Benihana: Deep in the sophisticated Al Bustan Rotana hotel, chefs bang pots and juggle knives in the Benihana restaurant. Offering both sushi and teppanyaki, guests can choose to sit in one of two rooms: one with the grills and one for those opting for a healthier, quieter evening. The decor is fairly simple with brown panelled walls and medium lighting, but you don’t come here for the decor, you come here for the experience. The chefs are fast, friendly and humorous. Ours explained all the ingredients he cooked, but turned them into sweet versions: ‘Now we add some ice cream (actually butter) to the Japanese bananas (actually courgette) and season with some sugar (actually salt)’. The service is excellent, prices reasonable and ingredients good quality. Try the sizzling salmon and scallops with their house ginger sauce. All main dishes are accompanied by rice (either steamed or fried with veggies and egg), salad and a delicious onion soup to start. The entertaining atmosphere is an idea for birthday parties and families; groups of up to seven or eight per grill.
Al Bustan Rotana, Garhoud. Call 04 282 0000 for more information.
Creekside: Though this restaurant doesn’t do exactly what it says on the tin – with a name like Creekside, you would expect at least a fleeting glimpse of the creek, even from the terrace, alas, there is nothing – but a twinge of disappointment is a small price to pay when every other aspect of the restaurant is pretty spot on. The staff are incredibly friendly, if a little over eager when it comes to talking you through every single dish on the buffet (there’s no a la carte, but you can order bigger portions of the small dishes on offer if you wish) and the venue itself is warm (hurrah for AC control) and well laid-out. The spread across the centre of the restaurant boasts everything from a teppanyaki station to a sushi station and stir fry station, a salad bar and hot plates – none of which disappoints. Sample everything if you can, but don’t miss the delicious, fresh pink slivers of tuna sashimi and a perfectly spiced octopus and chickpea salad from the cold section. As for the hot options, be sure to load up on the sweet, tender stir-fried beef and asparagus, but don’t bother with the vegetable fried rice – a largely tasteless, oily affair. If you can find room after all this, try and squeeze in a miniature crème brulee from the dessert table, smooth, rich and creamy with a marvellous crunch on top.
Sheraton Dubai Creek, Baniyas Street, Deira. Call 04 228 1111 for more information.
Kiku: Le Meridien Dubai has a seeming endless amount of restaurants covering every cuisine imaginable, but this doesn’t mean you should write any of them off. There’s no quantity over quality issues here. Kiku, the hotel’s Japanese outlet is hidden away and diners even have to duck under a curtain on entering. What you find hidden within is a modern, yet dark restaurant, with large group tables in semi-private sections, transparent glass grape cellars and a functional yet fun sushi bar – it might be a bit fiddly to get to but once you’re sat down it’s well worth it. The day’s fresh fish is laid out in front of you and there are chef’s specials every day which includes a small boat load of oysters if you’re splashing out. The menu covers all bases from basic maki and tempura to more adventurous hotpots, noodle dishes and blowfish. For those that can’t decide, a bento box is the best idea, with several to choose from. A combination of sushi, sashimi, tempura, grilled fish and miso soup won’t break the bank but will leave diners satisfied – plus you can take your time picking at the various sections whilst watching the chefs create more masterpieces.
Le Méridien Dubai, Airport Road, Garhoud. Call 04 282 4040 for more information.
Kisaku: This restaurant is refreshingly authentic but you don’t need to take our word for it; just ask the dozens of Japanese patrons you’ll no doubt find dining here every day of the week. Even on a regular weeknight, when we visited, the place was nearly full. Not one for the uninitiated, the menu is filled with pages and pages of local delights that make best use of the creatures that roam the land or glide underwater. Keep an eye out for their special promotions and great selection of sake. If you like the cuisine, you can’t go wrong here - the gyoza is sublime, sushi fresh from the sea and tempura crisp. A hearty nod of approval goes to the salmon sashimi, with six generous chunks of the fish plated up for just Dhs45! Our only gripe was that our request to customize a maki (removing the fish from what was called a ‘vegetable roll’) was refused, when we know other places are more accommodating. Still, who are we to argue with Japanese sushi masters? For a taste you’d likely not find out of Tokyo, head to Kisaku.
Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, Al Maktoum Road, Deira. Call 04 223 1000 for more information.
Momotaro: Souk al Bahar has a growing number of restaurants but Momotaro (next to Left Bank), shouldn’t be overlooked. It sticks to a traditional black and red theme, with quite a dark interior. Get seats on the balcony if you can, as although you face away from the Dubai Fountain, you’ll still get a decent view of Old Town. Momotaro’s menu was pretty extensive, with a page on maki alone and there’s a mix of traditional staples with more interesting dishes throughout. Miso soup and edamame, the starter staples of any Japanese restaurant, were fresh and light. Service is slick and smile-y, and the tuna steak came perfectly cooked and presented, and melted in the mouth just the way it was supposed to. The mango, asparagus and crab maki was chunkily homemade, full of flavour and generous – with eight large pieces being delivered. The city’s favourite miso black cod can also be found here, but for those that aren’t so keen on fish, cooked or otherwise, they do have a decent selection of wagyu beef steaks. It’s best to head down in the evenings as it can be a little quiet during a lunchtime, even at the weekend.
Level 3, Souk al Bahar, Downtown Burj Dubai. Call 04 425 7976 for more information.
