DUBAI: Trendy downtown Shibuya, quirky Toshima or even the more tranquil Shinagawa, Tokyo’s wonderful and varied districts offer their own unique take on Japanese culture and it is impossible for a tour around each individual neighborhood to provide similar experiences.
Perhaps the only common thread, however, is the superlative standard of culinary endeavors and the pristine outlets in which they are served. It is no secret Japan is one of the world’s greatest food destinations and its capital is the epicenter.
Though, if a ten-hour flight is too arduous and/or expensive, Dubai hosts a decent number of largely authentic representations of the restaurants you can find in the East Asian metropolis. The latest to add to the roster is ONI at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road.
Complementing the property’s already superb Vietnamese Hoi An and Chinese Shang Palace, ONI completes the gastronomic triumvirate. An informal yet up-market interior greets the diner. Bedecked in brown leather, dark wood, soft amber lighting and highlighted by decorative sake bottles, the ambiance and tunes set a sophisticated tone for the meal. The Emirate’s beautiful people hang out by the bar, picking at snacks and enjoying their ‘Nomikai’ (after-work drinks from 6pm-8pm) while the properly hungry take their seats. Peruse either the al la carte or set menu – both are great – make your decision and let the chef create some magic.
For our visit stand-out items included a fantastic portion of black cod, delicious chicken skewers, a prime steak and a few sushi rolls for good measure. While you couldn’t accuse ONI of pushing the envelope recipe-wise (to the more Western palate indigenous Japanese eateries usually purvey more inventive delicacies), what the establishment lacks in ingredient spontaneity it makes up for in the quality of its produce.
The chef has obviously surveyed Dubai’s preferences and created a menu accordingly. A steak maybe doesn’t sound incredibly exciting, but its preparation and the cut of meat will have you return the following day, such as the intensity of its smoky flavor.
The same can be said for the black cod. A UAE-staple, ONI’s version is one of the lighter varieties and sits well with the accompaniments, the miso marinade not being overly pervasive. The skewers add another splash of protein: expertly grilled and not as greasy as we have come to expect. ONI’s sushi is passable although we wouldn’t say it is the restaurant’s strength – our only mild criticism in what was a lovely Dubai-based Tokyo jaunt