Location is everything and never has this been truer than with the opening of the Jumeirah Al Naseem and it’s respective food and beverage outlets. Sitting at the busy juncture of the Jumeriah and Umm Suqeim roads, already home to the Madinat, Wild Wadi Waterpark and a plethora of luxury Jumeirah properties, including the world’s only seven star hotel.
In typical Dubai fashion, Jumeriah Al Naseem is an ostentatious offering but one that offers immediate appeal, taking inspiration from Bedouin traditions and the desert sand dunes and presenting startling interiors in the process. The beautifully realised thematics continue outside in the hotel gardens, where guests can indulge in a variety of dining options clustered in a horseshoe shape around the central turtle lagoon. There’s the modern Il Buro Tuscan Bistro (Italain), burger and freakshake hot spot Black Tap, the new Flamingo Room (aka the upmarket and licensed Tasha’s) and finally, Katsuya which brings Japanese cuisine with a Californian spin.
Katsuya pairs Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi with design impresario Philippe Starck, resulting in a restaurant space that’s beautifully realised yet surprisingly minimalist. Despite wanting to appreciate the design elements, we honestly couldn’t resist the outside terrace which hovers over the turtle lagoon, whose resident reptiles glide gracefully close as we eat. The turtles aren’t the only attraction though, with glimpses of a sandy beach and azure waters through gaps in the palm trees, which in turns lies beneath the iconic facade of the Burj Al Arab.
Katsuya aims to educate diners in the art of Japanese cuisine (including the intricacies of sushi) but it must be noted that the expansive nature of the menu results in a sense of overwhelming choice. The food is served from four distinct kitchens — sushi, robata, hot and liquid (also known as the bar) — offering a number of expected dishes alongside a selection of interesting creations. This seems to be the rhythm of the meal as we flit between a Creamy Rock Shrimp (AED 69), delightfully crisp and tossed in just the right amount of spiced sauce and an Edamame Hummus (AED 55). A take on the classic Middle Eastern dish which offers a surprising depth and comes served with grilled pita bread. Resulting in a dish we would definitely attempt to replicate at home.
We couldn’t dine at Katsuya and not try the sushi, but we found the Hollywood Roll (AED 75) with its mix of shrimp tempura, spicy kanikama, avocado and cucumber to be a little underwhelming. Unexpected given the popularity of the dish at Katsuya’s international locations. The signature Seared Tuna with Japanese Salsa (AED 95) on the other hand, impressed in the contrast between seared tuna sashimi and zesty salsa.
Our main courses were a tale of two dishes with the Wagyu Beef Filet With Foie Gras (AED 289) a touch too expensive for the portion size but delivering excellent flavours all round. Three pieces of remarkably tender Wagyu Beef come topped with medallions of rich foie gras, offset by a sweet plum reduction that works to bring the whole plate together. Add in the accompanying Wasabi Mashed Potatoes (AED 25) and it’s an impressive plate.
The Pan Seared Sea Bass (AED 169) makes for one of the prettiest plates we’ve seen in some time but transpires to be a case of style over substance. Despite good textures, the individual components of Peewee potatoes and Japanese pumpkin puree can’t make up for an under-seasoned and slightly dry piece of fish.
Whil iusually ones to favour savoury over sweet, on this specific occasion we found the desserts to be the strongest part of our dining experience with the Brownie Toban (AED 59) being of particular note. Sitting on a bed of flapjack-like walnut streusel and topped with toasted marshmallow, the brownie is sweet without being overly rich. Similarly, the Yuzu Tart (AED 55) offers another impressive plate, though the tart itself seems like an accompaniment to the light pana cotta which appears to be the focus of the dish.
While the location and interiors of Katsuya are definitely the strongest aspects of the venue, we believe there is some work to be done around the menu and would suggest reducing both the volume of dishes (sticking to the signatures) and also the price point, which at times feels unnecessarily high. The service while prompt was less than engaging, with staff recommendations feeling more like rehearsed scripting rather than genuine opinion. Though there were no real ‘issues’ with the service, we feel the personal touch was missing and it was hard to build rapport.
Katsuya is an international brand with restaurants spanning the globe from Las Vegas to Miami, The Bahamas and Kuwait. Chef Uechi’s ability to take Japanese food and adapt it for the American palate is clearly gaining momentum with the UAE market and you can expect two more Dubai openings scheduled for 2018 at both The Dubai Mall and Riverland at Dubai Parks & Resorts.
Out & About UAE were guests of Katsuya By Starck. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.