Emerald Palace by Kempinski has officially opened its doors on the West Crescent of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah and truly lives up to the marketing campaign describing the five-star hotel as “your palace by the sea.”
Inspired by the palaces of continental Europe, a sense of grandeur is evident from the very moment you enter the lobby area. Guests are greeted with a huge chandelier and ceilings adorned with gold leaf embellishments that is certainly palatial but admittedly somewhat of an acquired taste, falling somewhere between the regality of the Palace of Versailles and the opulence of Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace. Somewhat overwhelmed by the interiors we are relieved to find respite within the confines of Matagi.
As The Palm Jumeirah’s first Pan-Asian steakhouse, Matagi makes for an interesting concept that fuses together the cuisines of Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines into one very intriguing menu. The influence of these Asian countries can be found throughout the intimate 90-seater dining room which unlike the hotel itself, is both warm and inviting, with walls covered by 47,000 hand crafted tiles and Buddha figurines scattered across shelving and hidden within alcoves. Yet it’s the intricately carved Balinese teakwood panels that should be the focal point of the restaurant, hanging artfully above diners heads they remind us of our own trip to the Indonesia over a decade ago.
The mixology at Matagi takes on an East meets West approach and we begin our meal with bespoke creations combining gin and matcha, though it was the signature Jakarta Tuc Tuc (AED 78) blending together 1800 coconut tequila, Pandan syrup, cinnamon, hazelnut liqueur, pineapple and cream that transpired to be our tipple of choice. We would recommend a trip out to Matagi just for concoction alone.
Matagi’s offers a contemporary approach to Asian cuisine and we throughly enjoy the Spicy King Crab Sushi Maki (AED 65) from the ‘cold sea’ section of the menu. These masterfully constructed maki rolls seem to get the rice to filling ratio correct (for once) and come stuffed full of avocado, Japanese cucumber and the aforementioned crab. A coating of quinoa brings an additional textural element that we greatly appreciated.
An entirely unique approach to sushi is Matagi’s Wagyu Gunkan-Maki and Foie Gras (AED 82). A dish that proves very interesting in its interplay between flavours and texture, like a decadent version of the British Christmas favourite ‘pigs in blankets’! Here we have the rich and sweet caramelized foie contrasted against the pronounced flavour of the Phoenix Wagyu cube. It works well in conjunction with the Wakame Salad, an innocent staple of Japanese cuisine that is the ideal showcase for simplicity.
We were entirely surprised by the beguiling blend of spicy and sweet found in the Hamachi Kinilaw (AED 85) and can’t believe it’s taken us 35 years to have our first taste of this Filipino staple. Made with yellowtail, lotus root, Acacia honey and a coconut reduction, the resulting dish is vibrant in both colour and taste and may be an early front runner for our best of 2019 dish list!
Our trio of mains includes the fiery Kimchi Hotpot (AED 90) which presents the Korean flavors well, though we did find ourselves fishing around for the tiger prawns. Served in an earthen pot that retains the temperature well, it’s pleasing to see a restaurant unafraid to be bold with the spice level in a bid to retain authenticity to the dish. The Sweet & Sour Sea Bass (AED 145) from the ‘fire sea’ section of Matagi’s menu coats crisp pieces of fish in a ginger sauce that marks an upgrade to the 18th century Chinese favourite usually created with chicken.
The name Matagi refers to the traditional winter hunters of the Tōhoku region of northern Japan who are known for hunting deer and bears. The name is entirely fitting for an Asian steakhouse and we cannot resist the 350g Wagyu Sirloin (AED 245), a fairly large cut seasoned with Siracha and served with an irresistible Soy butter. The beef is sliced which adds visual appeal and cooked to our preferred medium-rare, makes for a tender cut we’d not hesitate to order again. Instead of fries we receive a Sweet Potato Mash (AED 40) made with coconut milk which is a surprise in itself for the delightful sweetness it brings to the course.
While the savoury options are fairly expansive, only three desserts are offered at Matagi (plus three dessert cocktails) which in the menu are referred to as ‘ happy happy joy joy.’ Aside from the expected mochi, there’s a ginger and coconut mousse and a cheesecake. We share the Mikan Cheesecake (AED 59) which represents another plate of expertly balanced flavours, with the zesty citrus of the Mikan, the sweetness of peanut brittle and a lime crumble coming together to represent unique Asian flavours in one memorable dessert.
Service throughout our meal is exceptionally friendly and makes a change from the stuffy dining rooms and careless attitude often seen throughout the city. The Matagi team show genuine interest in diners and work to ensure guests have a truly memorable experience. This pre-emptive service style anticipates the needs of guests and is a pleasantly surprise, especially considering how new the establishment is. Similarly, the soundtrack isn’t easily categorized, segueing between a carefully curated Disco selection and ambient House. It’s an unexpected playlist that works surprisingly well and helps brings atmosphere to the room.
Matagi makes a strong impression for the F&B at Dubai’s newest hotel where the majority of the restaurants are outsourced from German hospitality brand Kempinski. With early buzz surrounding Villamore and Mix by Alain Ducasse being overwhelmingly positive, we expect to find ourselves back in the golden gilded hallways of the Emerald Palace again very soon and if these restaurants are anything like Matagi then we’re likely to be very happy indeed.
Location: Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai, West Crescent, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook
Hours: 6pm – 2am
Phone: +971 4 248 8850
Out & About UAE were guests of Matagi. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.