A taste of authentic Emirati cuisine at Al Fanar Restaurant Seafood Market-Al Barsha

Places with stories have always fascinated me. At Al Fanar Restaurant Seafood Market-Al Barsha, you will learn about the history of their design inspirations and feel the narrative behind it. Their Jazirat Al Hamra themed space, which shows a defined coral-stone architecture all around, gives you a peek into the origins of seafood culture in the United Arab Emirates.

Design inspirations that were taken from Al Jazirah Al Hamra (once a pearling village) in Ras Al Khaimah is evident in Al Fanar’s newest venture. When you look up into the ceiling, you will see a roof that mimics a woven date palm finish. And when you explore the grounds, you will notice old carpets over railings and kerosene lamps either hung on walls or displayed on tables (some up for purchase, along with other interesting artifacts), as a way to show you how houses in olden times were lit during nightfall. The 1960’s inspired restaurant will take you back in time to where the last authentic traditional town was in the UAE, while you dine and taste true Emirati cuisine.

In my three years in the UAE, I don’t think I’ve ever fully experienced authentic Emirati cuisine until I visited Al Fanar Restaurant Seafood Market in Al Barsha (located in Al Barsha Pond Park, facing a lovely view of the lagoon). My first impressions of it were historical, rustic, high-ceilinged and spacious.

Being the early birds that we were, we came real early for our lunch meeting. And so to kill time, we went walking around and started taking photos of the restaurant. 

I loved that you can comfortably sit by period piece chairs by the main dining area, or leisurely feast in cushioned, majlis-style rooms. It was a place that would instantly charm you and make you stay for hours on end because it brought about nostalgia and warmth. It’s a place where you can start your day over a filling Shakshooka breakfast and finish the night with a plate of hot Legaimat and Karak tea.


Our dining experience at Al Fanar started with an appetizing breakfast dish called Dango (19 AED), which looked like boiled chickpeas, followed by two kinds of stews. I first sampled the Lentil soup (Shorbat Adas for 21 AED), which was made out of pureed lentils flavored with onion, garlic and mixed spices. Now, the second broth, which was the Creamy Seafood soup (Shorbat Akalat Bahreia for 39 AED), had mixed seafood in it. Some of the parts were a little rubbery in texture and hard to chew on. But all in all, both were good and light in taste. 


We weren’t quite done with our soups yet when our appetizers were served on our tables. We wanted to sample their bestsellers and so we were presented with some Fish Kopta, Cheesy Crab Poppers, Crispy Calamari and Vegetable Samboosa. 

The Fish Kopta (48 AED) were deep fried crumpled Emperor Fish infused with onion, coriander and special spices. I rarely eat fish, but I really liked this dish as it wasn’t oily nor tasted fishy. The dip gave it even more flavor, which I loved too.

I’m allergic to crustaceans, but I managed to pop an antihistamine tablet before gorging on Al Fanar’s Cheesy Crab Poppers (39 AED). This crusty crab popper filled with melted cheddar cheese was firm on the outside but soft on the inside. It felt like I was eating a potato ball, but tastier.

Next on the list was the well-raved Crispy Fried Calamari (42 AED). This one definitely topped my favorites in the menu, as it too, was browned but not oily. The batter that was used to coat the squid was thin yet packed with so much flavor. You can eat it with or without the spicy mayo, as it was that good. 

We also sampled an order of Vegetable Samboosa (27 AED), which were crispy fried samboosas filled with mixed vegetables. It was a good palate cleanser after eating all the seafood-packed starters.

A small pan of Garlic Butter Shrimps (55 AED) were also given to us to try, which contained sautéed black tiger shrimps tossed in garlic, butter and lemon (typically served with white rice, bread or fries). I liked this dish, but I would’ve preferred to have tasted more butter and garlic on this dish.


I could never miss out on a proper Emirati salad because I just can’t! So it was nice that we got to try three different kinds, and all were quite commendable in terms of taste and presentation. The first one that I tried was the Mango & Rocket Salad (30 AED). Also known as Salatat Hamba Wa Jarjeer, this fresh sour mango with rocket and cucumber topped with tangy chili dressing was a hot number. My tongue was sweating because of the chilis. Good thing the Watermelon Feta Salad (36 AED) came to the rescue! This refreshing salad came with raw watermelon cubes and cucumber topped with feta cheese. I probably had more scoops of this than the Al Fanar Salad (30 AED), which was made of freshly sourced seasonal fresh mixed vegetables with special Al Fanar dressing.


We couldn’t leave the seafood restaurant without trying their Seafood Platter, right? Our host ordered the platter for four (290 AED), which could actually feed 6 people. It consisted of generous amounts of two freshly grilled Sea breams, squids (Naghar Mashwi), jumbo shrimps (Robyan Mashwi) and Jesheed (fish meat) on a bed of white rice. Jesheed, by the way, is made out of Baby Shark cooked with onions and Arabic spices. You’ll easily find this yellow element crumbled on the platter. 

Filipinos might like this dish as it’s quite similar to our seafood boodle fight in the Philippines, which has the usual grilled seafood and vegetables on the side. A group of six people can order this for sharing at no lower than 49 AED each.


We were already full from all the food we ate, but you know that there’s always room for dessert! And so our host ordered a slice of their Lotus Cheesecake and their famous Legaimat (26 AED). This wasn’t the first time I was trying it (tried it first at Arabian Tea House), but it was still a classic favorite for me. This golden crisp fried dough balls coated with dates syrup and sprinkled with sesame seeds was a winner in all forms. It can be perfectly paired with a hot cup of tea.


Al Fanar Seafood Market is a spacious restaurant. With a 500-person capacity, the venue is perfect for parties and private functions (e.g., office meetings, birthday parties, wedding engagements, team building sessions, corporate events, gallery exhibitions, photoshoots, fashion shows). 

You can book their spaces for any type of event and are open for all nationalities to try, specially for dine-in and eat-out customers. You can also customize any dish according to your preference, which is a huge plus!


The entire dining experience was a good one. As a Filipino who likes certain tastes and spices, I liked the fact that the restaurant was open to offering dishes that can be cooked and tailored to one’s taste preference. With this, I definitely see myself coming back for seconds.

If you’re in the neighborhood, whether you’re a tourist looking to try authentic Emirati cuisine or a resident out for a jog or a game of basketball with friends, make sure to drop by Al Fanar Restaurant Seafood Market-Al Barsha and experience a plate filled with Emirati history.

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