Hanabi

I signed off last week’s review of Sonamu at the Asiana Hotel with some excitement – I’d stuffed myself with excellent Korean fare and couldn’t wait to return to Deira for more Asian food. With Chinese restaurant Jade closed for Ramadan and an inexplicable desire to save Filipino restaurant Lamesu until last (how many high-end Filipino restaurants do you find in Dubai?), I happily settled for Hanabi, Asiana’s Japanese option, for my latest review. As with my visit to Sonamu the previous week, Hanabi was empty save for the occupants of one of the restaurant’s four private dining rooms, separated by a wall of hanging beads. To my right, two chefs in crisp white stood to attention in what can best be described as a retro-style open kitchen – a throwback to the ’70s, which I rather liked. The dining area was decked out in generic dark wood and stone, punctuated by abstract sculptures. High-end Japanese restaurants in Dubai seem to go to great lengths to provide a visual wow-factor, and in this respect, Hanabi was underwhelming. It soon became clear, however, that Hanabi isn’t trying to imitate the likes of Okku or Zuma, and is instead geared towards Asian clientele. We were issued cold towels and cold mugicha tea on arrival, alongside a plate of wet-wipe sachets. Cool? Perhaps not. Functional? Why, yes. If anything, this boded well for the authenticity of the food, though I wasn’t filled with confidence by the waitress, who was very sweet but didn’t appear to have any in-depth knowledge of the menu (or indeed of Japanese cuisine). Uninspired by her recommendations, I opted for the requisite sushi/sashimi platter for two as a starter. An amuse bouche of yuzu chawanmushi – egg custard tofu – arrived in the interim, which tided us over for a short while, though we ended up waiting at least 15 minutes for our starters. My patience was kept in check by the sight of the two chefs at the sushi counter meticulously working on our order, but the wait we would have endured if the restaurant was busy wasn’t worth thinking about. The arrival of the sushi/sashimi platter went some way towards explaining our wait – it was enormous. The glistening, blood-red cuts of tuna (which melted like sorbet) and artful blocks of tangy mackerel nigirizushi were excellent, but the sushi rolls were too loosely packed and came apart between our chopsticks. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the meal, yet it seemed as though the restaurant’s strength lay in its fish dishes (the menu does feature wagyu, though the emphasis is very much on seafood). With this in mind, we ordered the miso cod (unoriginal, perhaps, but at Dhs70 it seemed like the right thing to do at the time) and scallops. While I enjoyed the buttery cod and the warm, soft scallops with shiitake mushrooms, I felt that the all-important ingredients of feeling, heart and creativity were notably absent from both the food and service. If a restaurant visit was simply a taste test, Hanabi would score well. It isn’t, of course, and this particular destination lacks the heart to set it apart from the plethora of Japanese venues across Dubai. As they say, personality goes along way – a quip that Hanabi would do well to note. The bill (for two) 1x San Pellegrino Dhs21 1x Mixed sashimi platter Dhs280 1x Miso soup Dhs10 1x Miso cod Dhs70 1x Scallops Dhs70 1x Wild berry ice cream Dhs35 1x Mochi ice cream Dhs30 Total (including service) Dhs516

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