These innovative Japanese bites are worth seeking out
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