The best restaurant in North Africa and the Middle East is Japanese

The Mena 50Best: the cosmopolitan brigade of 3 Fils in Dubai wins. The Arab Emirates and extra-continental cuisines dominate. For Italy there's no big name, but there's Fulvio Opalio's Borro Tuscan Bistro, 11th

11-02-2022
by Gabriele Zanatta
The team at restaurant @3.fils in Dubai, Asian cu

The team at restaurant @3.fils in Dubai, Asian cuisine with a strong Japanese influence. They won the first edition of the MENA (Middle East & North Africa’s) 50 Best Restaurants, hosted at the Conrad Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, in the Arab Emirates

In the end, the first edition of the Mena World’s 50Best was won by the guys at 3 Fils, a restaurant serving “Asian cuisine with a strong Japanese influence” on Jumeirah beach, in Dubai. A restaurant with a Congolese head chef (Freddy Kazadi), Japanese executive chef (Shun Shiroma), Spanish pastry-chef (Carmen Rueda Hernández), Syrian general manager (Rami Massoud) and Philippine assistant manager (Percy Ramos), all happy in the dance hall of the Conrad Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, the location of the event. A nice story because it fully represents the cosmopolitan character of the Arab Emirates, a country made of 90% foreigners or people not from the Emirates (half of the population comes from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Browsing the online menu of 3 Fils (fils stands for the cents of a dirham, the local currency) we get a sense that the offer is similar to Iyo Experience in Milan: Asian cuisine made contemporary, posh raw materials (wagyu and caviar), nigiri and sashimi. With two remarkable differences: no soy sauce («it covers flavours», the team tried to explain during the post-event press conference) and no alcohol, which after all is often very scarce on the tables of the Muslim country.

Fulvio Opalio, born in Torino in 1990, chef at Borro Tuscan Bistrot in Dubai. He's the chef of the only Italian restaurant in the list, 11th

Fulvio Opalio, born in Torino in 1990, chef at Borro Tuscan Bistrot in Dubai. He's the chef of the only Italian restaurant in the list, 11th

Journalist Eleonora Cozzella with Yasmina Hayek of restaurant Em Sherif in Beirut, Lebanon, 22nd

Journalist Eleonora Cozzella with Yasmina Hayek of restaurant Em Sherif in Beirut, Lebanon, 22nd

BINGO. To the right Himanshu Saini, Indian chef twice in the list, with Tresind Studio 4th and Tresind, 18th, both in Dubai. With him, patrons Bhupender and Sakshi Nath

BINGO. To the right Himanshu Saini, Indian chef twice in the list, with Tresind Studio 4th and Tresind, 18th, both in Dubai. With him, patrons Bhupender and Sakshi Nath

The restaurants of the United Arab Emirates won plenty: first, second and fourth place; 6 restaurants among the 10 best and 19 in the 50 best. Lebanon and Israel follow in the distance (6 restaurants each), Saudi Arabia and Egypt have 4. This mirrors the touristic, economic and media domination of the country in the Persian Gulf, often open to tourists even at the peak of the pandemic. No presence among the 50 best of Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Syria and Yemen, countries from the roof of the MENA region that are affected by more or less severe political and social turmoil (except for Oman, whose absence was unexpected).

One fact stands out right away: of all the 50 best, only 16 are the expression of the local culinary culture, be it Middle Eastern or African. There are many Japanese restaurants, 13, but there are also Indian, Peruvian, Amazonian, Vietnamese, Greek, French and even an Australian restaurant. And many “chains” also present elsewhere in the world like ZumaCoya or La Petit Maison. The hope is that, once the pandemic is over, the 250 voters of the MENA area will return to give more value to Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine, and not just “exotic” restaurants or those inside luxury hotels.

Tala Bashmi (Fusions by Tala, Manama) from Bahrain received the best female chef award from her Peruvian colleague Pia Leon

Tala Bashmi (Fusions by Tala, Manama) from Bahrain received the best female chef award from her Peruvian colleague Pia Leon

The guys at 3 Fils, excited at the press conference after the ceremony

The guys at 3 Fils, excited at the press conference after the ceremony

Final group photo. In front, there's William Drew, director of the World's 50Best

Final group photo. In front, there's William Drew, director of the World's 50Best

And what about Italian cuisine? The restaurants of Alajmo in Marrakech, Enrico BartoliniHeinz BeckMassimo Bottura or Niko Romito in Dubai didn't make it. The first that defines itself as having an “Italian-Mediterranean” inspiration is La Closerie in Tunis, the only Tunisian restaurant in the list, 46th. As we were getting used to this meagre consolation came the surprise: 11th place for Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in Dubai, owned by Orangerie Hospitality, a Jordan group.

