Tucked between the high-rise blocks on Sheikh Zayed Road, the entrance to Miyabi Sushi and Bento – an illusion of a low-rise, bamboo-clad, lantern-lit sushi shack – looked terribly inviting. Infinitely more modern inside, I took my seat at the minuscule sushi bar. As Dubai’s first outlet of the Californian chain, the restaurant’s origins soon became clear when I was offered an iPad, to browse the (lovely-looking) menu in photographic form, and spotted a few Cali-style touches, such as the low-sodium soy sauce at the bar.

I started with some favourites: green tea, miso soup and agedashi dofu (deep-fried tofu). Unexpectedly, the tofu was served in a little stack of cubes, with the dressing in a separate bowl. I had mixed feelings about this detour from convention – the outer coating of the tofu retained a deep-fried crunchiness, but consequently lacked that gooey, drippy warmth that it usually adopts after lying in the sauce (which also lacked the dashi depth).

The maguro tataki (tuna) was delicious. The flesh was tear-apart tender and the dressing was sweet, sesame-rich and umami-packed. The onions underneath were petal thin, translucent, crisp and fresh like ice.

However, lovely as it was, it wasn’t really a tataki – it bore more resemblance to an Italian-style carpaccio in thickness and texture. Also, considering most of the plate was comprised of a mountain of onions,
the Dhs50 price was a little steep.

I also enjoyed the shogun bento, a collection of decent teriyaki salmon and a disappointingly European selection of salad leaves, but with a lovely sesame dressing, rice and some good tempura. There was also a small selection of sashimi: salmon, tuna and hammour. While the last choice was pleasingly local, the fish was far too tough and sinewy for sashimi.

The dessert list was full of strange concoctions. Despite the waitress being obviously unconvinced (or unfamiliar) with them, suggested by the reluctant look on her face when I asked her what was good, I still felt I had to try one: the tempura ice-cream. The dough was dense like a doughnut and the dish was delicious, but in a greedy way, which couldn’t be more un-Japanese.

Service was flawless throughout the meal, and food arrived promptly, as soon as it was prepared. I had little to do with the waiting staff, but they were present, if not noticed; the waitress dutifully topped up my teapot without being called over, and while I felt the manager was watching me like a hawk, he did so discreetly. I don’t believe I would have noticed if I hadn’t been observing him just as keenly.

In typically Californian style, many of the Japanese dishes here have been ‘upgraded’. I enjoyed my evening: the food is good, fairly authentic and reasonably affordable.

The bill (for one)
1x shogun bento Dhs65
1x agedashi dofu Dhs25
1x maguro tataki Dhs50
1x miso soup Dhs8
1x tempura ice-cream Dhs35
1x green tea Dhs15
1x small water Dhs5
Total (excluding service) Dhs203