Ask any Japanese diner in Dubai and they will rave about Chef Chitoshi Takahashi’s cuisine, as I do. Well after over three decades, he has left Kisaku at the Khaleej Palace hotel and is now ensconced in his new home, Tomo perched on the 17th top floor of Raffles Dubai – replacing the Chinese restaurant, Noble House.
An advocate for authentic Japanese cuisine, Tomo, whose name translates to a ‘lifelong friend’ was brimming with what looked like mostly Japanese diners on Thursday evening. As the hostess guided us to our table whilst we circled the all-glass restaurant, we drifted past the sushi counter, shabu shabu tables, the traditional Japanese sunken seats and many a private dining room before finally reaching our window table à deux. I thought we’d never arrive. The decor is austere and rather formal with Japanese folk music at play, but the glistening 360 degree views of Dubai by night help create a little more ambience.
The menu is ginormous with dishes true to authentic Japanese cuisine, and a far cry from the fusion likes of Zuma, Okku and Nobu – the latter I hear frequents Chef Takahashi’s old and new home on his nights off in Dubai. Our edamame order kept us going whilst we perused. First up was our request for sake with the carafe arriving sunken in hot water, a quirky touch, but sadly cold not warm as per our order. Yes I know the Japanese say cold sake is the way to go, but FooDiva’s a sucker for a little warmth. Efficiently remedied though with a new carafe of hot sake swiftly served and a declaration from the restaurant manager that it was on the house. Excellent service recovery.
Our two appetisers of fatty tuna maki and generous chunks of salmon sashimi were soft, sweet and succulent – but given Chef Takahashi’s strive for authenticity I would have expected freshly grated wasabi as the accompaniment, not the usual paste prevalent in Japanese restaurants here.
For my main, I was drawn to the original Japanese wagyu beef selection (no sign of Australian Blackmore here) opting for ever so thin slices in a decidedly sweet, caramelised sauce served on a bed of rice with miso soup and pickles. FooDiva was half-expecting teppan-like slices not the teeny slithers pictured here, so whilst I couldn’t fault the flavours, I would opt for a different Wagyu dish next time that would allow me to request rare. My friend’s main dish of grilled salmon was so tender simply dropping off the chopsticks with the teriyaki marinade just the right side of sweet without being sickly – all served on a tray, Japanese style, with steamed rice, miso soup and pickles.
Rather than dessert, with such an impressive menu we were craving more savoury delicacies and decadently opted for tempura king prawns – five pieces arrived fried in a light and fresh batter. Moreish.
Aside from the authoritative restaurant manager, service was a tad submissive thanks to a hostess rather than one of the knowledgeable waitresses parked near our table. We ordered a second carafe of sake which was unexpectedly also comped…am pretty sure Tomo knew I was in review mode. The dishes are extremely reasonably priced ranging from a staggeringly low AED 55 to AED 80 each, mains included – cheap by Dubai standards – and by London according to my visiting friend. It’s rare to find a licensed restaurant here, in particular a Japanese one willing to make the dining experience so affordable, but I expect that’s at the heart of Chef Takahashi’s mission to continue engaging with the Japanese community.
At that price and given the stunning venue albeit one in a not too popular location, I would happily return to eat my way through the rest of the menu, but next time you’ll find FooDiva sprawled on the tatami floor-seating terrace which only just opened this week. Tomo, I think you may just become a lifelong friend. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating. Book Tomo tomorrow. Oh and itadakimasu!
How do you prefer your Japanese – traditional or fusion? Any favourite haunts?
Tomo Japanese Restaurant by Takahashi is located at Raffles Dubai, Wafi City. Open daily 12:30pm – 3:30pm and 6:30pm – 12am. T; +971 4 3577888. E; email@example.com Licensed. Price per head AED 189 (without alcohol).