Jamaican Independence Day falls August 6, and while the Caribbean's cuisine isn't the most popular in the region right now, more and more hot spots are popping up in the Middle East. At least it is in Dubai…
In 2016 alone, two places have opened in the Emirate, showing the demand for food from the West Indies is rising in the UAE. Here's how the city's newest offerings measure up.
Best for: A finer dining experience and extensive menu options.
The atmosphere: This large, light and spacey restaurant is full of color and plenty of mirrors that makes it feel like it goes on and on (even the restrooms give you something to look at with its animated wall decorations). Choose from high seating at the back of the restaurant if you want to be near the DJ booth, or enjoy a full spread in the main dining room, which has its coffee and ice cream menu scrawled on the mirror.
The staff: Waiters boasting a Jamaican accent makes it feel slightly more authentic but the place is too posh to make you feel like you've gone back to the island. Staff take your order in smart blue shirts and denim aprons for a look that's as sleek as the service.
The food: The appetizers come in mini bites and are worth it for the Instagram pictures alone; for example the Lobster Rolls and Beef Patties that come in small trios are perfect for sharing and snapping. Get the Shrimp and Plantain or Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas for a satisfying main.
The drinks: The place isn't licensed so you won't need to watch how many cocktails you've ordered. The Mocktails are stunning though; The Ting Coloda is too pretty to drink and the Mek Fi Yu ginger sangria mix becomes a show as waiters make it at your table.
Ting Irie, Manzil Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai
Best for: The authentic feel and casual party vibe.
The atmosphere: This feels like a cross between a beach-side shack and an island diner. Scotch Bonnet sauce bottles decoratively partition the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant and old reggae record covers line the walls. It's a very intimate setting as the tables - which look like vinyl discs - are so small you'll hear every word in the neighboring table's conversation. So try to grab a booth if you don't like the idea of knocking knees with fellow diners.
The staff: You'll find the super friendly staff here, some of whom worked in one of the two New York Restaurants, dancing around the restaurant and making sure there's a permanent smile on your face well after you leave. The uniform is so funky you'll want to steal the pattern shirts right off their backs.
The food: This is the only place you're going to find Ackee Hummus (or ackee at all at a restaurant in the Emirate), also get the soft and lightsalt Cod Fritters to start. The King Crab with aromatic scotch bonnet sauce sharing dish is gorgeously presented and it comes with the fluffiest festival dumplings you'll ever try.
The drinks: The tunes get louder and the place turns into a party as the night goes on. Then it's the perfect time to head to the bar (Melvin's Juicebox) for some cocktails that will remind you of your favorite Caribbean-inspired tracks (Tempted to Touch, Night Nurse and the Hotstepper Bloody Mary).
Miss Lily's, 5th Floor, Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai