TOMO marked our very first trip to Raffles Dubai (or any Raffles property for that matter). It’s a strange juxtaposition moving between the distinctive Egyptain theming of the hotel itself (complete with hyroglyphics and statues of Ramases) and into the subdued Far Eastern feel of TOMO.
Greeted with Japanese bows and efficent hospitality, the team at TOMO radiate a friendly demeanor. Whisked into the elegant lounge area we’re immediately captivated by a striking view. Perhaps it’s because we’re seventeen floors up at the apex of a gigantic glass pyramid (only in Dubai right?) or that the skyline vista is so unexpected for our Oud Metha location, that we’re immediately blown away. The terrace at TOMO is without a doubt the defining feature of the venue and with an early evening happy hour drawing in a steady mid-week crowd, we’re happy to bask beneath the glow from the neon lighting and take it all in.
Despite an expansive space encompassing private dining rooms, a sushi counter, and large bar area, TOMO isn’t overwhelming. Instead the space has been divided into simple pockets of space using Shoji screens and Zabuton seating, providing a feeling of authenticity and a feeling of unique Japanese charm.
Staff are key to the performance of any restaurant and the team at TOMO excel in offering not only exemplary customer service, but a feeling of value, equating to a dining experience that feels somewhat special. The word TOMO actually translates as “long time friend” in Japanese and this is certainly reflective of how we felt in terms of our treatment during the meal.
The idea behind TOMO is to bring a real taste of Japan to the UAE, via a selection of authentic Japanese dishes, refined by the team of masterful chefs. The authenticity shines through and there are particular elements to many dishes that have evidently been hand crafted by the kitchen team. It’s also important to note that the majority of ingredients and produce are imported directly from Japan, with the fish flown in fresh twice-weekly (on Wednesdays and Saturdays).
Japanese cuisine has always been associated with sushi in the Western world and although there has been a resurgence in the popularity of a certain number of other dishes (namely black cod) it’s the maki, nigiri and sashimi that reign supreme. At TOMO the sushi quite literally sails onto the table in a wooden boat, and offers a vast selection of thick slices sashimi (as if cut with the precision of a saumrai sword), a tempura prawn maki topped with cool avocado and a scallop nigiri that was memorable for it’s soft texture.
Moving away from the expected, we sample the Japanese Crab Stick Salad which is suprising for it’s light coating of thousand island dressing. This minamilistic approach allows the crab meat to really shine through and add an element of sweetness to the shredded vegetables. Similarly, the Miso Soup is packed full of flavour from its simple stock of kelp seaweed and bonito.
Altough the presentation (aside from the aforementioned sushi boat) may be entirely simplistic, the flavours are not. The Chicken Gyoza for example, are lightly fried and hidden beneath the thin shell, is an appealing mixture of minced chicken and Japanese vegetables that we couldn’t get enough of. Even the Tempura Moriawase (a dish renowned for overly thick batter) was executed well. A mixture of seafood and vegetables are lightly battered and served piping hot, with the light batter creating an additional complementing texture. Surprisingly there’s no trace of oil – very impressive indeed.
With a menu that covers an extensive range of dishes, it’s unusual to be fully enamoured with each plate that comes to the table, but at TOMO, quality remains consistent. The Gindara Saikyoyaki (grilled miso flavoured cod) may not be quite as good as the version at Abu Dhabi’s Inakaya, but the Minced Wagyu Beef from the Yakitori section, is the stand out dish. Sweet minced Wagyu (tsukune) on a wooden skewer that is so tender and melt in the mouth that we immediately want more.
The pièce de résistance is the Wagyu Houbayaki, a 200g cut of halal Wagyu beef, slathered is miso paste and grilled over hot coals upon a houba leaf. The meat continues to cook at the table, is delightfully tender and has fully infused with the flavours of the sweet miso.
Aside from the usual mochi and fresh fruit platters, TOMO sticks with tradition when it comes to desserts. Chestnut cakes, rice cakes and a red bean parfait all feature, but as massive fans of all things matcha, we select the Maccha Roll Cake. A vibrant green delight that resembles a Swiss Roll and takes on only the subtlest hints of green tea. Better still is the Black Sesame Mochi, boasting a unique flavour profile and evidently hand made in house. They make for the ideal way to end our meal.
With a new manager formally of Tori No Su in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers and a team of Japanese chefs, TOMO is looking to remind Dubai’s diners of their existence. The Asian dining scene is extremely competitive and TOMO is a worthy contender as one of the better Japanese restaurants in the city.
The location on top of Raffles glass pyramid is certainly a big part of the charm factor, but aside from the remarkable views, it’s TOMO’s food that leaves a lasting impression.
We were invited to dine at TOMO. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.