Tomo Japanese Restaurant at Raffles Dubai

Tomo Japanese Restaurant is a stylishly elegant restaurant located on the 17th floor of the sumptuous Raffles Hotel Dubai. It has an outdoor terrace that offers wonderful views of downtown Dubai which is perfect for pre-dinner drinks. Tomo only opened earlier in 2013 and in that time it has managed to sweep Time Out Dubai’s Best Newcomer of The Year Award.

But while Tomo may be less than a year old, Executive Chef Chitoshi Takahashi has long been recognised as one of the best Japanese chefs in the Middle East having worked in the region for about 30 years. He has an established following, and was recently flown to Qatar to cook for the Prime Minister of Japan when he was there on a state visit. Recognition indeed.

We started with a summer roll salad with tuna and avocado (AED70 – about £11.70) which was fresh and tasty. The combination of the avocado and the tuna was a great match and the tuna was excellent. To complete the plate was a mixture of miso sauce and a balsamic vinegar dressing, both of which were nicely done. However less sauce was needed on the plate.

Tomo - tuna & avocado roll

Tuna & avocado roll

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Buddha Bar

When Buddha Bar opened in Paris in 1996 it took the city by storm. A visionary ultra-chic designer restaurant, bar and lounge serving contemporary fusion Asian food to the stylish set, the blend of East meets West set a new trend in design unseen elsewhere before. Since that illustrious opening, the Buddha Bar brand has gone global with restaurants and bars throughout the world. The brand has also extended to hotels, resorts and spas, as well as downloads of the funky DJ tunes played in its venues.

The London branch of Buddha Bar is located in the equally chic Knightsbridge, and is headed by Chef King Dey who spent three years at L’Etranger as the Head Chef and has also freelanced at Noma and Zuma. As such there are little twists in the contemporary Japanese-centric menu which places a strong focus on maki rolls, sushi and sashimi. The current location is much smaller than the previous Buddha Bar at Temple. But it’s undeniably a Buddha Bar with its trademark look of chic and a classy clientele.

A king crab and prawn tempura roll (8 pieces – £17.50) was gratifyingly tasty from the sweetness of the seafood. But the tempura batter was a bit soft, and a crunchier finish would have given it a greater textural contrast. The spicy mango sauce was sweet and tangy and a perfect fit for the roll.

King crab & prawn tempura roll

King crab & prawn tempura roll

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Umu Japanese Pop Up – Frieze Masters

Umu Japanese Restaurant is a one Michelin starred venue located in the heart of Mayfair. It’s a favourite of those who work at the Japanese Consulate, and understandably so as the food is divine. Chef Yoshinori Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho, and his haute cuisine approach to Japanese cooking means his food at Umu is graced with a touch that is both elegant and precise.

I dined at Umu last year (for more on that meal click here), but I also had the opportunity to try Umu’s four-day pop-up restaurant at Frieze Masters recently, a fine-arts exhibition in Regents Park. The pop-up restaurant only offered a limited selection of starters, sushi, sashimi, and mains from the original Umu menu, but it was still a great showcase of what the standard Umu menu had to offer. Umu Head Chef Yoshinori Ishii remained in charge of the pop-up and worked the sushi bar as we ate. Also in attendance was a legion of full time staff from Umu in Mayfair.

Umu’s Chef Yoshinori Ishii hard at work

Umu’s Chef Yoshinori Ishii hard at work

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Bushido Japanese Restaurant, Bahrain

Bushido Restaurant and Lounge Bahrain ticks every box in terms of décor. Part of the Buddha Bar Group that is famous for its glamorous restaurants and high end contemporary Asian food, Bushido is similarly sensuous, dark, mysterious, and chic. But the beauty of the inspired architecture of Bushido is further heightened by a wonderful landscaped garden and a small moat that surrounds the restaurant, accentuating the mysticism of the space. Crossing the moat creates the sense that you are walking into a different world, one that is indulgently classy and sophisticated. Bushido means ‘way of the warrior’, and this theme runs throughout the feudal Japanese décor that interestingly includes the use of Samurai-armoured motifs.

