chicken ragu, grilled chicken, guacamole, beans and corn salsa. That was all topped off with grated cheese and Crispy nachos.
I have a weakness for guacamole, nachos and waffles. For a while, I actually believed that I had slipped down the rabbit hole with Alice and this actually was the mad hatters party. The concept of the waffle sandwich was pretty crazy but it was the execution that made me realize that I was at a top notch eating establishment. A place where nobody was scared of being experimental and having a little fun. I honestly do not remember the last time I had such a ball with my food. Please do visit whenever you can!
Just like the wheel can not be reinvented, a burger can’t be made to be elitist or aristocratic. It is either a burger or it isn’t. Sure you can stick a toothpick in the middle of the bun and add onion marmalade instead of onion rings but that wont take away from the fact that you would still be better off eating it with your hands and regardless of how you do eat it; things could get messy.
While hunting down the best burgers in Dubai for this article, we ate buns and beef patties every day for a whole month. Not only did we get to try some cool new restaurants but also went back to a place I used to frequent 18 years ago!
11) Johnny Rockets, multiple locations. The Original. AED 39.
It looked like a roadside diner in Jumeirah but this was the only ‘fancy’ burger joint I knew of back in 1998. They have since modified their menu but ‘The Original’ burger remains unchanged. This was the burger that opened my mind up to a world where it was worth waiting for a burger that took longer than 4 minutes to prepare. It was the burger that first demonstrated the affects of a good cheddar on prime beef, it was the burger that made going to a burger joint cool. For me, it was a part of growing up in Dubai and thankfully, it remains just as good now as it was back then.
TIP: Please do order the cherry coke.
10) Five Guys, multiple locations. Cheese Burger AED 42.
Their cheese burger is the most awarded burger in Vegas and it is definitely one of the best in Dubai. You get free peanuts while you wait for your order and there is a sign on the wall that tells you exactly where the potatoes being used on that day were grown.
You have the freedom to add whatever toppings (you must try the mushroom) you want and you essentially end up building your own burger. The size of the meat patty was small but they made up for it by adding 2 instead of 1, so you still get a mouthful in every bite. They used 2 slices of good old fashioned American cheddar (yes it was messy) that did the job well and the skin on spicy french fries were way up there on the potato charts.
09) L’eto Cafe, multiple locations. California Burger. AED 110.
Healthy, basic and world class. This consisted of avocado slices on a thick beef patty placed on a bed of greens resting on a toasted bun. The other half of this ‘open’ burger was layered with tomato salsa which had pomegranate seeds mixed into it. It was like a Sicilian love affair in Tehran, or LA – depending on what side you ate first. We were not in any of those cities though. We were in the only city that could be all of those cities and more; a place that is a melting pot of cultures with a distinct identity of its own. We were in Dubai and this burger was the definitive Dubai Burger.
Excellent quality beef patty in a freshly baked bun with all the bells and whistles you could expect in a winning burger. Definitely one of the best in Dubai and may have been higher on my list only if it were a bit messier! There were moments when I could taste the chilli mayo and then there would be a dry patch with nothing but meat all around. A fried or a pickled jalapeno (it had both kinds) here and there was like an oasis of flavor in a desert of meat. I guess that is how they want to position themselves, as purveyors of squeaky clean gourmet burgers – no drips intended.
7) Sugar Factory, La Mer Beach. Rainbow Sliders 99 AED
These little burgers were so tasty, I was forced to edit this annual list a couple of months before it was up for a refresh. Don’t get me wrong, they were definitely the cutest things on this list but that is not the only reason they are up here. They were punching way above their weight in the taste category as well.
The 5 multi coloured mini buns were stuffed with a grilled Angus beef patty and melted cheddar. Along with lettuce and tomato, they was smothered in a secret sauce and my personal favorite – caramelized onions. Now the thing with sliders is that there is relatively little room to add stuff so you’ve got to choose your ingredients carefully. The most important ingredient of course, is the meat and I am happy to report that the thick Angus patty in these sliders would receive a rating of ‘fantastic’ from any burger connoisseur.
The secret sauce (whatever it was) seemed to work wonders and the crispy crunch of the caramelised onions provided a great finishing touch.
Click here to read the complete Sugar Factory review. 06) Mooyah, opposite Safa Park. Moohyah Style 39 AED.
Not many people are talking about it and I do not recall this being ranked as one of the best burger joints in Dubai before. Tucked away in the alleys of Jumeirah, this is the one place that took me by surprise. If you still haven’t been, I suggest you visit this little restaurant opposite Safa Park. I promise you will not be disappointed .
They use high quality beef and real American cheddar. The good thing is that the burger is made in front of your eyes and you could have it kept medium or rare. The secret Mooyah sauce kills it with the grilled onions and I suggest you pair it with sweet potato fries.
TIP: Wash your burger down with milk shake.
5) Burger Fuel, multiple locations. Hot Rod. AED 36.
If you are a meat lover who can tell the difference between good and excellent beef, this may be the burger for you. Burger Fuel uses 100% pure grass fed beef ‘smashed’ to order with wholemeal, sugar free, dairy free artisan buns and naturally aged, batch brewed tomato relish. Tempted?
They are also behind one of the most important breakthroughs in cutting edge burger technology known simply as, ‘The Doofer’. It is essentially a cardboard pocket that wraps around your burger so you can enjoy all that messiness without getting your hands dirty. My favourite here is the Hot Rod which is basically some chilli salsa added to the awesome beef patty and tomato relish along with some melted cheddar.
