As it turns out, frequenting Japanese restaurants is a national pastime.
There is no denying it. Japanese cuisine is one of the most popular around the world, and Dubai is no exception. In fact, there are so many Japanese restaurants in Dubai that when we first started reviewing them, there was a seemingly never-ending list.
It wasn't a hard task, but we at Savoir Flair have eaten our way through sushi, ramen, and shabu-shabu to bring to you the absolute best Japanese food in the city. These are the places we felt confident taking our Japanese friends to for dinner, where we came back to eat with family even on our days off, and where the attention to the delicate, refined, and artistic Japanese palate exceeded our expectations at every course. Below, without further ado (and in no particular order), are the absolute best Japanese restaurants in Dubai.
We’re not surprised that Armani/Hashi remains wildly popular with locals and tourists alike, with its spectacular terrace seats being fully booked even on weeknights. Delivering an imaginative twist on Japanese cuisine, the dishes here are crafted from the freshest ingredients flown in daily from around the world. Tradition has been respected where it counts – multi-course menus built on Japan’s micro seasons; these are paired with well-curated sushi and sashimi, soups, and robatayaki. Diners are treated to an array of tantalizing dishes that harken back nostalgic flavors — but given a modern interpretation.
On the spotlight during our visit was the tri-coastal cuisine of Hokkaido. The six-course meal began with the ‘Oyster with Hokkaido Salmon Roe’ and ‘Chef Selection Sashimi’ featuring the highly prized Hokkaido sea urchin, followed by the ‘Robata Grill Hokkaido King Crab’ — served with either black cod or wagyu beef — which puts the island’s signature ingredient in focus. It was followed by a truly unique dessert, the ‘Hokkaido Cheese Cake with Tofu Ice Cream’. With a menu that gets updated according to seasons, creating a delicious fusion of specialities from Japan’s regions, Armani/Hashi continues to deliver dishes that are masterfully cooked with such great technique and precision.
For the most authentic izakaya (street) style Japanese food, then you must make your way to Fujiya. There are two locations, but we visited the most recently opened branch in Downtown Dubai, and truth be told, we have been back to eat there several times with friends, with the kids, and on a date, even on our days off. You know it must be authentic when the majority of people seated at the restaurant are all Japanese (oh, and the chef used to be a sumo wrestler in Japan who grew up cooking meals for his family). We learned a lot from our host about the polite way to share food, how to prepare our sauces, and of course, what to order. Hint: Everything.
We couldn’t get enough of the spicy edamame, daigaku imo (candied sweet potato), and the chicken nanban, a dish popular in the southern region of Kyushu in Japan. However, it is the shabu-shabu (also known as hot pot) that brought us back again and again and again with our friends and family.
Located between the wine fridges at La Cantine du Faubourg, Gohan is the recently opened, secret hotspot that we have a feeling will be a not-so-secret hotspot in the very near future for two very good reasons. First, the retro decor and small dining room with an open bar is timelessly chic, exclusive, and incredibly fun. Secondly, the food is call-your-mama extraordinary.
For starters, everything on the menu with bluefin tuna is exceptional. The sliced hamachi with shiso pesto, wagyu tataki, the shrimp popcorn tempura, and the chicken and foie gras gyoza are all must-try dishes, but the Gohan Donabe was the show-stopper. Amazing food with one of the coolest vibes in town has turned this hidden speakeasy into one of our new favorite places to hang in town. The only problem is getting a reservation.
Step back into 1920s Japan with newcomer to the foodie scene Mimi Kakushi, easily one of Dubai’s best Japanese restaurants. What we love most about this chic and trendy new place that is on everyone’s “Must Visit” list is how it effortlessly serves up incredible food from beginning to end in one of the most beautiful environments and presentations on and off the plate.
With a playful twist on traditional Japanese cuisine, Mimi Kakushi has an array of the freshest sushi, an amazingly diverse selection of appetizers, and delicious tempura and gyozas as well. However, the crème de la crème, so to speak, is the ispahan chawan mushi dessert with pickled lychee, raspberry, rose petals, and sesame wafer, so make sure you save a little room at the end. You will not regret it.
Netsu may have been the brainchild of Australian Chef Ross Shonhan, but it is without a doubt one of the best Japanese steakhouses in Dubai. The unique warayaki grill sets it apart from anything else in the city and, quite frankly, cooking over straw-burning flames is a rare delicacy even within Japan. The wagyu meat is so thin and tender that it slices in half with one bite of your teeth, and the aromatic sauces that are served alongside it almost go to waste because every cut of meat from the grill is perfect just as it is.
