Formerly known as Ostadi, Al Ustad Special Kebab Dubai is one heck of a hidden gem. Join The Huntr as we share the homegrown restaurant’s fascinating story…
In 1941, a young boy named Mohammad Ali Ansari left Iran and embarked on a 7-day journey travelling on a dhow to Dubai with around 40 other passengers. This was during World War II and with disarray and famine everywhere, a 9-year-old Mohammad and his uncle made the brave decision to leave their beloved home country to seek a better life in the UAE – and join Mohammad’s father, Gerash, who had started a tiny bakery and grocery store in Bur Dubai. Mohammad tried his hand at various businesses in Dubai before landing in the world of F&B. He dabbled in money exchange, he sold bread, he worked in electronics and later became the dealer of Philips, he had a perfume business. The list goes on. But the penny finally dropped (literally and metaphorically) when Mohammad took a 100,000AED loan from a dear friend called Zainal and set about launching his Iranian restaurant – Ostadi, which was named after his childhood friend.
Fast-forward almost 80 years and Ostadi has a new name – Al Ustad Special Kebab (since 2009) – and now serves around 800 people daily. It has become an iconic landmark for those in the know and it is the oldest Iranian restaurant in Dubai. It’s also a nostalgic gem for Emiratis and Dubai’s long-time expats, who have been visiting with their family for decades. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Crown Prince of Dubai, Indian film stars Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan (amongst countless other noteworthy names) have all walked through the humble doors to enjoy some of the best southern Iranian food in the region. And the team at Al Ustad proudly celebrate their popularity and loyal fan base by decorating the restaurant with 6000+ pictures of happy customers.
Sadly the legendary Mohammad Ali Ansari, who started it all, passed away aged 83 in 2015, but his dream lives on through his three sons – Majed, Taled and Abbas, who now own and run the operations.
Situated on the busy Al Musallah Road in Mankhool, Al Ustad is unlike anywhere else in the city. As previously detailed, the walls are plastered with pictures of loyal customers, the tables are covered in currencies from all over the world and letters of appreciation from those who have dined here. There are various trinkets, which give away just how long this gem has been running too – including vintage telephones and clocks.
Famous for its affordable and delicious food, the menu at Al Ustad offers various chicken, meat and kebab dishes, there are also a few vegetarian-friendly options here and there. The Huntr visited Al Ustad after a trip to the nearby Al Fahidi District. We opted for the Mixed Grill for 3 people (108AED), which includes bread, yoghurt, slices of tomato and onion plus veggies. Plus the Mixed Rice with Butter (10AED) and the Lentil Soup for 2 (12AED). You can taste the love and passion that goes into this food – and you can see it on the smiles of your fellow diners. Drinks-wise Al Ustad is alcohol-free and offers a modest selection of soft drinks and water, which you can grab yourself from the fridge. We also ended our meal with a traditional (and comforting) complimentary mint tea.
So what are you waiting for? Add this reasonably priced, totally unique and nostalgia-inducing gem to your hitlist, now.
Insider tips: Al Ustad Special Kebab Dubai is open every day apart from Friday for lunch between 12noon and 4pm. It is open 7 days a week for dinner between 6pm and 1am. Cash-only payments – cards are not currently accepted.