Ramusake opened it’s doors during Ramadan last year and became an immediate fixture on Dubai’s nightlife scene. In a very short time this Pan-Asian nightlife spot became the place to see (and be seen) in Dubai and garnered a strong reputation for one of the best ladies nights in the city.
Arriving on Dubai’s sandy shores, this London import is spearheaded by nightlife entrepreneur, Piers Adams. Who has already brought Mahiki (another popular concept originating in London) and Copper Dog – the brick-by-brick replica of a Scottish highlands pub – to Dubai. Ramusake is an altogether different beast. Adopting the ‘izakaya’ dining experience and pushing the boundaries of interior design in the process.
No doubt the intricate design work of Ramusake is impressive and the overall thematic is up there with some of our recent favourites (we’re looking at you Aji and BU). Located in the Hilton DoubleTree JBR, the remarkable thing here is the open-plan layout. Transforming the combined restaurant and bar into one all-encompassing terrace, complete with a large tree rising our of the woodwork and a collection of beautiful artworks focusing on sultry geisha and rolling waves. The press release describes Ramusake as a hybrid of 1920’s ‘Show Era Tokyo’ with a ’Blade Runner-esque’ futuristic twist. We’re not sure if we completely agree with the latter but the combination of aged concrete and charred timber is certainly striking.
Prominent features include large paper lanterns representative of the Izakaya experience where they were traditionally used to indicate sake shops. A number of mesmerizing murals replicate the style of artist Katsushika Hokusai, whose statement piece ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ is an inspiration for much of Ramusake’s design elements.
Although predominately a nightlife destination, Ramusake has joined the brunch trend with full force and is now open for lunch on weekends. We consider this a particularly good idea (especially in these cooler winter months) as the views over the Arabian Gulf and forthcoming BlueWaters Island, marks distinct selling point of this exclusive location and one that’s somewhat shrouded in darkness during Ramusake’s usual working hours.
The brunch here sticks strictly to the Izakaya style of Japanese sake shops or gastropubs. Similar to Spanish tapas, small dishes (typically sashimi and grilled meats) are ordered throughout the course of a meal and shared amongst the assembled diners. Capitalising on the trend for Japanese dining, Ramusake features a separate sake bar (with an extensive selection of this Japanese rice wine speciality) and a Robata counter to add a splash of interactivity to proceedings.
Opting to sit outside on the terrace (though there is little separation between the interior and exteriors other than a roof) we admired the menu of ‘Japanese classics with a modern twist’ that are refreshingly different from the majority of Japanese restaurants in Dubai. We begin with Spicy Edamame heavily coated in a sauce of chili and ginger and one that packs a fiery heat, before quickly ordering the Tuna Sashimi Pizza. Having been converted to the dish during a recent visit to the similarly themed Karma Kafe.
The version here is just as good and possibly even better. The concept of mixing a flat bread with raw seafood shouldn’t work in theory but it does. Thanks mainly to the truffle cream cheese and wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe) which pop in the mouth, adding an additional textural element to the plate.
As huge lovers of dim sum we’re torn by what to order from the dumplings section of the menu. With five different offerings, all of which sounded vaguely appealing, we eventually settle on the Steamed Prawn and Shittake Gyoza. Steamed to perfection, the prawns remain delicate and juicy, while the accompanying broth provides an additional punch of flavour.
Following the success of the gyoza, it seems only fair to sample some more of the dim sum. Opting for the Fried Nikuman Buns the presentation was spectacular. Three bulbous balls of dough topped with edible flowers, reminding us of our favourite Char Siu. Unfortunately the dish doesn’t match our expectations and despite a near perfect dough, the interior filling of pulled beef lacked the sticky and sweet flavour that we had expected and marked the only real misstep in an otherwise fantastic meal.
Venturing onto the hot plates we were torn between the Chilli J-Dog (what exactly makes a hot dog Japanese?) and the Chicken Kara-Age Sliders. Utilizing the same Nikuman dough as the aforementioned dumplings, the bun element didn’t quite work for us but when eaten together with the fried chicken, baby cucumber pickles and kimchi mayo. The dish seemed to come together and the concept worked well, though again we weren’t too sure what made them Japanese?
A Foie Gras Chawanmushi had us intrigued but we weren’t quite ready for a mixture of egg custard and foie gras this early on a Friday lunchtime. Opting instead for the Tako Yaki Omelette we were suprised by the dish. The omelette arrives topped with tuna flakes and the heat from the dish reacts with the flakes to give the impression of movement. Something dawned on us. This was exactly the same idea as an udon dish that had captivated us mere weeks before at Aji.
Yet Ramusake opened first and its menu has been in place for months. Leaving us feeling somewhat foolish for championing the originality of the Aji version in our previous blog post. The omelette version at Ramusake is actually the better plate, mixing pickled ginger with generous chunks of octopus that really breaks up the texture of an otherwise predominantly egg based dish.
We didn’t intend to order the Sweet Potato Fries but our waiter was so insistent we try them that we eventually admitted defeat. We’re so glad that we did though as these were some of the best we’ve tried. Even Mrs. Out & About who doesn’t usually like them couldn’t help but devour a few handfuls, accompanied by dipping sauces of Kimchi mayo and jalapeño.
Heading towards bursting point we selected two dishes from the robata grill. The first was the Smoked Lamb Cultlet, beautifully tender, nicely charred and emitting a smoky flavour from the miso marinade. Partnered with another recommendation from our waiter. The Kinoko Rice was more of a risotto and successfully blended the flavours of mushroom, basil and ginger into a delightful though somewhat heavy dish.
Living up to their name the Scarlet Prawns grilled with miso garlic butter, were one of numerous highlights from our lunch. Tender and packed full of flavour, the deep red colouration adds an additional visual appeal to the flavours of an already striking dish.
Dessert arrived as a taster platter, allowing us to sample a number of Ramusake’s sweet offerings. Despite then obvious absence of the hot chocolate fondant, we throughly enjoyed the fluffy Kinko Doughnuts rolled in sugar and served with Chantilly cream. The visual presentation of the Coconut Panacotta was also of note, taking on the look of a boiled egg and soldiers. With the mango podding representing the ‘yolk’ and a vanilla French toast as the dipping ‘soldiers.’
Our favorite dessert was the Yuzu Curd Tart. Ramusake’s take on the lemon meringue pie that involves a citrus (yuzu) creme fraiche topped with piques of soft Italian meringue, slightly charred and oh so gooey – beautifully offsetting the tartness of the citrus.
At Ramusake there’s only one thing better than the food and that’s the music. Though not a party brunch so to speak, the soundtrack of hip-hop, funk and soul classics from the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond had us literally dancing in our seats. Tune after tune, hour after hour, the music just kept getting better and better. We’re informed by the hostess that this is the same music played during club nights. Which has only made our yearning to return to Ramusake for a night out even stronger. We”ll be back that’s for sure…
We were invited to dine at Ramusake. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.