DETAILS: Dhs190 (soft drinks), Dhs325 (sparkling grape). Vida Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (04 442 8383).
Ten minutes in, and with only one other occupied table in Toko’s stunning garden, we’re wondering what’s taking the team of waiters so long to ask us what we’re doing here. We’re at the newly revamped Downtown Toko for brunch (which is why you’re reading about the experience on this page) but no-one seems to care too much.
When we do manage to get someone’s attention, they don’t really know what the brunch is all about either. There’s a single-page menu, with a handful of courses (from snacks to raw to dim sum, moving through barbecue and finishing with desserts). But we’re also handed an à la carte menu and a full beverage menu. Neither of which we need or are included in the packages. The waiter also doesn’t know if we’re served all the food (there are a few options in each section) or if we need to order the dishes we want. To keep us busy while they find out, we’re brought two miso soups. Between three.
It turns out the food is brought out in waves, all to share, and we don’t need to do any ordering. Except our drinks, which is also much more of a struggle than needs be.
If this all seems very negative, that’s because the experience, up to now, has been. But once the food comes, things pick up.
We never get that third miso soup, but that’s hardly why we’ve come to brunch anyway.
A salmon sashimi salad, with zesty yuzu dressing, is the first thing that blows us away. If only there was more of it. In fact, we’re being served the same amount of food for three people as the table of two next to us. We chance our arm at re-ordering some dishes, which works, but the portioning of sharing dishes when there’s an odd number of guests is a problem that persists at this kind of brunch across the city. Toko shouldn’t be singled out for it. At least we could order more here.
Another standout dish arrives at this point − the crispy duck salad. The meat is rich and tender and sits among some greens that have been well dressed with hoi sin and pomegranate seeds. We order it four times.
Maki rolls also hit the spot. We don’t love cream cheese versions, but appreciate that the one here − with a crunchy tempura casing, salmon and spinach − is very good. Of the barbecue dishes, we love the beef fillet, diced and mixed with egg fried rice, snow peas and peppers.
Service perks up around the halfway point, as if someone has reminded the guys to be friendly and offer to top up drinks. We also get a description of how the brunch works at this point. Better late than never, of course.
It means we end the afternoon on a high note, with our fill of food (especially after chomping on assorted moshi), our drinks recharged and, finally, a no-longer elusive sense of purpose in our visit.
The Bottom Line
Top-notch food, but service needs work.