Industry heavyweights shine bright at the What’s On Dubai Awards 2024

March 05, 2024

The annual What’s On Dubai Awards 2024 took place on Monday March 4 at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, shining a deserving light on Dubai’s leisure, entertainment and dining scene. The biggest ceremony to date, it was an extra celebration that also saw What’s On and Motivate Media Group marking 45 monumental years.

Beneath a sky of gathering clouds, What’s On began crowning 52 of your favourite dining, leisure and lifestyle outlets across the city. Attendance included visiting dignitaries, His Excellencies, and the leading lights of Dubai’s Hospitality sphere. But proceedings were halted rather theatrically towards the end of the event, as the outdoor venue received a uniquely meteorological ovation. While torrential rain stopped play, it couldn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits, as guests gathered on the stage for a group sing-along, making the What’s On Dubai Awards 2024, one of the most memorable yet.

As always, most of the winning restaurants, hotels, spas, apps, and events were selected by the voting public, who hit the ballot boxes this year in record numbers, casting over 100,000 votes. But there were six awards chosen exclusively by What’s On – these are Restaurant of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Chef of the Year, Culinary Experience of the Year, Homegrown Restaurant of the Year, and Sustainable Restaurant of the Year. These were…

Restaurant of the Year – Kinoya

From humble beginnings as underground supper club, A Story of Food, back in 2017 chef Neha Mishra created her restaurant Kinoya, which became the sole reason for foodies to go to The Greens when it opened in Onyx Tower in 2021. In the years that have followed, she’s innovated and accelerated, while still pouring the same passion into her innovative Japanese dishes as she did when she began serving ramen from her home kitchen to friends. Regardless of the occasion, Kinoya is a fail-safe restaurant for residents, visitors, business lunches and date night dinners. And this year, its meteoric success reached new heights when Kinoya became one of an elite few homegrown Dubai concepts, opening as a 20-seater eatery in the world’s most iconic food hall, Harrods in London.

Newcomer of the Year – Chez Wam

If Dubai is a cultural melting pot, then Chez Wam is a culinary one. The brainchild of star chef Hadrien Villedieu, it is a journey through his personal memory bank, with the menu featuring influences from the Mediterranean coast as present as those from the streets of Tokyo. We imagine that if we went round to Chef Hadrien’s for dinner, the menu at Chez Wam is what he’d feed us. The St Regis Gardens eatery successful manages to feel sophisticated and yet welcoming, and is neatly arranged around the open kitchen, where chef Hadrien can always be found, leading his brigade to create a restaurant that quite simply leaves you wanting more every time.

Chef of the Year – Kelvin Cheung, Jun’s

Since bursting onto the scene in Downtown Dubai two years ago, third-culture chef and restaurateur Kelvin Cheung has captivated the city’s culinary scene with his trailblazing creations. Seamlessly blending influences from his Canadian and Chinese roots, Chicago upbringing, and culinary experiences in America, Hong Kong, and France, Chef’s Kelvin’s cooking is impossible to tie to one cuisine. The Willy Wonka of the culinary world, Chef Kelvin infuses each dish with his distinct personality, skillfully intertwining nostalgia, innovation, and stories from his childhood, to create culinary masterpieces that leave diners spellbound. Chef Kelvin is also committed to sustainability, crafting his menu seasonally based on what is available at local farms.

Culinary experience of the Year – Row on 45

The crowning jewel in star chef Jason Atherton’s tripod of culinary experiences at Grosvenor House is Row on 45. On every level: setting, atmosphere, service, cuisine, wine pairing – it excels. The 17-course modular, multi-setting menu is nothing short of a sensorial safari. A broadly European menu enhanced by masterful Asian side steps, along the way guests are invited to ruminate on evoked palate snapshots from Chef Jason’s exotic kitchen expeditions, absorb the theatre of precision detail presentation, and the operatic choreography of service par excellence.

Homegrown restaurant of the year – Odeon

Underrated and authentic, Odeon is a Jumeirah Beach Road villa-turned-French food haven with a fresh food market/fromagerie/patisserie downstairs and refined restaurant upstairs. Owned by a lovely French husband-and-wife who manage the kitchen and FOH respectively, its traditional French cuisine, served with passion and love, sets it apart in Dubai’s culinary landscape. Odeon is a deserving recipient of our Homegrown Restaurant of the Year award, embodying the spirit of gastronomic adventure and homegrown entrepreneurial success.

Sustainable restaurant of the year – Lila Wood-Fired Taqueria

Homegrown and family-run, this cosy unlicensed eatery in Jumeirah 3 is the brainchild of chef Shaw Lash (Lila) and her husband, Tarek. The first wood fired taqueria in the city has had the foodies flocking to its door since opening little over a year ago, and with good reason. Not only is their authentic Mexican fare truly outstanding, they pour passion and determination into sustainable production and locally sourcing ingredients wherever possible. They buy all their seafood from local fishermen, and work with Integrated Green Resources (IGR) as the local farm partner who grow Mexican vegetables locally and organically.

Please join us in extending a huge congratulations to all the winners, both those who received their awards on the night, and to those whose thunder was stolen (ironically by thunder) and received a special plaque delivery visit from the What’s On team in the days that followed. These awards are only possible with your continued support and collaboration.

What’s On also extends its thanks to its sponsors: The Coffee Club, Country Hill, Stockyard, Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing, Le Fumoir by Joe Bassili, Ooka, African and Eastern, Jacobsons, JA Resorts & Hotels, Motivate Talent.