For a post-conflict, least developed country, Dili has some pretty solid dining options available… unfortunately, they aren’t super cheap, so customers tend to be the expat crowd.
These are my top 10 favourite places to eat out.
10. Gion Japanese
There are two main Japanese options in Dili — Wasabie (which also does Indonesian food) and Gion. Gion was my favourite of the two for Japanese food, but Wasabie has other perks like an outdoor courtyard. Great miso soup here. I was also a major fan of the tofu steak and the bento boxes.
9. Aru Bakery
I basically ate here for lunch nearly every day because it was next door to my office. The best basic sandwiches in Dili in my opinion. My favourite was the Mediterranean with Brown Bread. The manas (the waitresses) here are really lovely as well and service is fairly efficient. The coffee is not bad either.
Heading out on the way to Christo Rei, this place is on the beach with great views and the food is delicious. It is also cheaper than some of the other expat options around town. I had amazing pork ribs here and the sweet potato chips are delicious. They do a great gin and tonic.
I’ve never actually eaten a main here, because the entrees are really generously sized. I really like the spaghetti marinara here. Nice ambiance, good desserts list, good wine list… we ordered cocktails here once though and the mojitos weren’t what you would expect, but you shouldn’t really expect anything in Timor usually.
6. Little Pattaya OR Krung Thep
A Dili classic, Little Pattaya serves up great Thai and Lebanese food and some of the best cocktails in Dili I’ve had (try the margarita). Krung Thep is its sister restaurant, serving up great Thai in a nice courtyard setting.
5. Kebab Club (the Turkish place near ANZ)
Best kebabs in town! Also, freshly baked bread and delicious dips. I also love the decor here. Highly recommended.
4. Beachside Hotel
If you want a foccacia, veggie burger or breakfast that tastes pretty much as good as the cafes at home, this is the place. Plus, you can sit on the beach to eat. The juices and coffees are also great quality – in my mind the only downfall is that they don’t have coconuts to drink like they do at Cazbar just down the beach. But the food wins over Cazbar on quality by far.
3. Burmese Beach Cafe
Such great curries! The prawn curry, the fish marsala curry, the vege curry… all total winners! This place is also good value for money among the expat eateries.
2. Diya Restaurant (at Discovery Inn)
If you really want food that tastes like restaurant quality food at home, this is the place. Delicious, great wines, white linen tablecloths, great service. This is the place to spoil yourself.
1. Spicy Hut
My absolute favourite restaurant in Dili. The Sri Lankan curries are divine. Try the parratha, the kotthi, the daal, any of the fish curries, the mutton curry, the devilled potatoes (devilled anything is good). For me though, the coconut sambal is the absolute standout here. If you get here for sunset it also has one of the best terraces in town to appreciate the views.
Other notable mentions include: Lily’s, StarCo, Bakso Kota, Ponto de Econtro (great grilled fish), Harry’s Indian, Dapur Mama (I think that’s what it was called?) in Timor Plaza, Castaways, Hotel Timor, Golden Star Chinese, Sunrise Warung.
Places that are good but that I have some issues with: Esplanada (I found the service is generally pretty terrible, even though it has great couches, great view etc), Food L Do (good, but pretty expensive), Dili Beach Hotel (the pizzas and curries are very good, but the salad I had there once tasted like iodine tablets and the coffees are not great), Vittoria seafood restaurant (good food, poor service), Oceanview (good food, but way overpriced. Drink prices are OK. Great view though).