Positioned at the base of the still-yet-to-reopen Address Downtown Dubai, Japanese restaurant Katana is named after the shining razor-sharp traditional sword of a samurai warrior. So it’s somewhat ironic that its Red Sun Brunch offering is, well, a little bit dull.
We’re visiting on a January weekend, and so it’s only fair to assume that this smart Downtown eatery opposite The Dubai Mall isn’t the only place in the city experiencing a New Year brunch slump. Prospective patrons, most likely still wearily committed to their resolutions, are thin on the ground. And more’s the shame, because the buzz of a few more bodies and hum of scattered conversation would bring this swish, stylish room, with its well-chosen soundtrack, right into life.
Spread out over five courses, the Red Sun deal sees dishes brought to the table to share, with the option to re-order anything you’ve particularly fallen in love with. We’re handed a food menu and drinks menu to peruse, and quickly notice only mixed drinks and grape are included in the package. Our waiter confirms that this is the case, but on seeing our disappointment heads off in search of resolution, returning triumphant with the offer to include Japanese bottled hops. (We’re later informed by the restaurant’s management that this is a one-off.)
Food swiftly kicks off with the arrival of the first round – salted edamame, a garden salad, salmon carpaccio, avocado purée and tempura. Dressed in a creamy, tangy soy vinaigrette, the leafy greens are a surprise hit, as is the citrussy avocado with its accompanying selection of lotus root, sweet and purple potato chips. Among the tempura, the pak choi is the surprise star (we offer our apologies to the decidedly more luxurious tiger prawn on the plate, but the palate wants what it wants...).
A selection of robata is next to sidle its way onto the table, each skewer containing three morsels of meat – chicken, Angus beef and king salmon, the latter so well charred and buttery that a chopstick jousting match almost breaks out over the final piece. There’s not as much of a challenge put up for the others, however, and they squire the slate back to the kitchen.
Unexpectedly, the next course – a selection of sushi and sashimi – is bland, overly sticky and resoundingly the most disappointing part of the meal.
Things start to look up again with the mains, particularly in the shape of the grilled umami salmon (a beautifully rich and flaky piece of fish) and the impossibly moreish garlic green beans, but a plate of too-dry jidori chicken and bowl of tasteless mixed fried rice temper our enthusiasm.
Spectacular though the dessert platter looks – and the lychee sorbet tastes – by the final course we’re ready to leave in search of a livelier setting.
In a city bursting with great Japanese cooking – both high-end and more accessible – Katana needs to up its game in some areas. The Red Sun Brunch could also do with carving out its own niche – and it’s going to take more than a samurai sword to do it. The Bottom Line A good setting and service, deserving of more consistent cooking.