Following a burst of new openings, we round up the newcomers
Japanese dining in Dubai, and across the world for that matter, is far more than a mere trend. From sushi bars to the finest of dining establishments, the cuisine has exploded and become one of the globe’s most fearsome contenders in nearly every city. With the popularity of favourites such as Nobu, Zuma and Okku here in the emirate, Japanese dining has taken on a character of its own, where lounge bars are as much a part of the experience as dinner itself. Last year and continuing into 2014, this type of Japanese hot spot has continued invading at a pace, with a steady flow of slick and vibrant eateries opening, with the latest such offering Toko, now open at Vida in Downtown Dubai. So, where to start? We cut out the confusion and take a tour of the most notable new kids around town.
Kanpai Although the menu at Kanpai is disappointingly pan-Asian and largely uninspiring, the restaurant has set its sights on a lounge bar and dining model with a stylish and imposing space. The shiny black lacquer entrance sets a nightlife tone, and guest can choose to sip mixed drinks with an Asian twist in the lilac-lit bar, or dine under the watchful eye of life-size samurai statues. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 441 9262).
Mazology Lounge When Bait Al Bahar opened last year, we waited with baited breath to see this adventurous, three-tiered Emirati concept with our own eyes. On the top floor is an unlicensed Arabic answer to the Japanese nightlife trend, with a laid-back shisha lounge, serving freshly prepared sushi and bites. This stylish, icy-white space has spectacular sea views during the day and is regularly bustling in the evenings. Bait Al Bahar, near Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, behind Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah (04 394 4441).
Mizu Mizu, which means ‘water’ in Japanese, is a stylish new spot, with a bamboo-clad sushi bar, and private dining rooms enclosed in slatted cedar wood boxes. The menu is a simple collection of sushi, ramen, curries and rice bowls, and although unlicensed, there is a selection of mocktails to sample as well as a Japanese-inspired version of karak chai. Clarens Tower, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 454 2706).
Sake no Hana Winging its way to Dubai via London, and created by the man behind Hakkasan (Alan Yau), Sake no Hana is arguably the exemplar of Dubai’s new wave of Japanese bar and dining trend. Understated and chic decor, with a large bar area, sunken dining room and terrace slap bang in the path of the Burj Khalifa, the restaurant serves up a comprehensive selection of beautifully prepared and presented modern Japanese cooking. The scallop carpaccio is a must-try. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 432 7808).
Watatsumi Small, but perfectly formed, this circular dining space features a sushi counter and is decorated with Japanese sacrificial drums of rice beverages, cedar wood, and an eye-catching installation of ceramic fish, which are all suspended from the ceiling. The bar area itself is just as bijou and the menu, while pricey, is worth digging into, especially the truffle-scented edamame and scallop maki. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Marina (04 399 3373).
Katsuya by Starck Opened in December 2013, Katsuya by Starck sees Dubai’s first taste of the famous Paris-born designer Philippe Starck’s iconic brand of devastatingly cool, futuristic design, teamed with a slick and modern Japanese menu. This concept, straight from Los Angeles, sees a partnership between Starck and chef Katsuya Uechi. Although the venue is not licensed, the menu serves up a slick fusion mix, with dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with Jalapeño. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 315 3633).
Toko The latest in the spree to have thrown open its doors, Toko is a swish Japanese eatery from Sydney, Australia and opened in December 2013. The restaurant and lounge’s menu is inventive, with signature dishes such as smoked salmon prepared on the robatta grill and Australian Blackmore wagyu beef. Vida Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 442 8383).
Umai This Japanese fine dining spot may not be quite as glamorous as some of its counterparts, although there are bustling open kitchen counters, where sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki are all prepared, which will go some way towards whetting the appetite for a night spent here. The menu features touches of Asian fusion and is largely inventive. The Oberoi Dubai, Business Bay (04 444 1444).
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Nathan McCole Jan 29, 2014 08:24 am
Some of these restaurants are hardly new and I would not say all of them are "hot"! No 1 in your list is Kanpai which you yourself describe as largely uninspiring! Don't treat your readers like idiots...