Compiled by 250 key leaders in the culinary industry across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions, the restaurants selected for the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants award epitomize the grand gastronomy of their countries.
Combining the opinions of critics, chefs, writers and restaurateurs, restaurants are scrutinized from all angles, meaning that MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants do not simply present the tastiest of cuisine, but also live up to the expectations of fine dining.
Spanning 14 cities within the Middle East and North Africa, gastronomy from Manama to Marrakech were proudly showcased at the awards. One city shone in particular as it welcomed both MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants winner and runner up. Here, Elite Traveler select a few others that displayed great gastronomical achievement.
Orfali Bros Bistro revealed that following your heart really does secure your fate, as the Dubai-based brasserie took home first place. “We focus on human beings, my food is pretty emotional,” explained Mohammad Orfali when asked what he thought set his restaurant above the rest.
Sitting in between his two brothers, it was evident that the chef felt overwhelming pride in this accomplishment that astonishingly took the siblings just two years to acquire. Since opening in 2021, the bistro has added 12 dishes to their menu, with highlights being the OB croquettes, shish barak à la gyoza and corn bomb.
In MENA’s 50 Best second spot, Trèsind Studio flaunted Indian fine dining followed by Dubai’s acclaimed seafood restaurant with floor-to-ceiling aquarium views, Ossiano, in fourth place. Ossiano was also awarded the Highest New Entry Prize. Restaurants from the UAE in fact featured 18 times in total within MENA’s 50 Best list and had the pleasure of re-welcoming last year’s winner in fifth place.
Chef Shun Shiroma sat down with Elite Traveler to talk about how 3 Fils (5th) retained their reputation and continually strives to improve its Japanese cuisine. “Ten years ago, people here were not eating raw fish, so I want to continue exposing people to Japanese culture,” explains Shiroma.
The key player in diversifying Dubai’s food offering also overcame the challenge of plating an alcohol-reliant cuisine to a dry country. Shiroma describes how 3 Fils’ first year was “really challenging” for his recipes, given that he could not use sake nor serve Japan’s signature soy sauce side as it contains trace concentrations of alcohol. This did not stop the culinary innovator however, as using dehydrated dates he invented an alcohol-free soy sauce that rivals the original.
Fusions by Tala proudly took home third place in MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants and revelled in the pride of being the best restaurant in Bahrain. Steered by female chef Tala Bashimi, the restaurant has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its 2020 relaunch, serving classic Bahraini dishes with a contemporary twist.
Also in Manama, CUT by Wolfgang Puck took 25th place for its popular steak repertoire and Masso, serving Mediterranean food with a French Rivera influence, took the 31st spot.
Home to the second largest number of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants, Israel boasted six establishments, one of which made the top 10. In Tel Aviv, George & John founded a name for itself as the best restaurant in Israel. Its fusion of Atlantic and Mediterranean flavors earnt sixth spot at the awards.
Taking home both 14th place and the Sustainable Restaurant Award, OCD Restaurant also made Tel Aviv proud through the intimacy of its chef’s table seating experience and emphasis on locally sourced produce. Employing a changing menu, Raz Rahav produces dishes that pay homage to his resident culture while being conscious of what ingredients are seasonally available.
Following closely behind Israel, Egypt tied with Jordan as five restaurants from both countries made MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants. Crowned the best restaurant in Egypt and earning ninth place overall, Zooba delivers street food with finesse.
Having discovered his passion for food in his grandmother’s kitchen, chef and co-founder Moustafa El Refaey strives to make Egyptian food accessible without compromising on presentation. Offering classic dishes such as koshari, tagines and taameya, this culinary experience makes the busy street stalls of Cairo approachable.
Egypt’s second best restaurant, Kazoku (12th), similarly centers around family (as its name’s definition). Bringing the taste of Japan to Egypt, head chef Mostafa Gabr plates dishes for all moods including a spicy curry, seaweed butter yuzu and unique uramaki rolls stacked in a pyramid structure.
Fakhreldin (8th) received the title of best restaurant in Jordan. Despite a recent renovation, the restaurant, situated in the former family home of Prime Minister Fawzi Al Mulki, retains the home’s essence and flaunts opulence through the many untouched fixtures that still remain on the restaurant’s walls.
