Given any excuse to go Japanese for a dinner date out and I’ll jump at the chance – so when my wedding anniversary literally crept up on me (I am embarrassed to admit that I had forgotten until a couple of days prior) and hubby (of 5 years now – how time flies) suggested we try the new menu at Okku, I couldn’t wait to get dressed up for some seriously good sushi and a whole lot more. Given that the new menu has been designed for sharing, we rather romantically invited friends to join us and made a night of it – and mamas it was one of the best evenings out we’ve had in ages.
To get to Okku you have to walk through a very standard hotel lobby – but once you’ve stepped through the restaurant doors you find yourself in the most beautiful space, contemporary but cosy, vibrant yet dimly lit – the perfect place to forget about the world outside and just soak up a sensuous lounge atmosphere for a few hours.
Wanting to stretch our special evening out for as long as possible, we started with a few drinks in the restaurant bar – espresso fueled cocktails for mama (who was a little in need of caffeine being short of sleep as usual) and a Japanese beer for hubby, served with perfectly steamed edamame beans with truffle and teriyaki – delicate and very delicious. The bar area is sleek and cool with soft glowing ambient lighting and dj spun music – and the best part? a wall full of blue iridescent gently moving and very mesmerizing jelly fsh, pulsating to the music..
A few drinks in, one of the uber friendly wait staff escorted us to our table in a glamorous sunken dining area and our culinary adventure began. For starters, our table shared a selection of small plates and salads – in fact we had every dish on the new menu because it was simply too difficult to choose – each totally unique, perfectly sized and absolutely yummy. The lobster salad with avocado, Asian leaves, red onion and tomato in a wafu-soy vinaigrette was zesty and fresh tasting while the beef carpaccio with shredded daikon, fried capers and garlic ponzu was earthy but as light as air and full of flavour. Meanwhile a charming sommelier recommended wines to accompany the Japanese tastes and slightly autumnal notes of truffle and garlic. A huge avocado fan, I couldn’t wait to try the ‘O’ Style Avocado Volcano – not least because it sounded so dramatic – a mix of avocado, Japanese mushrooms and asparagus served in a flaming avocado shell – very theatrical and surprisingly good considering that avocado is rarely served cooked.
Our taste buds were in serious overdrive and, after the small plates were polished off, we ordered a few (ok, all) of the new larger plates including sweet sticky beef ribs with a miso/soy glaze, wagyu steak served on a hot himalayan salt stone and steamed seabass with Asian leaves, ginger and leek. Every dish was perfect in size, flavour and style – we literally couldn’t pick a favourite.Everyone, myself included, assumes that Japanese food is going to consist of fish, rice and various combinations of the two. Yes we tasted some truly delicious sushi style dishes at Okku but there was so much more to the menu (too good to resist ordering), from melt-in-the-mouth beef to seafood, interesting vegetarian options to contemporary versions of classic tempura and sushi rolls. And oh-my-goodness the desserts. I defy any of you mamas to resist the Yuzu Tart which comes with lemon sorbet, white chocolate and vodka caviar. The Passion Fruit & Ginger Creme Brulee and Chocolate & Sesame Crisp were an absolute knockout as well.
Definitely a date night with a difference, Okku has to be one of the best places we have eaten in for a long time – a fantastic combination of atmosphere, food, service and attention to detail. So good that I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait until my next wedding anniversary to return mamas!
The H Hotel
Sheikh Zayed Road
Tel: (+971) (0) 4 501 8777