Nobu: Start your meal with edamame, slippery hijiki inaniwa noodles and the wonderful crab tacos, which featured spicy wasabi tempered by sweet crab meat and sour cream. Follow this with the yellow-tail jalapeno sashimi, which features a thin chilli ringlet that beautifully offsets the velvet-smooth fish in terms of both taste and texture. The salmon sashimi is another perfect example of Nobu’s mastery when it comes to raw fish. The black cod yuzu is yet another highlight. However, all this is marred slightly by the disproportionate prices, lacklustre service and a cavernous, often empty venue. Nobu’s got what it takes to be a great resataurant again, though really needs to up its game to keep up in this highly competitive niche in the market.
Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah. Call 04 426 2626 for more information.
Okku: Not one to sit on its laurels as a pretty place for pretty people to sit, drink, nibble on sushi and absorb attention, Chef Hugh Gardiner has diligently fine-tuned the menu at Okku, ensuring the food lives up – if not surpasses the shimmering, glittering environs. Reassuringly, Hugh says that there’s work to be done, though you wouldn’t think so after tucking into the velvety sushi, wasabi rock shrimp tempura and the old favourite – black cod. The restaurant does have its shortcomings, mind – the so-called ‘sushi bar’ is little more than a bar where they park customers who didn’t call in time to reserve a table. But if you can, reserve a private dining booth – a sunken room with cupboard like doors where you can dine in utmost peace and quiet…and if you get stuck into the fabulous mixed drinks you might be tempted to try and stay.
Monarch Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road. Call 04 501 8777 for more information.
Sushi: Sure the name is hardly original, but once you visit you’ll gain respect for their no-nonsense approach. It’s all sushi and sashimi and other bite-sized delights. It’s a rather small venue and feels like it was plonked there by the hotel as an after-thought but they’ve done their best to make it work. There are individual pieces as well as ‘sets’ where the chefs serve up surprises. We decided to be difficult and gave them the daunting task of coming up with a no-seafood-at-all sushi and sashimi set and boy, did they deliver. We’re not talking just cucumbers either – there was avocado maki sure, but also sashimi with shitake mushrooms, soy beans, asparagus, dried Japanese melon, yam and other wonderful vegetarian delights we’ve never tasted before. Even the waiter remarked it was the most beautiful set he’d seen in all his time there. That’s not to say the seafood doesn’t delight either – the salmon avocado maki and prawn rolls were delicious and the asari butter clams more than do the trick. Give the Japanese sushi masters here a chance to impress you. Trust us, they will.
Grand Hyatt, Bur Dubai. Call 04 317 1234 for more information.
Tokyo@The Towers: With authentic sunken tables, always entertaining live teppanyaki grills and bamboo everywhere, Tokyo@TheTowers feels like a restaurant you might actually come across in its namesake city (except for most of the staff not being Japanese, that is). But more importantly, the food is consistent: the miso soup is a hearty concoction with a broth that packs a punch, the classics like chicken teriyaki and black cod are sticky, soft, perfectly cooked and moreish, and even the more adventurous ‘fusion’ items, like ‘yellow fin ahi’ tacos taste fresh and come perfectly seasoned. There are lots of options for those who want to stick to the classics, but if you’re feeling adventurous, try the Chef’s speciality menu – green curry chicken sushi, anyone? From that selection we particularly like the ‘kabayaki sea bream’ – the fish comes in a sticky marinade that’s so good you’ll want to wipe it all off your plate and the crab-laden rice is spicy and yummy (if a little more calorific than the countless sashimi options on the menu). While we’d love to visit Tokyo soon, we’ll settle on Tokyo@TheTowers for now.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road. Call 04 319 8793 for more information.
Zuma: Although it’s been open a few years now Zuma hasn’t lost any of its shine, the split level bar and restaurant is always full every night of the week with businessmen, families and regulars who adore the legendry miso black cod. Choose between the impressive sushi bar or comfy tables whilst the waiting staff zip back and forth, we’ve yet to see them make a mistake. Zuma’s Japanese menu is extensive and to navigate it takes resolve, because everything sounds so good. If you can’t decide, indulge in the new tasting menu – six or seven courses that includes lobster miso soup, sashimi and maki (which come with fresh wasabi impressively grated at your table), carpaccio, tuna tartare, the afore mentioned black cod and the biggest pile of desserts we’ve ever seen. Trust us when we say you’ll need a few hours for this, but it’s a fantastic way to while away a weekend evening. Part of Zuma’s popularity is it is a place about town to be seen (and a pre dinner mixed drink upstairs helps you do just that) but also the attention to detail, whether it’s in food quality, dining requests or attentive staff is remarkably refreshing, in a city where all too often mediocrity rules the roost.
DIFC, Gate Village 6. Call 04 425 5660 for more information.
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ahmed May 09, 2011 05:19 pm
I can't believe Bentoya (on SZR) is not even on the list ! It is one of the oldest most authentic Japanese restaurants in Dubai, and probably one of the few excellent ones that's not in a hotel...for a change.
Muhammad Ihsanullah May 03, 2011 10:40 am
Benihana at Al Bustan Rotana Hotel Dubai deserves to be the top in the list. I have been there many times; food is excellent, ambience is amazing and staff are very professional!!!!!! In short a best place to enjoy the evening.