Winner – Best Japanese Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Zuma Zuma’s enduring popularity and ability to stay in vogue is remarkable. For most, it won’t be a regular haunt – the high prices will make sure of that – yet the atmosphere isn’t stuffy, rather comfortable and relaxed, allowing diners to fully enjoy the fine food and drinks. There are standout dishes across the board, from simple ‘starters’ and zesty salads, expertly crafted maki and highest-quality sashimi, all the way to the finest, perfectly seasoned fish, seafood and meats from the robata grill. Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-3pm, 7pm-midnight; Thu-Fri 12.30pm-3pm, 7pm-1am. Gate Village 6, DIFC, www.zumarestaurant.com (04 425 5660).
Highly Commended - Best Japanese Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Nobu There’s no denying the sense of occasion that accompanies a meal at Nobu, celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s chain of Japanese fusion restaurants that started in New York in 1994 and today stretches across five continents. If you’ve not heard of Nobu, don’t admit it – so great is the prestige and acclaim attached to the name. Just entering the sophisticated work of interior design art that is the Dubai venue – somewhat incompatibly located in Atlantis – is an event, staff announcing your arrival with cries of ‘irasshaimase’ and alerting fellow diners to your presence. You’ll either love or resent the attention, although we suspect most Nobu diners rather like it. The menu is impressive, ranging from small, delicate tasters to more substantial dishes, and while traditional Japanese cuisine does feature, dining at Nobu is about savouring the chef’s creativity, experimentation and seemingly unlikely yet successful fusion of Japanese and South American flavours. Everyone will have their favourite Nobu dishes, but what truly stands out is the sense of journey, anticipation building as one exquisite dish after another is presented by the highly trained staff. Make no mistake, though; all this excitement comes at an extremely high price. Open Fri and holidays noon-3pm; Sat-Wed 7pm-11.30pm; Thu, Fri and holidays 7pm-12.30am. Bar open daily 6pm-1am. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, www.noburestaurants.com (04 426 0760).
Highly Commended - Best Japanese Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Tomo Winner of our Best Newcomer award in 2013, we still rate Tomo very highly. It’s Japanese – high-end traditional Japanese – through and through, despite being at the top of an Egyptian-style pyramid. All elements have been carefully considered, from the beautiful tableware and crockery complementing each individual dish, and the delicate shaved wood lampshades above the dark stone floor, to the simple piano music reminiscent of a nostalgic Hayao Miyazaki animation. It’s such a shame, then, that the service lets the side down, with staff overly fussy and intrusive. The menu is vast – you will need at least ten minutes to take it all in – and features all the classics as well as more unusual dishes for Dubai. Everything we’ve tried is delicious, authentic and delightfully presented, whisking diners east with every bite. We feel the need, though, to heap special praise on the more creative maki rolls, which are nothing short of divine. If Tomo could fine tune the service, and give its slanting windows a regular clean to really show off the splendid views, it would undoubtedly be a winner once more. Open daily 12.30pm-2.45pm, 6.30pm-11pm. Raffles Dubai, Wafi, Oud Metha (04 357 7888).
Armani/Hashi Boasting one of the finest, most exclusive settings in the entire city, Armani/Hashi wows diners as much via its setting as its food. If it’s cool enough, opt to sit outdoors at the base of the world’s tallest building overlooking the world’s tallest fountain. You’ll get to watch the water come to life at least three or four times during your meal – perfect if you’re entertaining or looking to impress guests. Indoors, the restaurant is in keeping with the hotel’s understated, minimal design, a suave bar area at the entrance, opposite a lengthy sushi counter where the chefs can be seen at work. Classic sushi and sashimi are available, but you’ll find the maki rolls more intriguing, containing more unusual ingredients like apple and burdock. Don’t miss signature dishes such as the indulgent lobster teppanyaki or Chilean sea bass with miso (a beautiful alternative to the more common miso black cod). Portions are small, though, and prices high, but that’s to be expected – this is Giorgio’s hotel, after all. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3888).
