Sushi Counter

Amid Media City’s lunchtime options of thali, mezze, Big Macs or sandwiches, the promise of sushi at this newly opened venue was a breath of fresh air. Tucked all the way round the side of the CNBC food court (past McDonald’s, and past the bank), if I’m honest that freshness had waned the tiniest bit by the time I reached the door. Offering clean lines in light wood, matched with a few sleek, black accents, the venue is undeniably modern, simple and, in contrast to the other venues around it, stylish. Yet I’d go as far as to say it lacks character – it wasn’t quite the urban, edgy vision of a sushi bar I’d expected to find. Nevertheless, my dining companion and I were greeted by the promising sight of an (actual) sushi counter, where the goods were presumably being made, and some friendly staff. We took a seat and scoured a pretty, pleasing pictorial menu boasting various styles of sushi and sashimi. We decided to share the more extensive-sounding set lunch deal (spring roll or sushi roll, sushi or sashimi, salad or soup, and a dessert), along with a few tempting-looking à la carte options. We also tried a sweet, refreshing aloe vera juice drink – the waitress at the service counter kindly let me sample it before buying. The miso soup came first, wafting an intense miso aroma towards us, and was dense in flavour and pretty good. After this, the dishes began to arrive thick and fast, though at just the right pace for us to be able to handle them. The fantastic tuna tartare with caviar was alive with seasame flavour and the sweet, fresh crispness of the green apple, though the blob of cream cheese was entirely extraneous. The seaweed side salad was beautiful, a dense sesame and umami-packed flavour, with a wonderful sliding scale of squidgy and chewy. The tuna sashimi, on the other hand, was nice but nothing special. It was good enough for a quick lunch, but it was a rather anaemic, watery, fat-lacking cut, sliced far too thick, turning it into a slab rather than a delicate sliver. The ‘traditional platter’ comprised salmon nigiri and California rolls (salmon and avocado): the salmon nigiri was good enough, though the rolls were too chewy. The inner layer of nori seaweed didn’t have the right softness, and the rice had a dry, chewy, glutinous quality that suggested it had been prepared some time in advance. The same issue affected the passion roll, although here the complementary tastes of salmon and avocado wrapped around the outside, along with the vibrant and contrasting colours, made the error more forgivable. The ‘avruga tulip’ rolls – avocado wrapped around the outside, topped with smoked fish eggs – took a little longer to arrive, and there were no comparable issues. The overall texture had the softness I’d expect, yet while they were interesting and well-executed, at Dhs18 per piece I’m not sure I’d order them again. The final taste, a green tea mochi ice cream, was exceedingly disappointing. While the ice cream inside was smooth and creamy, with a distinct green tea taste, the mochi itself was disastrous, with a thin, dry and almost crumbly texture, where it should have been chewy, soft and glutinous. Aside from a few side dishes that were served in disposable containers (namely the miso, seaweed salad and mochi ice cream), the sushi was beautifully presented, announcing that this is no ordinary takeaway joint. The attention to traditional Japanese style included sushi served on raised wooden platters, sashimi laid on a bed of grated daikon, and wasabi in perfectly round mounds. While service from the girls at the front-of-house end was impeccable, friendly and swift, it felt as though we were being watched intently by the legion of black-clad sushi chefs who stood behind the counter doing very little. It left me wondering who was making the sushi and how far in advance. It’s a practical measure, and I applaud them for getting us back to the office within our allotted hour. However, I left wondering whether the legion of chefs and the sushi bar-style counter serve any purpose other than to impress. On the whole, Sushi Counter offers something above average within its food court environs, but the pricing is also above average and quality can be patchy. Even so, it makes a pleasant and healthy change – and you’ll be back at work on time. The bill (for two) 1x lunch combo for one Dhs85 1x tuna tartare Dhs40 1x traditional platter Dhs68 2x miso soup Dhs18 4x tulip roll Dhs72 1x small water Dhs8 1x aloe drink Dhs15 Total (excluding service) Dhs306

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