It’s often been said that the concept of fusion leads to confusion, but not so at the Namu in the W Hotel Al Habtoor City. The W is a brand associated with a youthful and funky approach to hospitality with a cacophony of colours and illuminations enchanting diners upon entering the lobby. This vibrancy partnered with futuristic design elements continues all the way up the the hotels 31st floor where you’ll find Namu.
The restaurant blends seamlessly into the contemporary property, asserting a minimalistic approach while keeping the W’s energetic soundtrack, a factor you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine. Yet Namu is set on subverting expectations in offering ‘social Korean with a Japanese slant ‘ mixing the very best of the two cuisines in a casual setting, punctuated by four show-kitchens that add an element of interactivity to proceedings.
Despite the theatrics of the kitchen and the ultra-modern decor with it’s bridged walkways providing brief glimpses of the lounge on the mezzanine level below, it’s the vantage point over the newly opened Dubai Water Canal that makes dining at Namu particularly special. Tables are strategically positioned to look outwards across the waterways, cityscape and the Arabian Gulf. The phrase ‘dinner with a view’ immediately springs to mind.
Namu translates from the Korean word for wood, and it’s these connotations to texture and nature that amplify the unique nature of the concept and the intriguing interplay between these two Asian styles. The menu may be more Korean than Japanese and encourages a sharing concept, meaning diners are able to try a number of dishes to really embrace the true flavour profiles of these two distinctive cuisines. Stripped of the usual conformity of fine dining, Namu embraces a casual approach with dishes arriving as they’re ready, as opposed to following a strict regimented order.
For those who only know Korean food for table-top barbecue, prepare to be astounded by the variety of dishes on offer. The menu is broken down into alluring sections, with appetisers that include Hokkaido (scallop, truffle soy, tenkatsu and sashimi kombu) and the Wagyu Tataki called the ‘Namu Impressions.’ A first impression is possibly the most important factor when dining at a new venue and one word that immediately springs to mind when dining at Namu is texture. For each individual dish is meticulously planned to showcase particular flavours (sweet or spicy). aromatics, colours and individual textures.
Keeping with the naturalistic theme of the name, Namu’s menu takes on an elemental approach with sections named after the natural elements. You’ll experience ‘ice’ which are the sushi dishes of which we’d recommend the ice platter specials of sashimi that includes scallop, salmon and tuna belly. The freshness of the raw fish, sliced with such precision is frankly astounding and an experience that we can only really describe as smooth. ‘Fire’ relates to the robatayaki (fire-side) style of cookery with a number of grill options available – Wagyu, King Prawn, Octopus and the Japanese signature black cod.
As good as these dishes were, it was the simplicity of the more traditional dishes that resonated with us the most. With the Namu Bibimbab being a highlight, a classic Korean rice that mixes mountain vegetables with a free range egg to bring a sweet and almost velvety nature to the dish.
Textures are at the forefront of the Namu dining experience and with the menu skewing more towards the Korean elements than the Japanese, and despite a minor misstep with a particularly chewy and unappealing octopus dish, dining here makes for an ideal introduction to the world of Korean cuisine. With Namu’s expert mixologists on hand to craft some truly beguiling concoctions using Korean soju or the truly unique wasabi mocktail, it’s more than just a venue for dinner. Perch at the bar while admiring those cityscape views – we think you’ll stay longer than you expect.
Staff are extremely knowledgable and service is delivered with an almost methodical efficiency, with the team taking ample time to explain the dishes and what makes each one so unique. If you’re looking for a truly memorable dining experience we’d suggest you try and secure one of the two private dining rooms, one brings an air of exclusivity to the phenomenal waterfront views, while the other resembles a glass box.
Above all, Namu is bringing something entirely new to Dubai which seems perfectly in keeping with its location in the W Hotel. A focus on food, atmosphere and the unique, Namu is a testament to the fact that Dubai is fast becoming THE culinary destination of choice in the region.
This article originally appeared in the November issue of FACT Dubai.
Location: W Dubai, Al Habtoor City, Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 5:30pm – midnight (1am on weekends)
Phone: 04 435 5577
We were invited to dine at Namu. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.