It’s rare that I see a restaurant swarming. Even the big names seem to be struggling to pull in much of a crowd these days. So I was a bit stunned to find Creekside Japanese Restaurant, a recently relaunched eaterie in the Sheraton Dubai Creek, rather buzzing. It wasn’t packed, but for a buffet restaurant on a Monday night, it had managed to fill the room nicely.

It was immediately clear that this would be a buffet dinner (the serving trays kind of gave it away), yet my dinner date and I were still presented with a menu. Confusing, as we couldn’t order food from it. In fact, I’m not sure there’s ever a night that the à la carte menu is applicable. Perhaps it’s a relic from the days before the restaurant’s relaunch.

Menus aside, navigating the live cooking stations proved trickier than it needed to be. The tempura and teppankayi stations were both intermittently manned. The tempura I just had to wait for (occasionally it came out in freshly cooked heaps), but I found myself dumbly loitering around the teppanyaki grill. Finally, a waiter came over and said he’d take my order and deliver it to my table, but it never arrived.

The food I did pluck for myself, however, was startlingly good. The quality of sushi and sashimi went way beyond my expectations, and melted in a puff on the tongue. Underneath an airy tempura batter lay moist, tender shrimp and crisp vegetables.

The dessert station – decked out in intricately embroidered cakes that were slashed to pieces by eager diners – made me feel pity for the pastry chefs. Their creations were visual masterpieces, and were far too good for a humble buffet. While the options were standard – tiramisu, profiteroles, mango pudding – the sweets here were also a cut above the foamy, tasteless cream-filled shot glasses you typically encounter at a buffet. No, these were rich, and denoted ingredients that were fresh and chosen with care.

Creekside is definitely a credit crunch success story. It’s popular because while the service isn’t reliable the food definitely is and because the limit to what you can eat rests in the belly, not the wallet.

The bill (for two)
1x Large bottle water Dhs35
2x Seafood night buffet Dhs480
Total (including service) Dhs515