Watatsumi

It might seem like one thing Dubai doesn’t really need is another Japanese restaurant. Watatsumi, however, proved to be a pleasant surprise upon our arrival. Despite being quite a minimal restaurant space, it had been used well to create a small, tucked-in bar area near the entrance, opening out into a circular dining space, with a sushi counter spanning one corner, and a pillar-like structure in the centre, like the core of a wheel with wooden struts surrounded by a myriad of tiny fish hanging from it. The more I looked around at the restaurant’s interior, the more I liked it. Perhaps it was the over-arching appearance of cedar-coloured wood, or the Japanese beverage bottles and sacramental drums on display, or the fact that everything was served on different yet equally interesting little dishes. But I also found myself increasingly thinking that despite being modern, there was actually something really true to Japanese aesthetics in the spirit of its design. Service was decent, friendly, ever present when needed and fairly swift (although there was not a huge amount of other customers to contend with). I opened the menu, and was happy to find a list that was (very varied, but not lengthy) and genuinely Japanese in character, not a given-up pan-Asian account of the cuisine. Granted, it was characterised by some already fairly well-known modernised twists, but there was plenty in there that sounded interesting. We ordered a selection to share: edamame with truffle oil (the choice of salty, spicy or truffle oil for the same price was a no brainer), wagyu beef tataki, ebi gyoza, eagle maki (with raw scallop), wasabi prawns, black cod, and a side dish of seasonal steamed vegetables. The food’s arrival was beautifully timed, so that there was never too much on the table. The truffle edamame was a surprisingly inspired piece of fusion cooking, with a lovely soft aroma of truffle dancing around the mouth and a very sparing sprinkle of sea salt. The ebi gyoza looked so beautifully folded and formed but let the side down early with an abrasively spicy dipping sauce, and an oily taste (if not texture). Back on track, the wagyu beef tataki was a great way to showcase the tender qualities of this premium meat, and I was pleasantly surprised the chilli and yuzu flavours, were cohesive despite being so dominant. The wasabi prawns were plump, fresh, and well-dressed in a sauce that was creamy and sweet with a soft earthiness from the wasabi. It seemed the sugar in the sauce had caramelised slightly around the prawns to create an extra dimension of texture. I adored the eagle maki, filled with plump sweet pieces of creamy raw scallop flesh, chewy rice, a salty pop of tobiko and a sesame seed crust. The black cod was also very good, with a softly sweet use of miso, a real creaminess to the texture of each distinct flake and a perfectly crisp skin. It also cost Dhs185, and only came with two odd and ill-fitting condiments – a bowl of crushed cashew nuts and ponzu sauce on the side. But again the simple bamboo steamer full of fresh vegetables, still full of life, was enjoyable. After the roaring success of the savoury delights, we tried our hand at the dessert menu, and ordered the green tea, passion fruit and chocolate cake. Despite the beautifully spiced Szehwan pepper biscuits, and good execution of each separate element, it was overwhelming. The bento Japan was, however, a disappointing little attempt at a reworked mille feuille with crisp chocolate biscuit separated by a minty flavoured mousse that did not appeal at all. Everything considered though, Watatsumi exceeded my expectations due to the quality and thought that had gone into the food. But then so did the bill, since some of the dishes on this menu are quite surprisingly expensive. Just skip the desserts. The bill (for two) 1x edamame Dhs30 1x wagyu beef tataki Dhs120 1x ebi gyoza Dhs60 1x eagle maki Dhs95 1x wasabi prawns Dhs65 1x black cod Dhs185 1x steamed vegetables Dhs35 1x bento Japan Dhs50 1x passion fruit cake Dhs70 2x mocktail Dhs80 2x large water Dhs50 Total (including service) Dhs840

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