At the helm there's Fulvio Opalio born in Torino in 1990 and in the Emirates for the past 12 years, now with two restaurants, one here and one in Mayfair, London, the location of the second Borro, which is also the name of the Ferragamo estate in Arezzo, where many of the raw materials used in Dubai come from. «What with lunch and dinner we serve up to 500 people each day», he told us beaming, at the end of the ceremony, «My signature dishes? Pappa al pomodoro and Pici all’aglione. Traditional Tuscan cuisine». Congratulations.



MENA 2022, LA CLASSIFICA COMPLETA

  1. 3 Fils, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Asian cuisine/Japanese)
  2. Zuma, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Japanese)
  3. OCD Restaurant, Tel Aviv, Israel (Israeli)
  4. Trèsind Studio, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Indian)
  5. Sachi, Cairo, Egypt (Mediterranean/fusion)
  6. Orfali Bros Bistro, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Arab)
  7. Fakhreldin, Amman, Jordan (Lebanese)
  8. LPM Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (French/Mediterranean)
  9. George & John, Tel Aviv, Israel (Israeli)
  10. Gaia, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Greek)
  11. Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Italian)
  12. Baron, Beirut, Lebanon (fusion)
  13. Coya, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Peruvian)
  14. HaBasta, Tel Aviv, Israel (Israeli/Mediterranean)
  15. Myazu, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Japanese)
  16. Reif Kushiyaki, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Japanese)
  17. Animar, Tel Aviv, Israel (Mediterranean)
  18. Trèsind, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Indian)
  19. Kazoku, Cairo, Egypt (Japanese)
  20. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Japanese)
  21. Liza, Beirut, Lebanon (Lebanese)
  22. Em Sherif, Beirut, Lebanon (Lebanese)
  23. Lowe, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Arab)
  24. Pescado, Ashdod, Israel (Israel /seafood)
  25. Hakkasan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Chinese)
  26. La Grande Table Marocaine, Marrakech, Morocco (Moroccan/French)
  27. 13C Bar in the Back, Amman, Jordan (Mediterranean)
  28. Tawlet Mar Mikhael, Beirut, Lebanon (Lebanese)
  29. Amazonico, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Latin American)
  30. Marble, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (araba)
  31. Mirai, Manama, Bahrain (Japanese)
  32. Iloli, Casablanca, Morocco (Japanese)
  33. BB Social Dining, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (fusion)
  34. Coya Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Peruvian)
  35. Indochine, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (French/Vietnamese)
  36. Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Doha, Qatar (steakhouse)
  37. Porterhouse, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (steakhouse)
  38. Zooba (Zamalek), Cairo, Egypt (Egyptian)
  39. Fusions by Tala, Manama, Bahrain (Bahrain)
  40. Milgo & Milbar, Tel Aviv, Israel (Israel)
  41. Sufra, Amman, Jordan (Jordan)
  42. LPM Riyadh, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (French/Mediterranean)
  43. White Robata, Kuwait City, Kuwait (Japanese)
  44. Hoseki, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Japanese)
  45. Izakaya, Cairo, Egypt (Japanese/peruviana)
  46. La Closerie, Tunis, Tunisia (Italian/Mediterranean)
  47. Clap, Beirut, Lebanon (Japanese)
  48. Butcher & Still, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (steakhouse)
  49. +61, Marrakech, Morocco (Australian)
  50. Tokyo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Japanese)

SPECIAL AWARDS

Lowe, Dubai, sustainable restaurant
Trèsind Studio, Dubai, Arab Emirates, art of hospitality
Reif OthmanReif Kushiyaki, Dubai, Arab Emirates, chefs’ choice
Sahar Parham Al Awadhi, ex Burj al Arab, Dubai, best pastry chef
Tala BashmiFusions by Tala, Manama, Bahrain, best female chef
Kamal MouzawakTawlet, Beirut, Lebanon, Foodics Icon

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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