These in­no­va­tive Ja­panese bites are worth seek­ing out

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Sta­cie Over­ton John­son

Ra­musake is not a restau­rant you are likely to stum­ble across un­less you know it is there.

Tech­ni­cally, it is in the Hil­ton Dou­bleTree, Jumeirah Beach Res­i­dence, but on a park­ing level. Af­ter wan­der­ing around the car park for a while, we even­tu­ally found it – but not be­fore ask­ing for help to lo­cate it. Twice.

The ad­ven­ture just to find Ra­musake’s front door al­ready makes it feel like it is a hid­den gem. This is a feel­ing that lingers once you step in­side. The aged con­crete floors, the worn wood and the dim light­ing peek­ing through over­sized aba­cuses on the ceil­ing work to­gether to achieve ex­actly what Ra­musake is go­ing for – a cool, iza­kaya-style eatery where the so­cial el­e­ment is just as im­por­tant as the food.

An iza­kaya is the Ja­panese ver­sion of a ca­sual gas­tropub, where co-work­ers and friends gather af­ter work for drinks and, usu­ally, in­ex­pen­sive food. Ra­musake does in­deed emit a ca­sual – yet chic – vibe with an over­all in­for­mal at­mos­phere.

Yet it is de­cid­edly trendy too, as such places tend to be in Dubai. The first Ra­musake, from nightlife en­tre­pre­neur Piers Adams, opened in Lon­don in 2014, but as of last April, it has been per­ma­nently closed.

The Dubai ver­sion is beau­ti­ful – the ex­pan­sive ter­race is invit­ing but it is too windy for us, so we opt to sit in­side. We are com­fort­able at our ta­ble for two, un­til later in the evening when two din­ers are seated at a ta­ble that is un­com­fort­ably close. So close, in fact, that we en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion with them as it seems rude not to.

We or­der five tapas-style plates, which is plenty of food for two, we dis­cover. The best among them is the tuna sashimi pizza. A light, but filling dish, the pizza has a thin, crispy crust topped with deep-pink, soft tuna slices, chives, red onion and a heap of wasabi to­biko that adds a spicy, tex­tu­ral punch. We love it.

The chicken and ginger gy­oza is less ex­cit­ing. I re­gret not or­der­ing the more in­ter­est­ing cheese and truf­fle gy­oza, but for dumpling lovers, the chicken and ginger ver­sion should sat­isfy, and the chilli oil keeps it from be­ing too bland.

We love the must-try sesame­soy glazed black An­gus short rib from the ro­bata grill. The flavour-packed meat is rich and ten­der, if a bit dry. We asked for more sauce to com­pen­sate, which made all the dif­fer­ence. The aptly named panko pocket is the epit­ome of bar food. This crispy pocket, packed with Wagyu beef, is a fu­sion of In­dian and Ja­panese flavours. It is what you would ex­pect a Ja­panese-style samosa to be. The chilli J dog piqued our in­ter­est and did not dis­ap­point. It looks fairly typ­i­cal on ar­rival – but this is no rub­bery dog made with meat of ques­tion­able ori­gin. The soft bun is packed with smoked chilli beef and topped with melted cheese and spicy mayo. It is a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of sweet, spicy and savoury. The ki­nako dough­nut holes I or­der for dessert ( made with roasted soy flour) are warm and soft, filled with a bit of jelly and with an ad­di­tional dol­lop on top. They are served with a pot of Chan­tilly cream and I gob­ble them up.

The mochi se­lec­tion – we get straw­berry, vanilla and green tea – is a lit­tle more straight­for­ward, but tasty none­the­less. Ra­musake’s menu serves up plenty of in­no­va­tive bites, in­clud­ing a range of sushi, maki rolls, ce­viche and hearty mains from the ro­bata grill, such as dashi-braised oc­to­pus, miso-brined baby chicken and teriyaki salmon. Well- ex­e­cuted food paired with a buzzing at­mos­phere ( it was packed by the time we left at 9pm) means you will need no ex­cuse to re­turn – and I plan to.

Our din­ner for two at Ra­musake at Hil­ton Dou­bleTree, Jumeirah Beach Res­i­dence, Dubai, cost Dh530. To book, call 04 559 5300. Re­viewed meals are paid for by

and con­ducted

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