We rarely venture north of Dubai Creek and it’s a real shame because there are some amazing restaurants just waiting to be discovered. During a recent visit with friends, we decided to take in the sights of Bur Dubai and Deira and stumbled across Japanese bakery, Yakitate.
Now the term ‘hidden gem’ is thrown around with much gusto these days, but trust us when we say that Yakitate is the real deal. A charming backstreet eatery that forms part of the Al Ghurair Centre (the UAE’s first modern shopping mall, built back in 1981). The timber facade resembles a Japanese tea house and upon entering, diners are whisked away to the Far East on a multi-sensory journey, dining under cherry blossoms (albeit artificial) and transported into the quaint world of Yakitate.
The Yakitate experience is well worth seeking out, but be aware that it is a very small establishment. The interior is full of Japanese pastries of both the sweet and savoury variety, while the outside is where all the seating is located, with only enough for a handful of customers. The situation is not ideal, especially with the impending summer heat looming ever-closer, but for now, it is a pleasant place to be.
The friendly staff, dressed in completing pink and brown uniforms (complete with beret), are approachable and welcoming. Happily guiding us through the various ingredients and menu choices available. Now we had never had the pleasure of visiting a Japanese bakery before, so the choices were somewhat overwhelming and we were thankful for the brief education on some of the ingredients (matcha anyone?) that the staff provided.
Sitting under shady parasols, we couldn’t help but feel as though we were in Kyoto or Osaka, as opposed to Deira. At no point did it register that we were in fact sitting in a side street of one of Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods, as we were completely engulfed with the Japanese theming of Yakitate.
Yakitate translates as ‘fresh baked’ in Japanese and it is certainly a bold concept for the continually evolving Dubai food scene. With a dedicated in-house bakery, producing fresh delicious Japanese foods daily, Yakitate honours the art of bread making through continuous innovation. This innovation is on immediately evident upon entering the small bakery, with walls lined top to bottom with an insatiable variety of treats. As lovers of all things bread, our over enthusiasm got the better of us and we ordered five pastries to take away… before even looking at the restaurant menu! With savoury croissants, curry filled donuts and melon buns to choose from, we definitely wanted to sample everything.
Staff went to great lengths to explain the baked goods and we were certainly intrigued by the green colour of the matcha inspired dishes, made with a finely ground powder of specially grown green tea, that is used to colour specific dishes. The adzuki bean buns looked enticing, as did the cartoonish hello kitty dough buns, filled with chocolate cream and fresh raspberries. The choices seemed endless, as colourful mochi were lined up in uniform precision.
Each dish was immaculately presented and looked visually appealing – UK high street chain Greggs, this is not! Our favourite baked item, also happened to be Yakitate’s best seller, a kiri cream cheese croissant, comprising a large chunk of kiri cheese, stuffed between flaky croissant dough, which had the texture of eating a large block of butter, but in a good way. It tasted exceptional.
Now we digress slightly. The main reason for visiting Yakitate, was to sample the newest foodie gimmick in town – the sushi burger. The version here doesn’t actually use raw fish, but does replace the bread bun with either rice or ramen noodles! We ordered one dynamite shrimp rice burger, a salmon teriyaki rice burger and an original ramen burger.
The simplicity of Yakitate means that you can have a burger with one side dish and one cold beverage for less than 30 AED – an absolute steal in our eyes.
Beverages include milk tea (in taro, caramel or matcha flavourings), milkshakes (honey, avocado, green coconut) or ice teas. We opted for passion fruit iced tea, blending jasmine green tea with passion fruit juice to create a fragrant and fruity blend that was simply refreshing. We also ordered sangria tea, putting a twist on the traditional Spanish sangria, this non-alcoholic version combines black Assam tea with mango juice and slices of apples, peaches and lemons, to create a fruity concoction that was as thirst quenching as it was revitalising. There is no wonder these drinks are referred to as ‘Kampai’ the Japanese translation of thirst-quenchers. All drinks are served in the obligatory mason jar, that appears to have become the norm these days.
With each combo meal, there is a side dish selection of edamame, French fries or steamed vegetables. Myself and my two dining companions all picked French fries and they were definitely the correct choice. Crisp on the exterior, yet soft and fluffy within and accompanied by Asian inspired dipping sauces of satay, red curry and soy.
Despite the limited menu (Yakitate only really sell burgers and breakfasts), the attention to detail is what makes this place truly special. The main courses arrived on large wooden boards, engraved with the restaurant’s famous flower branding. A large portion of fries is presented within a ceramic dish, leaving the burger as the focus of the meal – and what burgers they are.
Now the ‘sushi burger’ concept is currently a big foodie craze worldwide, following hot-on-the-heels of the coloured burger bun fad that took prominence during the latter half of 2015. Not only do the burgers at Yakiratye look spectacular, the taste matches the visual aesthetic too.
Initially we were worried that as soon as we tucked in the rice/ramen ‘bun’, it would collapse into an inedible mess. Surprisingly these elements of the dish kept their shape as they were eaten, thus making a rice or ramen burger a worthwhile innovation. We are not suggesting you attempt to eat this kind of burger with your hands, but with a knife and fork the burger retained it’s appealing look. The dynamite shrimp rice burger, easily surpasses the taste of that found at P.F. Chang’s (the one place to which all dynamite shrimp will always be compared), succulent and flavoursome with only a hint of spice.
The ramen burger was an altogether different beast. The Ramen ‘buns’ were crisp on the edges, but soft on the interior. The replacement of bread with a fried noodle is an outrageous thought, but combined with a mouth-watering beef patty and hints of Japanese spices, the dish makes for one of our most unique and memorable UAE dining experiences.
Our dining companion had the salmon teriyaki rice burger and again found it to be nicely spiced, with the teriyaki sauce not overpowering the delicate fish.
Despite it being lunchtime and not really needing to eat anything further, we had been tempted by the Japanese soufflé cheesecake. If you have ever seen one of the numerous YouTube videos of these delicate desserts being baked – then you know exactly what we are talking about. Also known as ‘cotton cheesecake’ due to its light and airy texture, each bite is like a little piece of heaven and accompanied with a caramel sauce, it is as close as a dessert can come to perfection.
As we finished off out meal, we were somewhat concerned about how this bakery will operate with the summer months fast approaching. Considering the fact that you currently only have the option to dine outside (with not a fan or air conditioning unit in sight). Our helpful waitress informed us that Yakitate will be relocating in a couple of weeks, fear not though, as they are not going far. Yakitate will move across the street, into the new extension of Al Ghurair Mall. A suitable new home for such a pleasant eatery.
For the past few weeks we have been raving about Yakitate to virtually anyone who will listen and are already planning our next visit, to sample the Japanese breakfast combos. It’s really is a special little place that encourages value for money. This is not fine dining, but for the money that you pay, we challenge you to find a nicer environment, with quality ingredients, where you can eat a full meal (with drink) for under thirty dirhams. The Yakitate experience is certainly a unique one and unlike anything else we have seen in Dubai.
We shall leave you by saying ‘Itadakimasu’ (Bon Appétite) and recommend that you make a special trip next time you are in Deira.
Location: Ground Floor, Al Ghurair Centre, Al Rigga, Dubai
Hours: 08:30am – 12:00am
Phone: 04 455 1683
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.