This homely feel is met with equally inviting hospitality, as diners receive a familial reception and regulars are spared from ordering. The fresh mezes, char-grilled meats and chilli sauces served at Fakhreldin further offer comfort food that fits with its surroundings.
Having started as a small flower show, Shams el balad (29th) has now evolved into an important restaurant within its neighbourhood in Amman, and the family business radiates the warmth of its core relationship.
Though the food offering remains simple, focusing on traditional dishes such as falafel, labneh and fresh bread, the selective and seasonally picked produce turn simplicity into an indulging gastronomy offering. As explained by head chef Quais Malhas and son Mahar, “luxury is not by any means a fixed marker but a changeable one – we can move the threshold of luxury to our advantage.”
Morocco was also well-represented in MENA’s 50 Best rankings with four restaurants in the list. La Grande Table Marocaine (27th) was crowned the top restaurant in the country as it enriched tradition by building upon beloved dishes.
Together with legendary French chef Yannick Alléno, chef Karim Ben Baba reimagines classic dishes such as the seffa medouna which, typically made with chicken, is in this case substituted with lobster, onions and raisins to enhance the dish’s original sweetness.
While restaurants Sesamo (39th) and +61 (46th) showcased similar flair in the capital, in Casablanca, Iloli (37th) marks the country’s second favorite eatery. Serving Japanese cuisine long before it was mainstream, the restaurant has innovated a unique fusion of flavor through combining Japanese recipes with Moroccan ingredients.
Beirut made a few appearances on MENA’s 50 Best list, starting with restaurant Baron (16th), whose name is Armenian slang for “the man of the street.” As suggested by its name, the cuisine offered at Baron guides your taste buds through the streets of Lebanon, serving favourites such as Calamari, Lamb shank, hoisin-soaked beef brisket and potato nuggets. While simplicity defines this menu, its flavours are complex and invoke discussion at The Chef’s Counter.
Tawlet Mar Mikhael (19th) followed with a farmer’s kitchen offering that celebrates homemade cooking. Similarly adopting an open kitchen style, the restaurant invites guests to view the magic behind food-making and collectively awe at the diversity of its weekly-updated menu.
Also serving Lebanese classics, Em Sherif (20th) was listed as the third best restaurant in Lebanon. Serving food that is deceivingly light but wholesomely filling, one can find a range of hot and cold mezze such as tabbouleh and fattouch, as well as beloved picks from the grill including taouk and kebab skewers.
Middle East, North Africa 50 Best Restaurants 2023
1 Orfali Bros Bistro, Dubai
2 Trèsind Studio, Dubai
3 Fusions by Tala, Manama
4 Ossiano, Dubai
5 3 Fils, Dubai
6 George & John, Tel Aviv
7 Kinoya, Dubai
8 Fakhreldin, Amman
9 Zooba (Zamalek), Cairo
10 Moonrise, Dubai
11 Reif Kushiyaki, Dubai
12 Kazoku, Cairo
13 Zuma, Dubai
14 OCD Restaurant, Tel Aviv
15 Lowe, Dubai
16 Baron, Beirut
17 Gaia, Dubai
18 Myazu, Riyahd
19 Tawlet Mar Mikhael, Beirut
20 Em Sherif, Beirut
21 LPM, Dubai
22 Sachi, Giza
23 Marble, Riyadh
24 A by Yuval Ben Neriah, Tel Aviv
25 Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Manama
26 Hoseki, Dubai
27 La Grande Table Marocaine, Marrakech
28 Coya, Dubai
29 Shams El Balad, Amman
30 Sachi, Cairo
31 Masso, Manama
32 Animar, Tel Aviv
33 Coya, Abu Dhabi
34 La Closerie, Tunis
35 11 Woodfire, Dubai
36 Sufra, Amman
37 Iloli, Casablanca
38 LPM Riyadh, Riyadh
39 Sesamo, Marrakech
40 Milgo & Milbar, Tel aviv
41 Alee, Amman
42 White Robata, Kuwait City
43 Zuma, Abu Dhabi
44 Jun’s, Dubai
45 Reif Kushiyaki, Cairo
46 +61, Marrakech
47 13C Bar in the Back, Amman
48 HaBasta, Tel Aviv
49 Hakkasan, Abu Dhabi
50 Bonjiri, Salmiya