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HAUTE DUBAI Magazine / Dining /

Restaurant Review: Okku

Restaurant Review: Okku

When it comes to Japanese restaurants in Dubai, restaurateurs seem to go by ‘bigger is better,’ giving us giant multilevel eateries outwardly shaped after temples. And while they all bring a lot to the table, Okku continues to offer something a little different, where in-the-know eaters still find their way inside.

With all the rhapsody-inducing Japanese restaurants that have opened over the past couple of years, it was still a joy to dine at Okku, and encounter its forward-leaning waiting staff. While the restaurant’s novelty factor might no longer be enough to keep up with newer hotspots, the inventive food and lively vibe is still well-positioned to keep urbanites coming back. It is clear that what matters most to Okku’s managers is a hip, friendly and unpretentious service – and they are well on top of that.

En route to Okku’s dining room, you pass by a bar where smart-looking bartenders serve up colourful cocktails to a backdrop of an eye-catching aquarium inhabited by slow-drifting, fluorescent jellyfish. Though the jellyfish are not real, it’s hard to tell just by observing them. This visually-pleasing bar is segregated from the dining room by a curtain of LED lamps that change colour from white to blue as the night progresses.

Okku - Interior

Our drink choice for the evening was sake, and after a few reassuring words from the sake sommelier, we left it up to him to pair some of the restaurants 40+ sake selection with the food we were going to be having. The food menu ranges wide and offers a plenty of unusual and quirky items, each trying to outdo the other in inventiveness and ingredient combinations. We were advised to skip the sushi and try some of the specials… As we browsed through the elaborate, that seemed like the wise thing to do anyway. Some of the items were a bit strange in theory, but upon tasting them, we began to see how creativity can pay off – with beautifully melded flavours.

A prime example of this approach was an early serving of edamame beans drenched in sweet teriyaki with a dash of truffle essence. The next creative appetizer, which can successfully pass as a bar snack too, was a bunch of green beans covered in truffle aioli and fried to a crisp. Our salad course was the Lobster Salad. Although none of its components seemed out of the ordinary when described by the server – avocado, cucumber, red onion and tomato in wafu-soy vinaigrette with a poached north Atlantic lobster atop – the combination was simply inharmonious. But apparently, it is a “work in progress” confessed the chef, who left his busy kitchen to get our feedback on his experimental salad.

Lobster Salad

Before transitioning into the mains, we were cunningly convinced to try a series of ‘Small Dishes’ by the ever so friendly restaurant manager, Jerry. First off was a colourful and very refreshing dish consisting of salmon sashimi covered with chopped red and yellow peppers, benitade, and spring onion, all swimming in a pool of ginger citrus-soy vinaigrette. The next dish to paint an ‘O’ on our faces was the ‘O’ style Avocado Volcano, which was on fire – in the sense that it was served flaming! But once the flame settled down, we could not stop ourselves from scoping every last bit of the sweet, baked avocado topped with enoki button mushrooms and asparagus.

O-style Avocado Volcano

The thrill continued as the next two small dishes arrived: ‘Hamachi Truffle Grilled Rice Cakes’ and ‘Tuna & Foie Gras Carpaccio’. As much as latter may sound like an unwittingly collision of ingredients, it was consistently tantalizing in taste, and so were the crackling rice cakes.

Hamachi Truffle Grilled Rice Cakes

For our mains or ‘Large plates’ as they menu calls them, we started with Miso Lobster Onigarayaki: a mixture of grilled lobster and prawns. The lobster was removed from its shell, mixed with prawns and cooked to perfection. The mixture then is returned back into the shell and perfumed with lemon for serving. Our second sharable main was the Grilled Miso Rib. This was more straightforward than most of the other dishes: a nicely charred rib topped with spring onion and garlic crisp. However, the standout meat dish was the Wagyu Himalayan Shioyaki. Left to cook tableside on a hot Himalayan salt stone, this had to be one of the best Wagyu steaks we have ever tasted. The meat was clean, lean and covered in green – garlic scape, roquette and spring onions.

Wagyu Himalayan Shioyaki

To round off this perfect meal, we shared a serving of Passion fruit and Ginger Crème brûlée, which didn’t woo us much like the other courses, but had a pleasing intensity that somehow, after eating all that food, we were still able to enjoy. While the desserts at Okku are usually served with Jasmine flower tea, the sommelier won us over with the tempting peach-flavoured sake, which tasted just as luscious and refreshing as it sounds like.

A labour of love, stylish and idiosyncratic thinking; Okku is a great place for a night-out. The dishes here are sure to make the most cultured eaters react.

Okku is located on the 1st floor of The H Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, +971 4 501 8777. Open for lunch, Sunday - Thursday 12pm- 3pm; dinner, Sunday - Saturday 7pm - 12.30am

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