Sho Cho is like a dream. A beautiful venue that boasts distinct holiday vibes, a laid back atmosphere and a chilled ambiance. We are just disappointed that we didn’t stumble upon it sooner.
Situated on the sandy shores of Khor Al Maqta, the channel of seawater that splits Abu Dhabi Island from the mainland, the venue has unparalleled views of the truly spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and is a great spot to bring visitors.
This Japanese fusion restaurant is housed within the luxurious Souk Qaryat Al Beri, a modernised version of a traditional Arabian market, that oozes charm and sophistication. With a remarkable outdoor terrace, you can relax in the sunshine, while traditional wooden bra’s glide through turquoise waters. It is this mix of Venitian and Islamic influences that is home to the fantastic Sho Cho
￼Sho Cho Japanese restaurant and lounge has been a staple on the Abu Dhabi dining scene since 2007 (there is also a branch in Dubai). With a dining environment renowned for its forward thinking and highly innovative ideas, the restaurant is an all white affair that feels more like Ibiza than Abu Dhabi.
Regular readers of the blog will know how much we love a Friday Brunch and the offering at Sho Cho are a far more relaxed affair than we have become accustomed to. The brunch here has no buffet lines and no queuing at bar stations… and that is the reason we loved it. So often we go to brunch and find one (or more) members of the table missing, in the search for food, that they miss conversations and spend much of the brunch on their feet.
The concept of the al-a-carte brunch has always left us slightly bemused, the limited menu choices and our worry at not being able to eat unlimited amounts of food has always been a bit of a turn-off. Yet we are pleased to say that Sho Cho has changed all that!
Opting for the alcohol package, we were pleasantly surprised by the concept at Sho Cho. After the welcome glass of champagne, the staff bring you a surprise cocktail to the table, after each one you can opt to re-order or move onto the next surprise. This leads to a sense of excitement and a fun guessing game of ingredients. But we are not going to lie, by the end, it all tasted like tequila to us.
We found the service at the start somewhat slow, but this is not the fault of the staff, but more of a case of getting things ready for the ten distinct courses that were to appear on our table during the four hours that were to follow. Our delicious sangria-style drinks were accompanied by a crisp edamame, now we are used to the Wagama version, but the offering here is far superior, with a nice blend of seasoning and a tangy kick. A great taster of what to expect from the rest of the afternoons menu.
Next came the appetiser selection, comprising of light and crispy spring rolls filled with delectable plump prawns, a raw fish ceviche seasoned with citrus and chilli, that despite taking on the appearance of raw chicken, tasted wonderful. Tuna tatami (which means pounded or ‘hit into pieces’ in Japanese) is a mixture of chopped tuna, garlic, ginger, green onions and soy sauce, while the seared salmon was delightful, but for us, the standout appetiser was the salmon gyoza – which we happily re-ordered on a number of occasions throughout the brunch.
Next came a selection of salads and these two dishes were the epitome of what makes Sho Cho so brilliant. Rather than being the usual mix of lettuce leaves, the salads here contained crispy calamari rings and something that we are not usually a fan of – aubergine. The aubergine in this instance was lightly battered and deep fried and tasted unlike anything that we have experienced before, to say we are converted to aubergine (in this form) is an understatement.
The salads were so fresh and worked as a great way to balance out the meal with lighter options, which were just perfect for the fact that we were sitting outside and still had a number of courses left.
Next came the shrimp tempura (aka dynamite shrimp) a dish that has become synonymous with American chain P.F. Chang’s and is the standout dish on their menu. The shrimp here tastes similar but is elevated by the seasoning and the fact that the shrimps used are of a superior quality, plus the dynamite sauce is used sparingly so as not to overpower the flavour of the shrimps themselves.
Maybe the brunch at Sho Cho is not the best for those who are not fans of raw fish and sushi, but for lovers of Japanese cuisine, the food is spectacular. Yakitori was next on the agenda and did not disappoint. The preparation of Yakitori involves skewering meat with sushi (a steel or bamboo skewer) and marinading it in a salty-sweet seasoning, before grilling over a charcoal fire. The chicken and lamb Yakitori that were presented to us were flavourful, with a hint of spice and a nice charred element.
As the surprise cocktails kept coming – we moved from a raspberry vodka lemonade to an orange tequila concoction and a citrus margahertia – we had to commend the mixologist for keeping things interesting. Plus the vibe of the restaurant was buzzing, with a DJ spinning a nice mixture of dance and R&B which reflected the ambient lounge vibe that Sho Cho is working hard to achieve.
Arriving next to the table was the maki and sushi platter, comprising California maki rolls, plus salmon and tuna nigiri. As big fans of sushi, we thoroughly enjoyed this course of the brunch, but were soon starting to feel defeated by the sheer amount of food that we were being presented with (and we can eat a lot)! The staff could sense our struggle, so they delayed the arrival of the remaining courses whilst we enjoyed our drinks and waited for the fullness to subside.
Throughout the brunch all items are brought to your table, so you are not required to get up, which makes for a very relaxed dining experience and one that takes away the decisions of choosing what to eat from a vast buffet. At Sho Cho the only decision you need to make is what dish to have for your main course (and yes, you can have more than one). The options were lobster, beef, chicken or vegetables, in either a teriyaki or yellow chilli sauce. With four of us dining, we covered all the bases and were pleased with the results. Having had some disappointing lobster-related experiences in recent weeks (see our posts on both The Shack and Buger and Lobster), we are pleased to report that the lobster at Sho Cho was as close to perfect as one can expect – nice tender chunks of lobster were presented in a spiced yellow chilli sauce. While the teriyaki chicken was full of flavour from the sake, soy, honey and sugar glaze – a dish that dates back to the seventeenth century and involves broiling the meat before glaring it multiple times during the cooking process.
Finally it was time for dessert and thankfully it was all about simplicity and palette cleansing. We were presented with three mochi (a rice cake containing ice cream) in distinctly Japanese flavours – green tea, chcolate and mango. Each was a delight to eat as the gelatinous casing gave way to soft and sweet ice cream.
The brunch at Sho Cho is something that we have been raving about for a couple of weeks now. It is a very laid-back and casual affair and one that we throughly recommend. With impeccable service from the friendly and consistently excellent staff, to the imaginative cocktails and incredible food, the brunch is a pure bargain at 190 AED for the soft drinks package and 295 AED for the alcohol option.
Location: Ground Level, Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Al Maqtaa, Abu Dhabi
Hours: 12:00pm – 3:00am
Phone: 02 558 1117