We can’t quite believe it has been a year since we last visited the creative hub known as Dubai Design District (d3). In the last twelve months the neighborhood has burgeoned into something quite remarkable with small boutiques, licensed restaurants, a nightclub (Base Dubai) and a number of quirky cafes now thriving in the once desolate area.
Belong is the latest licensed venture to open and occupies a small unit in building 8 close to current Japanese street-food hot spot Akiba Dori. It’s important to note that despite a less obvious entrance than its popular neighbor, Belong is an altogether different beast and one that blends bar, lounge and restaurant with great success. Entering into the bright and colourful interiors there’s a real sense of place (or belonging if you will) that offers a direct correlation to the vibrancy of the food.
A large retro-style mural painted by an Iranian artist living in Dubai adorns the left wall of the galley-like restaurant, bringing personality to a narrow space which would otherwise suffer due to the difficult layout. Towards the rear Belong opens out into a more casual setting with comfortable sofas scattered with colorful cushions, and walls emblazoned with poetry and imaginative quotes that read: “I dream of you in colours that don’t exist.” This back room which can be closed of for exclusivity, also features the bar (serving up a small selection of expertly crafted cocktails) and a DJ booth.
Described as “a meeting point for old and new, east and west, traditional and innovative – a place where everyone belongs.” It’s refreshing to see the concept executed across all elements of the venue and the first thing we notice is the succinct menu offering up a handful of dishes with the intention of keeping the focus firmly on quality over quantity. This pays dividends for Belong and we thoroughly enjoy the baby squid with harissa dip (AED 39), taking Mediterranean seafood and bringing a nice Arabic slant via the inclusion of Moroccan harissa. The dish is the epitome of simplicity but is executed well with the squid beautifully prepared in a golden batter well seasoned and not too thick.
Similarly, the ricotart (AED 49) is quite the find, falling somewhere between pizza and flatbread with a generous serving of ricotta and parmesan cheeses piled on top of a puff pastry base. Perhaps not the easiest dish to eat, the blend of texture and flavour certainly pays off. Even a simple halloumi salad (AED 39) plays to the strengths of the produce, with large cubes of grilled halloumi mixed alongside pomegranate seeds, zereshk berries and arugula leaves, resulting in a colourful plate of fresh flavors.
Having never really considered ourselves the biggest fans of burgers, the pulled lamb sliders (AED 49) transpired to be our recommendation should you ever find yourself visiting Belong. Soft rustic buns jam packed with home-made pickles, a tahini and lemon sauce and tender lamb shoulder, again bring a Middle Eastern element via a shawarma spice marination culminating in a sweet taste similar to a bbq sauce that left us wanting just one more…
We really appreciated the concise nature of the menu @belongrestaurant which results in a firm focus on quality over quantity. Offering just five main courses we weren’t disappointed by these tender lamb chops with thyme chimichurri 🥘 . . . #Belong #ThisIsWhereYouBelong #D3 #DubaiDesignDistrict #MyDubai #BeautifulCuisines #BeautifulRestaurants #OutAndAboutUAE #InstaDubai #InstaFood #BuzzFeast #BuzzFeedFood #f52grams #LoveFood #FoodAndWine #EatFamous #FeedYourSoul #EatTheWorld #AlwaysHungry #DailyFoodFeed #InstaFood #FeedFeed #EatFamous #FoodLover #DubaiDining #FoodCritic #FoodWriter #Lamb #Chops #Chimichurri #Mediterranean
With only five main courses, we again select lamb from the choices of ribeye, baby chicken, hammour and salmon. The lamb chops (AED 109) again show exemplary care and preparation for the meat which provides a pleasing smoky char while still keeping the meat tender. A za’atar chimichurri accompanies the four chops and makes for an interesting choice combining Arabic flavors with the traditionally South American dipping sauce.
Six intriguing desserts seem to push the fusion-like concept that bit further with an osmalieh creme brulee (AED 29) looking the part topped with osmalieh pastry akin to some kind of sweet birds nest. The interplay between textures is certainly interesting through we did expect the brulee itself to be somewhat firmer.
The chocolate halwa fondant (AED 39) is delightful, with the cake offering an impressive ooze, made all the more exciting via the melted halwa inside. Aware of the richness of such a dish, a cherry sorbet is wisely included to cut through both the sweetness and the heavy nature of the dish.
Of all the desserts the French toast soufflé (AED 39) impresses the most. Accompanied by a salted caramel sauce unafraid to play up the salty element and a date marmalade (it may sound bizarre but it works), the light soufflé topped with golden French toast pieces is as gluttonous and sweet as a dessert can get, but pays dividends for those looking to try something a little different.
On the back wall red lettering traces then phrase “this is where you belong” and we’re quite inclined to agree. The layout may be a little haphazard but the petite nature of Belong adds unexpected appeal and even during a quiet Ramadan lunch service with just a handful of occupied tables, Belong projects a good vibe and a strong first impression. Our only disappointment comes from the fact that with such a concise menu, there a large number of unavailable dishes on the day we dine, meaning options are limited further.
The striking interior and high standard of Mediterranean style food actually reminds of another d3 destination, Molecule. It will be interesting to see how the two competing venues are going to work in such close proximity to one another when the concepts overlap so much.
Innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind the d3 district and Belong feels like the appropriate fit for the trendy setting. A place where “creators meet and makers eat.”
Out & About UAE were guests of Belong. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.