The official verdict on Ramusake's Sessions Brunch

Deeply underwhelming eats see this popular Japanese strike a rare wrong note


Love doughnuts? Then at the very least you’ll love the dessert at Ramusake’s Sessions Brunch. If you don’t, however, there’s even less to look forward to at this Friday affair at the funky Japanese restaurant just across from JBR.

If a restaurant can nail great food, slick service and considered pacing, it’s off to a good start. Unlike things like crowd and atmosphere, these are three things any restaurant can actually fully control. It’s disappointing, then, that Ramusake doesn’t quite manage any of them. More disappointing still given the limited set menu and the fact the cheapest package is Dhs250 with soft drinks. Given the generally high standard of the dinner service, it’s also pretty surprising.

If you’ve not made it down to Ramusake yet, you’ve probably heard of its now legendary (and Time Out Dubai award-winning) ladies’ nights on Wednesdays. So popular is the free drinks deal that tables are typically booked up weeks in advance. In the Friday brunch’s current incarnation, however, it’s unlikely you’ll need to clamber over similar throngs of glamorously attired women to get in.

We start off with a drink in the rustic bar, while staff attempt to explain the different packages and prices, and snap coloured wristbands onto us declaring to the rest of the service team which bracket we’ve gone for. For an à la carte brunch in a modestly sized room (and relatively quiet one on this visit, which we’ll put down to Dubai’s citywide summer lull), our new plastic accessories feel more than a little unnecessary.

At our table, we scan through the short sharing menu as the first starters – edamame, fried pepper squid and sweet potato fries – arrive. Given Ramusake’s reputation for inventive fusion eats, its decision to kick brunch off with a bowl of chips isn’t quite the seat-of-the-pants sense of fun we’re hoping (or paying) for.

Next up, a sharing platter of sushi. Fresh, varied and featuring pieces such as bite-sized spicy tuna uramaki, it helps rescue what is so far a fairly dreary meal.

A plate of delicately presented, spectacularly bland chicken ginger gyoza arrive next, leaving the table in much the same condition they arrived, before a spread of robata meats are delivered. Overly sweet, sticky chicken yakitori skewers are quickly consigned to the far end of the table, along with a plate of dried-out sweetcorn that is anything but. As we chew (and chew) the diced cubes of beef rump with wafu, tasty as it may be, we’re relieved there’s only one more course to go. It’s with aching jaws that we warily eye the arrival of two kinako doughnuts.

Oh, how wrong we are. The first bite is an emotional, almost spiritual experience. The kind of euphoria usually reserved for finding a parking space in Mall of the Emirates at 2pm on a Friday, or picking up the phone to discover the caller is not in fact trying to sell you an expat pension. These golden, sugar-rolled balls, with their sweet jam filling and slick of creamy custard, are simply brilliant, and the first plate of that day that we actually clear. We order a second portion. We order a third portion. We self-consciously contemplate a fourth before deciding to throw in the sugar-sodden serviette.

As it stands, this brunch is nowhere near as good as it should be. But if we were to base this entire review on a couple of doughnuts (and we’re tempted), with a bit of work there’s a chance it could be.
Dhs250 (soft drinks), Dhs339 (house beverages), Dhs439 (bubbly). Fri noon-5pm (three-hour packages available until 2pm). DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, JBR (04 559 5300).

The bottom line
Not one for the bucket list.

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