The upstairs bar area offers a wonderful selection of delectable cocktails and downstairs is the restaurant where the nouveau Japanese menu is served. In addition to the main dining room, Bushido also has a sushi bar, a teppanyaki room and a terrace area. The menu showcased great diversity ranging from sushi and sashimi to robata grills to the main courses, and the variety and choice made for a fantastic sharing and tasting experience.

From the ‘new-style sashimi’ section of the menu, a Japanese sea bream with white wine and truffle soy sauce (BD6.100 – about £10) was delectable. The fish was resoundingly fresh and the acidity was well judged although the use of truffle was difficult to detect.

Sea bream with white wine & truffle

Sea bream with white wine & truffle

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Shoryu Ramen Soho

Ramen noodles are all the rage at the moment. In the last year or so London has seen the opening of such ramen houses (or ‘ramenya’ as the Japanese like to call them) as Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu. I can’t work out whether these openings have either fuelled the ramen craze or were in response to the craze, but competition can only mean standards remain high and that translates to good news for the diner. Another addition is Shoryu Ramen which is owned by the same people as those who own the Japan Centre on Regent Street. Now these people know a thing about Japanese food, and the success of the first branch of Shoryu Ramen on Regent Street has led to the recent opening of their second branch, Shoryu Ramen Soho.

It’s a no reservation restaurant but there were no queues when we popped along on a Monday night. It’s a lovely little space, modern and comfortable with nice thoughtful touches such as the wicker baskets placed under each of the tables for ladies handbags. And in addition to the condiments on top of the tables, there’s also a basket brimming with fresh garlic and some garlic crushers should you choose to enhance the flavour of your tonkotsu broth.

Garlic to flavour your broth

Garlic to flavour your broth

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Blue Restaurant at The Grand Heritage Hotel, Doha, Qatar (Day Two – Doha)

Grand Heritage Hotel

Grand Heritage Hotel

Day two of my stay in Doha saw me at the Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa. The hotel is located inland away from the Corniche in the Al Waab district, right by The Aspire Zone, a famous Qatari sporting complex built for the 2006 Asian Games. The Grand Heritage Hotel is indeed very grand looking and resembles a sprawling Victorian mansion and houses Blue Restaurant that serves steak and Japanese food.

The Grand Heritage caters to both business and leisure travellers. There is a business centre which offers services such as binding, laminating, scanning and secretarial, etc, and a spa containing a number of amenities including treatment rooms, a natural pure water indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, separate male and female saunas, steam room and whirlpool facilities.

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Bone Daddies

Oriental noodle dishes are all about the broth. There’s no doubt that noodles are an important facet, but the flavour comes from the broth, and chef-proprietor Ross Shonhan champions this fact with his noodle house Bone Daddies where he serves up noodles in bone-cooked broth as is typical oriental tradition. Shonhan has spent some time at both Nobu and Zuma so Japanese-inspired flavours are old hat for him.

From the starters, a soft-shell crab (£8) was meaty, nicely cooked and very tasty. The spiciness in an accompaniment of chilli and ginger sauce was great, and it added a sparkle to the shellfish. The batter wasn’t thin in a tempura-kind of way, but it really worked with the crab.

Soft-shell crab

Soft-shell crab

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Sake Restaurant Sydney, Australia

Sake Restaurant

Sake Restaurant

Sake Restaurant operates a chain of contemporary fusion Japanese restaurants in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with the Sydney branch sitting in the historical and touristy Rocks area near Circular Quay. The décor is lavish, yet simple; sexy, yet understated. It’s really nicely done. Catering to an upmarket and fashionable crowd, its hit the mark as the kind of place one goes to see and be seen.

As befits the name, Sake Restaurant has an amazing sake collection. The sake sommelier suggested that we try the Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo as our aperitif (a small carafe is $58 – about £38). At over 300 years old, Kozaemon is one of Japan’s most established sake houses and Junmai Daiginjo is its premium label. It brews its sake in the mountains of Japan’s Gifu prefecture. It was delicious, as smooth as silk and an excellent way to start our meal. We also tried a couple of cocktails ($18 to $20 – about £12 to £14) which were also very tasty.

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