Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sake in style at Dubai’s hottest new Japanese restaurant

If you’ve ever visited Hakkasan in London, you’ll know why we were super excited to visit Sake No Hana Dubai… The restaurant is located Downtown in Dubai within Souk Al Bahar – something of a novelty for a Londoner as there are few really good restaurants in malls or shopping centres back home. This also means it’s wise to grab a cab half an hour earlier than your reservation as it’s pretty hard for me or my friend to walk past a shop without taking a look! 

The doorway to Sake No Hana Dubai reminded us of a Pandora’s box – dark and unassuming with a gorgeous hostess waiting to greet us. As we made our way inside, we were astounded by the sheer size of the place in contrast to the tiny doorway! The venue itself is split into two halves… A stunning lounge with long bar and comfortable seating areas along with stools and tables and the restaurant located down the stairs and to the back with a cigar lounge separating the two. 

We were immediately taken aback by the amazing interior design of this fabulous high end establishment – created by Tokyo based designers AGE. Rich woods and high sheens, beautiful surfaces and clean lines; yet the modern and opulent aesthetics didn’t detract from a very stylish, cool and classy atmosphere. 

We had an excellent table facing the open kitchen and sushi bar, which was great for watching the chefs at work, while we deliberated over which wine we should choose. The list is especially selected for the Hakkasan group and there really was a fantastic selection… So extensive that we couldn’t really choose! The manager suggested we might like to ask the sommelier who recommended the Hermit Crab –an Australian Viognier, which at 350aed was a reasonably priced and easy drinking accompaniment to the range of dishes which were to follow. 

We began with some steamed and salted edamame and a delicious crispy soft cell crab salad with pomelo and pomegranate. As one of Sake’s signature dishes, the crab was absolutely delicious and the salad was perfectly flavoured with the dressing. This was accompanied by the scallop carpaccio, which came presented beautifully on a bed of cucumber slices, with lemon to taste. Each scallop was bursting with flavour and topped with something different – our favourites were the green fish eggs with a hint of wasabi which were fantastic as were the scallops finished with golden Japanese citrus fruits. After chatting with the chef, who was extremely passionate about his creations, we also learned that the scallops were a newly launched addition to the menu so we’d highly recommend trying these… 

The seafood mix tempura followed – with a combination of prawns, scallops and Japanese white fish which tasted a little like octopus. This was no average tempura! The batter was so light and crispy that it melted in the mouth while the grated radish, green tea powder, tempura sauce and wasabi cream provided the most exquisite taste. I decided this was definitely my favourite Japanese dish…. Well until the teriyaki salmon arrived that is… Huge chunks of boneless salmon, perfectly cooked with a beautifully sweet sauce. We decided that this dish was definitely a little bit special. 

We also tried one of the iron pots which was a traditional Japanese dish; risotto like in consistency, with tender corn fed chicken and truffle mushrooms. This wasn’t to my friend’s taste, but I absolutely loved it and although I couldn’t eat another single thing by this point, I found myself re-filling my plate several times! 

After a break and a bit of a chill out, we decided to try out the sushi and sashimi – which of course would have to be accompanied by some sake. Having never tried sake before, I was amazed at how good it tasted and how well it brought out the flavours in our gorgeous spider maki rolls (the snow crab was just to die for). The staff are extremely knowledgeable on their list of sake, so if you’ve never tried it before, just ask and they’ll be happy to take you through the list and explain the basic sakes and brewing methods. We tried the Honjozo which is a fragrant variety with a very small amount of ethyl alcohol added at the final stage of fermentation. I’ve got to say, I am now a true sake convert….

As we discussed how amazing and truly authentic our dinner had been in terms of Japanese cuisine, we noticed the dj had taken to his stand in the lounge and that the bar area was beginning to fill up. What was really nice, was that although the music was loud-ish, we could still chat without having to shout and with some great tunes being played, we decided we’d make our way through to the lounge to soak up some of eclectic atmosphere along with a cocktail or two. 

The cocktail list is as exhaustive as the wine list – an endless choice of perfectly executed concoctions. All of the bar staff are trained mixologists and they’ll be delighted to make something up to your exact specifications – that’s if you can’t find anything to tempt your taste buds which I’d say would be impossible! We settled on a delicious, smooth and full of flavour strawberry margherita and a fabulous accompaniment to the most stunning desert I think I’ve ever seen, or tasted – the Raspberry Rose which is brownie based and made with manjari mousse and a raspberry compote chocolate velve, not forgetting the lychee ripple ice cream (It’s even better than it sounds if that’s possible….) 

After 10, the lounge started to fill up, a superb mix of the Dubai elite – good looking, well groomed groups and couples. The music – a mix of upbeat, commercial house and some great versions of old classic 80’s tunes, make this lounge stand out against the hundreds of others in Dubai. There’s also a separate lounge food menu should you require it! Is there any box this restaurant doesn’t tick?! Well the answer would have to be a resounding No.

Lying by the pool the next day, we reflected on our Sake No Hana Dubai experience. 

Beautifully created drinks, stunningly presented food which tasted as good as it looked. An electric atmosphere, opulent décor and a crowd to match. It doesn’t get much better than that for a night out. The collaboration between the Hakkasan Group and the Crystal Group (with Patrice Gouty of London’s Chinawhite and Raffles at the helm,) proves that in a city which boasts some of the world’s highest restaurants and panoramic views, that the perfect formula can actually be found hidden inside a Pandora’s box.


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