The former RED Lounge is now a swanky Japanese restaurant with adjoining bar. So what else is new?
Keen readers may have heard the name TOMO before. Not sure where? It’s the restaurant that scooped our Best Newcomer award at last month’s Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards. High time, then, to see if its bar can dazzle us to the same extent.
There’s a reason it’s taken us so long to visit: TOMO may mean ‘friend’ in Japanese, but it took away one of our best mates when it opened. Nestled near the pyramid peak of Raffles Dubai, a floor below award-winning club People by Crystal, TOMO sits in the 17th-floor spot previously occupied by chic Chinese-themed lounge bar RED Lounge. That venue was a favourite of ours, and not only were we saddened to see it close last summer, we also felt a tinge of tribal territorialism when we later learned that a nightlife venue should be axed to make way for a restaurant. The cheek.
Thankfully, strolling out onto TOMO’s terrace, it was clear that the one thing that made RED special is still very much in place – the view. Yep, it’s another of those spectacular Dubai vistas, but this one stands out for its novel perspective, looking back over the low-rise of Za’abeel 1 towards Sheikh Zayed Road’s glimmering silhouettes. We challenge even the most jaded Dubaian not to be impressed.
Aside from some new plinky-plonky piano music, the most obvious change is the menu, starring dozens of varieties of Japanese short drinks: most intriguing are the mixed drinks based on Japanese specialities. Be aware that these rare concoctions come at a premium – our mixed drinks were Dhs105 and Dhs75 – but the well-stocked menu of grape and more familiar fare isn’t unfairly priced.
Inside, the bar area is little more than a few tables set aside for drinkers rather than diners; the bar itself was propped up by a couple of Japanese men when we visited late one weekday evening. Fine for drink while you wait to dine, but with a football match oddly screened from two TVs, this interior space felt pretty underwhelming.
Despite the impressive range of drinks, this spot’s USP remains exactly the same despite the change of concept. Which makes TOMO a rather fitting name: in many ways we are welcoming back an old friend, albeit one in new clothes.