Only a handful Japanese restaurants exist in the restaurant scene in UAE. Being set apart from the rest of the crowd due to its slightly more expensive menus (for the quality of ingredients used), reasons for dining at Japanese Restaurants (here in UAE) are usually under the title of “for an occasion” for the average person. One of these occasions so happened to give me an opportunity to dine at the Koi Restaurant & Lounge at The Collection at Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. This chic dining scene sets you apart from the outside world, into a place of beautiful elegant decor and divine food. A place that makes you feel distinguished upon entry, and eminence upon seating.
My guest and I visited Koi for a relaxing Friday brunch (after George Clooney’s publicity on Japanese Food for his Wife). With daylight rushing through the windows, we didn’t expect the place to look like a “romantic lounge” or sort, but it did. The walls, the bamboo divider, the lighting at the sushi bar and the hosts – it all added up to the perfect scene that we were going to be treated like kings & queens.
So the free flowing brunch started off with some spicy miso soup & a good collection of salads. We were ocassionally reminded that we could order pretty much any amount of dishes on the set menu – and it all looked promising! It’ll be quite difficult to write about all 20 dishes on the set menu that day, but I will point out the stars and the disappointments (just one).
The miso soup was quite flavorful and was a good introduction to the “sea flavor” for the rest of the menu. The Rock Shrimp Tempura tossed in spicy mayo was absolutely divine! It reminded me of the (quite famous) P F Chang’s Dynamite Shrimps. But this was beyond all expectations. Next up was the immaculate presentation of assorted sashimi (salmon, tuna, sea bream – beautifully cut and laid out on a bed of crushed ice) and the exquisite selection of rolls. The best out of the lot was the soft shell crab.
The Aburi Salmon Nigiri had a really interesting complexity with the seared top that hit the palate. The complexity of having a cooked as well as a raw combination of taste was a first for me – and I loved it!
Striking a perfect balance between the two distinct flavors and textures in a mouthful, all resulted in the nigiri just melting away on your palate. No complaints at all with the sushi or the sashimi. (I shamelessly went for two rounds of everything).
Then up for main course. First the highlight. The Grilled Lamb Chops with Spicy Miso. Grilled to mere perfection (Medium), the meat wasn’t dry and had this beautiful sweet flavor from the meat itself and the blend of spices they were marinated in. The “Grilled” Black Cod was a slight let down. Although it said grilled, it felt as if it were fried – left quite an oily feeling on the pallete. The other big let down was the Wagyu Steak with Mashed Potatoes. Presentation was a disaster – since they cut up the steak and let the juices flow like a river on the plate. However, the mashed potatoes (which had a surprising truffle flavor) soaked up everything. Don’t get me wrong, the meat was sweet (as Wagyu usually is), however, the way the dish was put up gave a sense of haste that lacked passion.
Deserts followed with a delicious crême brulée and a deconstructed apple crumble, both of which made up for the sloppiness in the steak. However, being a crazy person, I ended my desert course with a serving of the Alburi Nigiri. Oh I could go back for more!