Café Sushi Good things come in small packages – a phrase befitting of this tiny, prepossessing sushi joint in the Fairmont Dubai. With barely enough space to seat more than 20 diners, you’d be forgiven for missing or even dismissing Café Sushi, but looks can be deceiving, as the rolls here are mouth-wateringly good. Pick any one of the signature rolls and you won’t go wrong. The unagi eel and cream cheese-filled ‘Dragon’ as well as prawn and avocado-packed ‘Caterpillar’ are particular standouts, their delightful, almost experimental ingredient combinations rewarding your willingness to go off-piste with every bite. Order the seared tuna salad – melt-in-the-mouth with added crunch courtesy of an inspired sprinkling of sesame – or the kaiso seaweed salad, washed down with a generous bowlful of traditional miso soup, and your meal is satisfyingly complete. Sure, the casual conveyor-belt sushi bar surroundings mean you won’t want to linger, but for a quick bite we can’t recommend Café Sushi enough. Open Sun-Thu noon-9pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Hanabi Of the Asiana Hotel’s two Japanese restaurants, this is the larger and better established on the Dubai dining scene, offering far more variety than neighbouring izakaya-style Yuraku. As with the adjacent Korean restaurant, Sonamu, you’ll invariably find lots of Asian folk tucking into authentic dishes here, and that always bodes well. You can take a seat in the smart-looking main dining room or reserve one of the private rooms with sunken seating and tatami floors. Either way, you’re in for some excellent traditional Japanese cuisine – everything from noodle and rice dishes to seaweed salads, grilled fish and of course sushi and sashimi. Flavours and ingredients are authentic and the quality is consistently high. While Hanabi, which means fireworks in Japanese, won’t blow you away, it’s the type of place you’d happily return to time and again, attracted by the warm, professional service, delicious food and excellent value for money. Open daily noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm. Asiana Hotel, Deira (04 238 7777).
Kiku It shouldn’t come as a great surprise just how busy Kiku can get. One of Le Méridien Dubai’s numerous restaurants, its proximity to the airport no doubt attracts travellers on stopovers, but you’ll find plenty of local Dubaians here, too. In the cooler months, opt to sit outside, while indoors you’ll find an interesting, varied space, offering traditional dining on tatami mats in the private rooms, stools along a short bar as well as more conventional dining at tables positioned around an attractive central water feature. Large kimono displays, light woods and grey stone complete the picture, making for an altogether agreeable environment. The menu boasts just as much variety, with all bases covered, from sushi to sashimi, teppanyaki to tempura, and dishes broiled, steamed, grilled and fried. If you’re on a budget, go for the well-priced set menus, but pretty much everything’s affordable, not to mention tasty and well cooked. You may also find a few ingredients that are otherwise hard to come by. Open daily 12.30pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Airport Road, Garhoud (04 702 2704).
Kisaku Kisaku impresses with its consistent high standards, authenticity and excellent value. Dubai’s Japanese population seems to be in agreement, too, judging by their numbers each time we head here, and if the restaurant had more in the way of style, location and views, it would easily be contending with the likes of Zuma and Nobu for top spot. The smart, if slightly unadventurous grey stone and wood interior is nevertheless a pleasant space in which to dine, with seating available at the sushi bar, at conventional tables or in private rooms with traditional tatami mats. Staff go about their business smoothly and efficiently, but it’s the food that impresses most, with all manner of Japanese classics and staples offered, not to mention bargain Dhs50 teishoku set meals served with rice and miso soup. Kisaku also serves what is undoubtedly Dubai’s most authentic-tasting ramen – steaming hot bowls of noodles in flavourful broth. If you’re after a genuine taste of Japan, you’ve come to the right place. Open daily 12.30pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm. Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, Al Maktoum Road, Deira (04 223 1000).
Okku There’s no doubt that Okku deserves its place among Dubai’s top Japanese restaurants. Its dark, atmospheric interior is instantly likeable – the kind of place you’d imagine they’d choose for a scene in a James Bond movie, the blue-lit jellyfish tank prominently on display behind the bar imposing and impressive. Food-wise, there’s much to choose from; Okku’s ‘small plates’, such as the intensely flavoured duck salad or the delicate sashimi salad, whet the appetite, while the larger plates offer something more substantial – like the exquisite steamed sea bass, a great alternative to the ever-popular miso black cod. Our recommended approach is to go for variety, sharing each delightful dish with your fellow diners. Everything, from the slick, superior service to the sustainable seafood policy, is commendable, so it’s a shame that Okku is let down by its maki rolls, which don’t quite match the refinement of the rest of the menu, as well as the lack of space between tables, which prevents a private, intimate dining experience. These are, of course, minor objections, but they stand out all the more because everything else is flawless. Open Sun-Thu noon-3pm, 7pm-11.45pm; Fri-Sat 7pm-11.45pm. The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.okku.com (04 501 8777).
Sho Cho Sho Cho is all about dining under the stars by the beach. The restaurant’s indoor space is pleasant enough – a narrow, modern interior of whites and blues – but for the best experience, visit during the cooler months so you can dine outdoors and make the most of the location (try to get a table at the water’s edge). The white, yacht-like decking protruding out past the hotel’s beach exudes a Mediterranean cool that’s not dissimilar to nightspots in Ibiza, with chill-out music, a bar in the centre, lounge area on one side and dining tables on the other. Food-wise, there’s much to recommend, including the creative Sho Cho rolls and the much-lauded rock shrimp tempura. It’s not the most refined or delicate Japanese cuisine you’ll find in Dubai, and most dishes have a distinct Western edge, but it’s tasty, relatively affordable and portions are generous. The extensive mixed drink selection also makes Sho Cho ideal for sundowners. Throw in the fantastic setting, and you have yourself a winner. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah, www.sho-cho.com (04 346 1111).