Acclaimed Chef Reif Othman has done it again! Following on from his success as regional Executive Chef at Zuma, Othman fronted award-winning MediterrAsian venture Play at the H Hotel, before segueing across to Billionaire Mansion, and has now opened his first casual concept, Reif Japanese Kushikyaki.
The small homegrown restaurant opened at Dubai’s Dar Wasl Mall in early September, garnering rave reviews and a constant queue of hungry diners eager to see what homegrown talent Othman has created with his latest vision. The focus at Reif Japanese Kushikyaki hones in on the traditional Japanese street food known as Kushiyaki which are basically grilled skewers. The ingredients are more unique than one may expect with the likes of Angus beef, chicken wings and grilled shrimp immediately drawing our attention as we peruse the menu.
Reif’s restaurant space is beautifully conceived with embossed wooden panelling and a show-kitchen that is constantly alive with activity. As the team of chefs work tirelessly on plate after plate of top-notch Japanese dishes that aim to bring simple comfort food to Dubai’s discerning diners. With seating for just 29 diners inside, the configuration of small wooden tables wraps around the open kitchen in an intimate L shape. The back of the room is given over to a 3D mural of comic book character Astro Boy replete with robotic mechanisms and a beating heart of pulsating red light that has been masterfully created for Reif by Lebanese artist, Lauris Zailaa. An outside terrace for an additional thirty diners has also recently opened.
The appealing menu covers a range of Japanese dishes and aside from the Kutisyaki diners can feast on ramen, gyoza, gunkan and a selection of raw dishes. The menu is concise but appealing and as Rothman himself puts it, every dish is a signature, making returns visits an absolute must. Make a point not to miss the specials board (as we did on our first visit) as there are additional highlights to be found here,
What Reif’s Kushiyaki achieves so effortlessly is to bring unconventional Japanese street food at affordable prices. Though there are a number of higher-priced items should you wish to splurge and the Sanchoku Wagyu Sando (AED 145) is one such example and could well be a contender for one of team Facts favourite dishes of the year. Generously sliced marinated Wagyu, slathered with a sweet and viscous tonkatsu sauce, that sandwiches the meat between thick slices of Japanese milk bread that are deceptively light.
Never ones able to resist burrata, the Puglia burrata (AED 110) is up there with the best in the city and is generously portioned upon smoked olive oil and scattered with strawberries and pistachio pieces. The creamy nature of the cheese is undeniable and works as a showcase on how to let quality ingredients shine.
From the raw dishes, we enjoy the raw seabass (AED 55). A beautifully balanced dish presenting thin slices of seabass swimming in yuzu soy and yellow pepper chutney. The result is an exciting dish of intense sweetness with citrusy notes with a touch of texture that successfully manages to harmonize the palate.
It’s recommended to order a number of dishes to share and this strategy appears to work as a means to explore as much of the menu as possible. Trust us when we say you are going to want to try everything! A dish such as the 18 hour ramen (AED59) offers a seductive ginger chicken broth that is full of depth and robust flavours. The ramen is an easy contender for best in Dubai and is plentiful enough for two or even three diners to share.
The Kushi (skewers) are available with a variety of ingredients impaled upon sharp bamboo skewers. Obscure ingredients such as chicken neck can be ordered, though we found ourselves favouring the Angus beef with Goma wasabi that brings a pleasing heat to the charred pieces of meat that have been flame-grilled to perfection.
With food this good it’s easy to over-order (as we did on both our recent visits). Show some restraint and ensure you leave room for dessert as the taiyaki (AED 38), a fish-shaped caked upended into an earthy matcha soft serve ice cream, is a crowd-pleaser. Similarly, the molten cake (AED38) takes some time to prepare but is well with the wait with an oozing peanut butter centre that complements the chocolate to startling effect.
Service is casual but effortless as the team flit from the open kitchen to the tabletops with ease and friendly demeanour. Chef Reif himself is often on hand to greet guests, welcoming them into his restaurant like old friends and striking up effortless banter that adds excitement and inclusivity to this in-demand dining experience.
Despite the furore surrounding Othman’s latest opening, the chef shows no sign of slowing down. With bento box weekend breakfast launching the restaurants is set to become a good day to night options for those in the Dar Wasl area. Yet it’s the return of The Experience by Reif Othman that has us overly excited. The intimate culinary journey that Othman began at the H Hotel a number of years ago has returned, albeit in a new guise. The once near-impossible to book supper club concept has been transformed into an Omakase experience served at the counter for just four guests at a time.
With queues snaking out of the door on a daily basis, and value for money comfort food, Reif Japanese Kushikyaki marks a turning point in the Dubai dining landscape, tapping into the psyche of what diners expect from a meal. The restaurant is evidently the talk of the town so isn’t it about time you visited Dubai’s hottest new dining destination.