Dubai Restaurant in Itaewon is made by and for Arabian people. It's a large lavish space in the heart of Itaewon and it is on prime real estate: above the Dunkin Donuts and across the Helios. So what does this mean? It means that there is a significant Arab population in Seoul and they built a place to call their own.
Dubai doesn't make food for the masses. They will not tame the flavors for its Korean clientele. There was no kimchi to be seen in the restaurant, the rice was the long grain- not the sticky and hearty short grain rice that is ubiquitous in Korea, and the service was relaxed- not bali, bali (빠리빠리).
I went with my friends Rami and Mimi. Rami is from Yemen and he recommended the food and the Shisa at this restaurant. He's a big fan of Shisa, which is surprising because he is constantly smoking cigarettes- I would think he would want to give his lungs a break.
He started off with the hummus and it was out of this world. It was a very fine light paste with an effervescent hint of sesame. Being in Korea, one would likely forget that in most other parts of the world the sesame oil is a light flavoring. The olive oil was rich and with a green sunshine richness. I loved the presentation- a hummus moat. The bread was also made with tremendous skill. This is not your mother's earthy bread- this is fluffy bread made by a professional. The yogurt was rich and thick. It was almost like a fine, silky cheese and the baba ghanoush was also top notch. I could have made a meal with just the appetizers. I wonder how their falafel are.
Of course, I wouldn't just stop there. I do have two stomachs after all (some people say three.)
The lamb kapsa (or kabsa) could have been better. The flavors in the rice were fine, but I would have liked a bit more cardamon. When I eat out at an ethnic restaurant, I would like to really taste the difference. Plus, the lamb was a bit dry and it didn't have that much flavor.
The Dubai Kebap was awesome. It had chargrilled ground lamb patties in a rich sauce of tomato, onions, and special Arab spices. This was very good over rice and I really enjoyed the entire dish.
So if you are in the mood for some Arabian food, check out Dubai. I would say their hummus is probably the best I've had in Seoul and get lots of the bread to go with it.