4) The Counter, multiple locations. Build your own AED 49.
Sauces, condiments and fancy pickles (The Counter has enough of those too) can go a long way in deciding the ultimate fate of a burger but the one thing that turns a normal burger into a culinary treat is the meat. The folks behind the ‘The Counter’ say they use hormone and antibiotic free meat. While it is hard to verify something like that, I would like to believe it because you can taste the difference in every bite. Besides, I knew I was in the right place from the moment I laid my eyes on that burger because the meat patty was bigger than the bun and it still looked pretty!
You can build your own burger here by ticking the desired ingredients on a little chart. Customization options include type of bread (or you can just have the burger in a bowl), size of patty (up to one pound), type of cheese (10 options) and every single topping in the world that you could imagine (including a sunny side up egg).
What is fascinating though is that no matter how many toppings or sauces you add, they will figure out a way to make the burger good looking and ‘clean’. I think they reduce the actual quantity of toppings but what that essentially means is that no matter what you do, it is hard to get this burger to be messy. I found that to be a bit offensive but it may work for you if all you wanted to taste was the excellent meat. I personally like a bit of sauce and additional flavor in my burger. On nights that I do want to eat clean, I just go ahead a grab a steak.
TIP: Please order the onion rings. Unlike anywhere else I have seen, they do actually look like onion rings (and taste great too).
3) Elevation Burger. The Elevation Burger. AED 39.
Elevation burger has been quiet the rage since the day they first opened. I think it was party due to the fact that they offered grass fed, free range, organic beef which was of a significantly higher quality then what most people were used to at that time. It was also partly because people could now customize their burgers and make greasy meat towers by adding as many patties as they wished.
Here was a company that cared about the environment, empowered you to choose the toppings you wanted and used premium cuts of freshly ground organic beef; it was a winning formula that still works.
TIP: If you choose to have the Elevation Burger here (highly recommended), please do tell them to dial up the Elevation sauce and don’t forget to add jalapenos for a fiery little kick and caramelized onions for that final finishing crunch.
What were the cattle fed on? How long did it take for the meat to reach from farm to kitchen? How long ago was the meat ground? What are the cuts being used in the burger? These are all questions that might go through the mind of a meat connoisseur as he carefully chews on his Cheddar Shack. If however, you are a burger obliterator like me – the only questions going through your mind would be the reason the burger is so small and whether you should order another.
The bun is kind of funny (did I mention small), the patty is disproportionate, there are no fancy ingredients and the condiments are pretty basic but none of that matters. Shake Shack is not too big on looks or side shows but they do one thing better than almost every other burger joint in Dubai; they deliver the burger you dream of at night. Each bite of this burger is smooth and buttery and as you chew on your food, you develop an attachment to it. You wish the moment could be frozen in time and that you could be with each other forever, you and your burger. You want to keep chewing and wish there was a way to extend the moment but before you know it, it slides down your throat leaving only a memory that will stay with you forever.
TIP: Order 2 burgers at a time so you don’t have to queue again for the 2nd.
01) Black Tap, Madinat Jumeirah. Mexico City Burger. AED 95.
My friend G says that everything tastes good after a couple of Stellas so some may consider it unfair to rank a licenced venue alongside a roadside diner but I disagree because all I had at Black Tap was a burger, sweet potato fries and a shake. If you saw me singing along to the music, it was A) the sugar rush and B) because I had not heard Stephen Tyler telling people to walk that way since 1999.
I had decided to not take any pictures for this article simply because I forgot to or didn’t have my camera at a couple of the restaurants I visited. SO to be fair to everyone, I decided to get one picture each from their websites, Instagram feeds or other websites (with credits of course). That was working fine until I went to Black Tap. Once in a while, there comes along a burger joint that just makes you throw all your rules out of the window.
Black Tap serves slurpable works of art in a milkshake glass that would not be too out of place at Art Dubai. There were a couple that could easily have given the Abraaj art finalists a pretty hard time but this article is not about the restaurant, the art or about the milkshakes. Neither is it about Stephen Tyler. It is about the burger and that is precisely what has landed Black Tap the number 1 spot on this list. In my opinion, the Mexico City burger from Black Tap is the best burger in Dubai.
I have no doubt that the quality of meat at The Counter, Elevation, Shake Shack and Black Tap is very close to each other if not similar. What sets them apart is the winning combination of sauce, cheese, bread and pickles. How much is too much? Reduce it and it may be too little. The trick is to excite your taste buds to the point where they take over your senses and imprint on the brain and for that the burger needs to stand out but it also needs to have a familiar taste; so it can gently stroke the fuzzy memories you associate with a great burger. The folks at Black Tap have got that all figured out.
The Mexico City burger comes with a prime beef patty, pickled jalapenos, chipotle mayo and crunchy onion rings and everything goes well together but that is just half of what makes this a great burger. The only ingredients on the bun are the cheese, jalapenos, meat and the sauce. Everything else, like the crisp lettuce, gherkin and the gigantic onion ring are provided on the side. So you eat what you want when you want it. It is the kind of control that is unprecedented in the burger world. You end up controlling the crunch, the smoothness and the flavor because you can bite into different ingredients at different times. It also means that nobody can force you to eat vegetables every time you go out for a burger.
TIP: Please call in ahead unless you do not mind waiting for up to 60 minutes for a table.