Of course, the restaurant also features a wide variety of sushi and sashimi, made with precision and creativity for a meal that is fulfilling on the entire spectrum of options. Don’t skip the ‘Yellowtail Tiradito,’ the ‘Beef Gyoza’, ‘Korean Fried Chicken,’ or the ‘Prawn Toast Okonomiyaki’, and for the love of all things food, you must try some of the meats from the warayaki grill. We highly recommend you come hungry — however, if you can’t possibly eat everything you want for dinner, the space has just started serving a weekend lunch, which means we can now indulge during the day as well.
If you have not yet been to Reif Kushiyaki — the darling of Chef Reif Othman — then immediately plan your next meal at the no-frills restaurant in Dar Wasl Mall. Reif Kushiyaki feels like an extension of Othman himself, with the playful Astro Boy decor scattered throughout, the open, friendly kitchen situated right in the middle of the dining room, and Othman himself cooking and chatting the entire time to all the diners as if they were guests in his home.
But make no mistake, the focus of his place is on the food. Where else can you find ‘Kimchi Melon’ or a delicious variation of guacamole topped with lotus crackers? The raw salmon and beef gyozas are otherworldly; we had to order more because the entire serving was devoured within seconds of the first bite, and don’t even get us started on the emotions we feel reliving our experience eating the chicken katsu sando and the wagyu katsu sando. From beginning to end, the meal kept getting progressively better and better as dish after dish wowed us. What really shocked us was how much we loved the ‘Matcha Fondue’. We didn’t expect the gooey sweetness that erupted onto our plates and into our mouths, but we are so glad the wait staff suggested we order it.
Hamachi no taru taru, piripiri maguro maki, age nasu no goma-ae, kankoku fu kohitsuji, kampachi sashimi no salada, and even the incredible bekudopoteto (literally the best baked potato you will ever eat), are only a few of our favorite dishes from Roka, the popular robatayaki (BBQ over charcoal) Japanese restaurant from London. That’s not even mentioning the unique and devastatingly rich rosuto bone marrow, where the chefs are serving real bone marrow with garlic confit all in a miso bun, or the aka ebi kushi yaki (panko red shrimp with wasabi mayonnaise) that was so tasty, we actually did squeeze out the last juices from the head like we were instructed by the chef — a feat we never thought we’d manage before.
Roka is absolutely one of our favorite go-to spots for the best Japanese or even just a place to grab a meal — full stop. The food is out of this world, but the vibe, the decor, the music, the beautiful outdoor terrace, and the fact that it is always full of cool people just makes it the place you want to hang out and enjoy a really, really good meal.
There’s only one place to go for an authentic Japanese fine dining experience, and it’s Tomo. The Japanese-owned, 17th-floor sanctuary at Raffles serves the highest standards of fresh fish flown in weekly from Japan. Tomo never fails to impress from the food to the service — and the stunning panoramic view of Dubai doesn’t hurt either. It’s a great place for a business dinner or when you want a quiet date night to treat yourself to a meal that dreams are made of. Try not to fill yourself up on the melt-in-your-mouth sushi so that you don’t miss out on the best tempura udon soup in town.
When Arjun Waney and Rainer Becker co-founded Zuma back in 2002 in London, they put a non-traditional spin on the authentic flavors from the mother cuisine of Japan and created a sophisticated experience inspired by the otherwise relaxed izakaya-style of eating and drinking. Any meal at Zuma, whether it is lunch or dinner, is meant to be shared and enjoyed, and quite honestly, with food that good, it is impossible not to do so. The dining room is stunning. It is open with views, not of buildings, but of green parks and the courses flow like a conversation between two good friends.
We tried the Chef’s premium selection menu, and to our utter delight, there was not one weak dish in the entire meal. From the unpredictable combination of wagyu beef sushi with oscietra caviar, to the unforgettable salmon and tuna tartare served on a miso bun, it was difficult to choose a favorite course, a problem that even our charming waiter, Ibrahim, had a hard time with. The scallops ume boshi were divine, the prawn tempura was unbelievable, the nigiri melted in our mouths, the sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls were perfection, and the lobster comprised of only three ingredients – lobster, butter, and a heavenly combination of herbs and spices – was so good, we needed a moment to appreciate every bite. Book a table. Ask for Ibrahim. You can thank us on your Instagram post.