Katsuya by Starck

Originally from Los Angeles, the concept behind Katsuya by Starck brings together chef Katsuya Uechi’s brand of Japanese cooking (apparently adapted for American tastes, the menu explains) with the visual aesthetics of French interior designer Philippe Starck. Starck’s distinct style is evident and out in force in this restaurant. There is a central sushi counter made out of large slabs of glittering white granite, with a canopy of traditional Japanese ‘noren’ curtains overhead. One white wall is decorated in stylised black icons of samurai hats. On the other side, dining booths are divided by alternate walls adorned with samurai swords and Japanese fans made out of transparent acrylic in neon colours. Between this, over-sized paper lanterns in black and white hang from the ceiling and red waving cats seem to grace most flat surfaces. The design is uncluttered and chic, yet still full of colour and character. The indoor restaurant space was fairly busy on the day we visited and although there were several free tables, since the restaurant also has a terrace in a very good position overlooking the Dubai Fountains from the first floor, the reservation desk was crowded with guests begging for a table outside. Once seated, the greeting at the table was warm, with staff giving guests both a towel and a thorough rundown of the concept. In fact, the knowledge displayed by staff was unparalleled for a mall restaurant. Every question regarding the menu was answered with ease. One waitress even rattled off how many plates of rock shrimps the restaurant usually serves in a day to illustrate how popular the dish is (250 in fact). As such, advice on what to order was top-notch. Every plate was presented with unfussy but attractive elegance on stylish Japanese-style crockery. The rock shrimps were a great dish of fat, fresh-tasting prawns in a creamy chilli mayonnaise, with a light and patchy batter that had a wonderful crunch to it without being heavy. Salmon and ikura sashimi arrived as elegant curls of fish, beautifully marbled with fat, sitting on a slice of cucumber and topped with generous amounts of fish roe. The combination, in addition to the finely diced raw red onion inside the salmon roll, was delicious as were the Hollywood rolls, stuffed with crab, tempura prawns and topped with albacore white tuna. The maitake mushrooms from the robata grill were beautifully presented and looked like flowers and were wonderfully meaty. The insistence on the Japanese menu being ‘adapted’ to foreign tastes at first certainly seemed alarming, but for the most part, the fusion touches were well-conceived. The setting is fun, the food is good and the staff will make sure you are happy. It’s very reasonably priced, too. A highly recommended destination. The bill (for two) 1x rock shrimps Dhs55 1x salmon ikura sashimi Dhs65 1x Hollywood roll Dhs59 1x maitake mushroom Dhs35 2x mocktail Dhs64 Total (excluding service) Dhs278

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