This post is part of a series of posts based on our recent visit to Dubai. While we saw many of the highlights, this series includes:
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Mr. T has soft spot for sea life so when he learned that dining at Al Mahara, located in the Burj Al Arab, would be like dining under the ocean, he promptly made reservations for us. We saved this dinner for our last night in Dubai since it would be a nice way to wrap up the trip.
We reconfirmed our reservations a few days in advance and requested a table by the huge aquarium. They said they would “try” but there were no “guarantees”, which was somewhat of a disappointment, so I wanted to make sure we got there early enough to be able to ask for the table we wanted.
We make it to the Burj Al Arab with twenty minutes to spare before our reservation. The restaurant is located on the second floor and there’s a special elevator dedicated to it. Here’s the elevator lobby:
Since we had the first seating, we told the ladies who sit by the elevators our seat preference and they were able to confirm that we did get a table by the aquarium. Yay! It pays to be early!
Once we went down the elevator, we arrived in the restaurant lobby. It’s a very unassuming lobby except for when you see this view:
I have to admit – it’s pretty cool to see such a huge aquarium (700,000 gallon of coolness, to be exact). It almost feels like you’re really underwater… except that I knew we weren’t. Still, the massive scale of the aquarium clearly takes center stage in the dining room.
The tables are either right in front of the aquarium and the booths are facing the aquarium so everyone gets front row seats to the salt water spectacle.
Dinner at Al Mahara isn’t cheap and the options are either a tasting menu or an a la carte menu. We opted for the a la carte option because neither one of us was actually hungry.
In reviewing the menu, however, what caught me off guard was the chinese translations since this was the only place I’ve been to in Dubai that had anything translated in chinese. So, in addition to the wealthy Emirates who dine at Al Mahara, a significant portion of their dining guests must be chinese.
Our table was set up like any other table at a nice restaurant with the exception of the stemware at this place. It was the tallest stemware I’ve ever seen and that was just for the water glass! It must have been a foot high at least.
Once we got settled, we learned that they have a two item minimum per person if you’re opting for a la carte. Luckily, I planned to get their famous fish soup and their truffled raviolis. Mr. T ordered a salad and the appetizer scallops which they were kind enough to portion as an entree for him.
The food was tasty but it wasn’t out-of-this-world-tasty, and in reality, I’m not sure if I was expecting it to be Michelin star quality. Al Mahara is the type of place you go for the novelty, not really the type of place you go because you want excellent food. So, with that in mind, I guess the food was as expected – just ok. In true Burj Al Arab fashion, they did try to fancy up the ravioli I got with gold flakes but I have to admit, when I saw the check, I really hope it was real gold I consumed. Who knows?
We spent most of dinner mesmerized by the tons of fish that swam by. There’s one fish in particular that has been in the aquarium for fifteen years, George. He was bigger than all the other fish and kind of stole the show whenever he swam over. In fact, I heard other tables asking about George as well!
When I asked one of the waiters about George, he even came by and gave me a brochure I could take with me that explained the different fish in the aquarium and provided insight into how they care for the fish and the ginormous tank.
All the waitstaff we encountered were very friendly so it was good to know that a “seven star hotel” takes care of all its guests.
Overall, dinner was a fun time, although, for the price we paid (roughly $300-$400), it was a ridiculously expensive meal. That price was just for the food we ordered, one sparking water, and 2 drinks! Clearly, this event is a one time only experience.
Was it worth it?
If the meal came out to about $200, it would be worth it (if we had ordered the tasting menu, we’d likely be paying almost a grand to dine there!). But because it was twice as much as that, Mr. T and I both decided that if we had to choose between Afternoon Tea Time at the Skyview Bar or dining at Al Mahara, we would rather do the tea time hands down.
If you’re planning to go:
- You can make reservations by emailing the restaurant.
- Request a table by the fish tank with your reservation.
- If you’re celebrating a special occasion, they don’t do anything to honor that (weird, right?).
- They have a strict semi-formal dress code. Men should wear jackets, long sleeve collared shirts, trousers, and close toes shoes.