If you’re looking for local cuisine with culture and flare in the United Arab Emirates, look no further than Bu Tafish, an independently-owned Emirati seafood restaurant in downtown Abu Dhabi. It opened in 1968 – three years before the seven emirates united to form a country – making it one of the oldest restaurants in the UAE.
Bu Tafish serves up some of the freshest fish and most authentic Emirati food in Abu Dhabi. What nearly five decades ago was a floating fish shack with umbrellas and plastic chairs is now one of the most popular chains (with branches in Dubai and Al Ain) for local cuisine in the United Arab Emirates.
To truly appreciate Bu Tafish, you have to love the fish and the sea (and really all things nautical).
Walk inside, and a waiters dressed in blue and white sailor outfits will usher you past a vast bed of ice laid out with dozens of kilos of the multiple catches-of-the-day. The ice bed sits atop a gurgling fish tank, its occupants seemingly unaware of the fate of their friends above them. Bu Tafish’s fish selection is extensive, laid out carefully and shielded by a sheet of plastic wrap; indeed, the entire restaurant is spotless and will feel welcoming to even the most squeamish eater.
Food comes in size large here, beginning with the complimentary salad plate rolled out while you’re waiting for the main course to arrive. It’s piled high with a mound of greens and a whole bell pepper, served with a creamy hummus dip.
The fish are cooked by weight and served filleted whole. The hammour is tender and flaky, grilled to a crispy crust on the outside, succulent on the inside, for eating by the forkful or to scoop up in pita bread.
The fish do take quite some time to arrive, but thankfully the salads are plentiful, the booth seats are comfortable, and the wall décor is interesting – you may be able to master your the seafaring art of knot-tying while you wait, or browse through the gallery of Emirati royals who have dined here over the years.
Bu Tafish is perfect for fish lovers or for those who want to sample some of the best the Gulf waters have to offer but who may not be quite brave enough for the fish markets.
Bu Tafish is authentic, delicious, and does all of the hard work of cleaning and grilling – all you have to do is point out what you want. It’s an Abu Dhabi institution that has remained popular for decades for good reasons.
Bu Tafish: see the menu
Address: Hamdan bin Mohammed (aka 5th or Hamdan) Street (near the corner of Al Firdous Street), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 2 677 7780
Website: abutafish.com (not operational at time of publish)