Got a yearning for Japanese food in Dubai? Try these restaurants
Sushi: Serving some of the best sushi we’ve ever tasted and a host of stunning fish dishes, Sushi is a firm favourite among Dubai’s Japanese expats. Search it out in the leafy labyrinths of the Grand Hyatt hotel, behind canvas curtains in a corner adjacent to Peppercrab. It might be tiny but it’s terrific, all dark, warm woods, attentive staff and a sense that you and the occupants of the other ten available seats have stumbled upon a wonderful secret.
Call 04 317 2222 for reservations
Benihana: The world-famous Benihana is fantastic fun. Plus, if there were an award for best-value restaurant, this would be a serious contender. Daily promotions include free-flowing food and drink, plus entertainment in the form of live teppanyaki cooking and chefs with a cheeky sense of humour. Go on a Tuesday for the seafood night (Dhs179 per person), take a pew at one of the cooking stations and watch in awe as the chefs juggle knives and give a lively running commentary, which fills the space with laughter, steam, sizzling and a real buzz.
Call 04 282 0000 for reservations
Bento-Ya: This cosy café-like joint’s big, bold mains make it well worth seeking out. You’ll like Bento-Ya from the moment you see it:
the bright red neon lights and hidden-away location behind Skechers shoe shop on Sheikh Zayed Road give the place plenty of indie personality. There’s not much room inside, but a cute outdoor area decorated with (fake) orange trees means you shouldn’t be short of a seat.
Call 04 343 0222 for reservations
Kiku: Duck in through the canvas curtains at this smart eatery and you’ll be met by a bamboo-esque interior, serving staff adorned in traditional Japanese dress and a pond dotted with pebbles. After choosing whether to take to the sushi counter or teppanyaki tables, the menu equivalent of War and Peace is presented. It’s easy to get lost in the myriad specialist sections, although there are some great-value set menus to take advantage of.
Call 04 217 0000 for reservations
Kisaku: It might not be as flashy as Dubai’s trendy, business suit-populated Japanese joints, but the food at Kisaku is more than a match for such self-conscious, be-there-and-be-seen types. Walk into the restaurant and you’re immediately reassured that you made a good
choice: it’s constantly buzzing with Japanese expats. The menu is as long as it is confusing (for the uninitiated, at least), but take comfort from the fact that no matter what you order, it’s likely to be astounding.
Call 04 223 1000 for reservations
Kitsune: This sleek, contemporary Japanese venture has a smidgen more creativity than the city’s hordes of Nobu-style knock-offs. For starters, the decor is an ethereal white-on-white, waiters are decked out in virginal, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style demi-kimonos, and a smooth white mist (dry ice) covers the floor. Gimmicks aside, the food on the whole is extremely tasty. An order of balsamic-glazed unagi (aka, eel) makes for a decadent main and there are many more treats to try. .
Call 04 332 7660 for reservations
Nobu: It’s a bold move, combining Peruvian and Japanese food. There’s no doubt it has worked – the creations of Nobu Matsuhisha have become some of the most respected in the world, with his chain of restaurants repeatedly topping rankings around the globe. Everything at Nobu has a kick, which means the combination of silky-soft Japanese cuisine with the relentless demands of a piece of chilli takes some getting used to. But when it works, it works marvellously – the scallop melts on the tongue with a no nonsense crunch from bits of green onion cut on top – and then the chilli kicks in with a kind of persistent, lingering burn.
Call 04 426 2626 for reservations
Okku: Jumping on Nobu’s trendy Japanese bandwagon, Okku is a slick Dubai hotspot wherein an evening can be an experience of blissed-out reverie. The all-black interior is an immediate signifier of ‘achingly cool’, supplemented by a line of sushi chefs staring out from behind the sushi bar, wearing their best ‘I’m a brooding culinary genius’
face. Okku is too self-consciously cool for smiling, it seems, but it’s constantly busy and attracts a wide clientele, from beautiful young things to an older – probably even wealthier – crowd.
Call 04 501 8777 for reservations
Tokyo @ The Towers: Tokyo @thetowers has been a favourite Japanese fine-dining establishment for years – and justifiably so. The long narrow corridor that makes up the restaurant gives a sense of privacy with its tall, bamboo coloured columns and serene, pebbled floor.
Crisply dressed in red, servers are quick and instinctive, but the food is the real highlight – it’s like experiencing Japanese cuisine for the first time. The miso is incredibly dark and rich, each piece of sashimi is succulent and packed with flavour, the unagi hand roll has fresh, malleable seaweed and soft, perfect sushi rice – even the tempura is finely crisped. .
Call 04 319 8088 for reservations
Zuma: Impossibly trendy Japanese joint is one of Dubai’s busiest restaurants and nightspots. Hordes of workers spill out of DIFC offices every evening to loiter at the bar or grab one of the tables.
Innovation is where Zuma succeeds, with twists on the traditional – like prawn and black cod gyoza – supplying the ‘out-of-the-ordinary’
element that Zuma has built its reputation on. .
Call 04 425 5660 for reservations