99 Sushi has garnered a reputation as one of the best Japanese restaurants in town. An impressive feat considering the restaurant is little more than a year old! In fact, 99 Sushi is the ideal fit for The Galleria, an upmarket dining enclave tucked away on Al Maryah Island. Competition is fierce though, with 99 Sushi competing with a number of very popular neighbours that include Zuma, Coya, Nusr Et, Cafe Milano and La Petite Maison.
Waterfalls slide effortlessly down a golden glass facade, seductively inviting diners into the confines of an alluring restaurant space. Much like the palace of the mythological King Midas, gold can be found everywhere! Neither the walls, menus, uniforms or chopsticks holders are seemingly spared the touch of this precious metal. Yet the all gold thematic works rather well, successfully managing to stay on the right side of gaudy and instilling the space with a sense of sophisticated elegance.
Repeat visits are essential due to an expansive food menu and a high price point. For 99 Sushi is an establishment where premium ingredients are key and efforts have been made to ensure there is no compromise on quality. The concept may derive from Spain (99 Sushi Bar has five branches in Madrid and one in Barcelona) but the cuisine is solely Japanese and although ‘haute cuisine’ appears to be the current marketing terminology for anything new and vaguely different, here it represents an accurate monicker and one that seems to have resonated with diners in the capital. As evidenced by a buzzing restaurant on the Tuesday night we visit.
A new year has brought a new style of dining with the introduction of the Fuyu (winter) Tasting Menu. Comprising of thirteen distinct courses with the aim of showcasing 99 Sushi’s signature dishes and a few new additions thrown in for good measure. The food is served in Japanese Kaiseki style meaning one course is served at a time, with individual dishes for each guest. It’s a refined mode of dining and the nonchalant pace is certainly welcome, allowing for each course to be dissected and discussed before moving onto the next one.
This particular tasting menu begins with Edamame. So far, so standard we hear you groan, but 99 Sushi have gone against the grain and rather than coating their soybeans in chili or a sprinkling of sea salt, the edamame are fried in Kobe Wagyu fat providing the dish a nice char and a very pronounced flavour. A small course of CapuMiso Soup corrects everything we noted about a similar dish during a recent brunch at Koi. For here the soup is instilled with a depth of flavour that is both comforting and sweet, due to the mix of fermented soy, seaweed, truffle, leeks and tofu foam.
Our favourite new addition is easily the Spanish Red Shrimp. Plated impeccably, the body of the crustacean has been replaced with a shrimp nigiri and the dish is served with wasabi cooked at two temperatures. The best, albeit messy part is sucking the succulent meat from within the head of the large shrimp which has a flavour of such appealing strength that you’d be wishing there was more than one on the plate.
The shrimp is followed in quick succession by the Spicy Tuna Tartar, Toro Tuna Tataki and Tiger Prawn Tempura, three dishes we’ve enjoyed before and are happy to see included. The tataki presents thin slices of tuna expertly carved at the interactive sushi bar, before being lightly seared and drizzled with a trio of soy sauce reduction, coriander and passionfruit. Making each bite of interest as the flavours blend together and vie for attention on the palate.
The tempura dish marks 99 Sushi’s take on the ever-popular dynamite shrimp and offers a plentiful portion of lightly battered prawns in a mildly spicy sauce, while the tartare uses kimchi partnered with cool tuna chunks and additional texture from the shoestring chips. Another excellent addition, the King Crab Gratin combines delicate crab meat with wasabi, tobiko and mayonnaise and is served within the leg of the crab in an exciting and rewarding presentation method.
The final courses are dedicated to sushi, with a lobster maki competing for attention against a delightful Tuna Tartar Gunkan topped with a velvety quail egg. Yet we gravitate towards old favourites of Flambéed Salmon Nigiri with lime, the Toro with Tomato and the Grilled Foie (AED 55) that remain as ambitious as the day we first tried them during 99 Sushi’s soft opening.
When it comes to dessert we’ve heard about a chocolate and truffle combination that we’re still yet to try and find ourselves instead with the Chocolate Fondant which is exactly as expected. Served in a golden bowl the fondant secretes the right ooze and the flavour is sweet without being overly rich or decadent. We’d even go so far as to say that it pales in comparison to the excellent caramel ice cream, which like much of the cuisine at 99 Sushi relies on the utmost simplicity.
99 Sushi has become an integral addition to the dining options on Al Maryah and slots neatly into the high-end dining landscape that can be found over much of the island. The venue has a luxury feel that emanates from the very fabric of the building, from the amber-lit bar all the way through to the elegant lounge and waterfront terrace. One year on and 99 Sushi remains uncompromising in its strive for quality and innovation. Call it the ‘Zuma effect’ but 99 Sushi is an establishment with a strict no voucher culture, so don’t expect to be able to use your Entertainer or any other discount here.
Location: The Galleria, Four Seasons Hotel, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 12pm – 3:30pm / 7pm – midnight
Phone: 02 672 3333
Out & About UAE were guests of 99 Sushi. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.
The Verdict: 99 Sushi
Just over a year after opening and 99 Sushi has firmly established itself as one of the best Japanese dining experiences in the capital thanks to a small and intimate dining room, top-notch ingredients and impeccable service. We’ve got 99 problem but sushi is most certainly not one!