October 25, 2021

Review: Ikigai, a Japanese restaurant worth walking across town for

If there’s one thing Dubai doesn’t miss out on, it’s Japanese restaurants. So, is there room for another?

Dubai’s appetite for Japanese cuisine knows no bounds. From the great tastes of Zuma and Hoseki to the authentic temples of Kohantei and Kimura-Ya, we’re never far away from our next sushi roll or our next piece of wagyu.

Which begs the question, have we reached the peak of sashimi?

The Ikigai team leaves nothing to chance. Latest project from Reif Othman and The First Group, this elegant izakaya-style restaurant and bar in Dubai Marina ticks all your mod-Japanese boxes.

You have your sultry setting with sculptural light fixtures, graffiti murals, neon signs, and an industrial-chic touch. There is a central bar that serves sake and yuzu cocktails. And then there’s the menu, loaded with rigged Japanese street foods that are perfect for sharing over a drink.

It’s the kind of lively place you could go for a few rounds of gyoza, karaage chicken, and crispy squid after work, or catch up with the girls on Tuesday nights.

But then you would be missing some of the more nuanced treasures on the menu. Think: wagyu flambé with black truffle ponzu, or seared salmon with jalapeño soy.

Chef Minho Ted Shin directs us to the white citrus ponzu hamachi (82 Dhs), which arrived fresh from Japan that day. It layers the hamachi with very thin slices of winter melon, touches of mashed kimchi and discs of cumquat for a sweet, bittersweet flavor that enhances the delicate fish. Smart stuff.

The Ikigai tacos are another hit, filled with diced salmon, citrus mayonnaise and the brackish pop of flying fish roe (23 Dhs per piece). And sushi lovers won’t find fault with the spicy tuna maki (73 Dhs), which gets its sweet heat from licking yuzu koshu.

But it’s the Ikigai burger (78 Dhs) that is worth driving through town for: a smoky-sweet delight with powdery pink wagyu, crispy bits of bacon, caramelized miso onions and traces of char on the bread. with potatoes with a quick spin on the grill.

If you think the potato has nothing to do with dessert, then you’re missing out. Sweet Potato Semifreddo with Fried Mochi (Dhs40) is the kind of multi-texture treat that gets you fighting for the last bite, with earthy-sweet ice cream, black sesame earthen rubble, crispy tuille and cinnamon. mochi balls that look like chewy donuts.

Do you feel full? Much like the Japanese food scene in Dubai, we think we can fit one more.

Ikigai, 1st floor, Millennium Place Dubai Marina, Al Marsa Street, Dubai Marina, Sunday to Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. (bar opens until 1 a.m.). Phone: (0) 4 550 8114. ikigaidubai.ae

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