Armani Hashi

Bandwagons are fun, in theory. But if too many people jump on them, they burst a tyre and become joyless and crowded. I think nouvelle Japanese cuisine may have hit that point – there are so many upscale Japanese restaurants in Dubai that it’s hard to tell them apart. And one wonders if the seas haven’t yet been depleted of miso-marinated black cod (I almost wish they were, just so I wouldn’t have to eat it any more). Basically, if you’re going to open an overpriced Japanese restaurant these days, you really need something new to make it stand out. Ignoring the fact that Armani/Hashi is on the tail end of a tedious trend, the restaurant does have something to offer. When my date and I visited, we tucked into the chef’s pick of sashimi. His selection didn’t defy imagination, but the slabs of fish, served on a somewhat over-the-top ice sculpture alongside some potent, freshly grated wasabi, were excellent. Slivers of yellowtail had the faint aroma of a beachside breeze and withered underneath the teeth, while deliciously creamy squares of tuna belly melted on contact with my tongue. My date’s octopus tempura starter was juicy and full-flavoured, and was minimally coated in a thin panko crust. A simple and sophisticated dish, it was let down by the accompanying sauce, which had a ketchupy undertaste (it resembled a Marie Rose sauce doctored with some chilli powder). My starter was also exceptional, so much so that I wondered whether this restaurant could indeed surpass the competition. Three rudely plump scallops were presented with a mushroomy uni sauce. Sweet and earthy, it was an excellent combination. Next up was the waiter-recommended potato tornado. He claimed they used a special machine to give it a ‘natural disaster’ look, but we felt it more closely resembled a drill, and essentially amounted to an expensive potato crisp spiral. The side of jalapeño dip only added to its bar snack feel. Things started to feel generic when we tucked into our mains. My date had some solidly cooked slabs of rib-eye steak that, though pink and juicy, were just too simple, too unadorned; they lacked any oomph. I eschewed the waiter’s original offering of cod and took a risk on a unique fish ball stuffed with minced prawn and made with an octopus shell. It came coated in a thick, syrupy marinade and was sprinkled with crushed, dried seaweed. It was certainly a different dish and, as a starter, it could have been very pleasant. As a main, however, it was overwhelming (there were six of these balls, and after the third the combo of sickly sweet and potently fishy started to make me feel queasy). The aftertaste made me eager for dessert. Puddings were more appealing than the typical take-it-or-leave-it affair you find in most Japanese restaurants. The signature mango crème caramel was popular; I must have seen dozens of them carted to tables by waiters before I placed my order. I’d imagine this is the kind of dessert you’d either love or hate depending on the depth of your sweet tooth. I found it was almost the messiah of sugar (the offspring of the musty, saccharine mango and smoky, sugary caramel). My date’s hazelnut tonka didn’t have the complexities of my flan; it resembled a thick, chocolate brick, complete with cement-like chocolate paste; it was an ending I could have done without. I can already foresee that some readers will complain bitterly about this review, arguing that Armani/Hashi is excellent. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying it’s a bad restaurant, it’s just a little boring. Nothing stands out here, and given the sheer mass of restaurants in the high-end Japanese genre, something needs to. The bill (for two) 1x Large bottle water Dhs30 1x Potato tornado Dhs40 1x Scallops Dhs45 1x Octopus tempura Dhs40 1x Rib-eye Dhs140 1x Tako Dhs130 1x Hazelnut tonka Dhs55 1x Mango caramel Dhs50 Total (including 10 per cent service) Dhs530

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