Monday, December 8, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Inakaya, Abu Dhabi

Posted at  4:25 AM  |  in  Restaurant

Inakaya is located in the up-and-coming Venetian Village at Ritz-Carlton Grand CanalTrying a new restaurant can be a hit or miss experience, whether in the UAE or anywhere in the world. On the one hand, you might discover a hidden treasure, where the food, service and ambience not only meet your expectations, but exceed them.

And on occasions, it’s the complete opposite, with a culinary journey so bad, you promise never to return. Luckily, our visit to Abu Dhabi’s recently opened Inakaya fit into the first category and we couldn’t be happier.

Located in the up-and-coming Venetian Village at Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal, the ‘Inakaya’ brand might ring a bell for some readers. That’s because the Japanese restaurant, which opened its doors in the UAE less than two months ago, has been operating with much success in both New York and Tokyo for some time.

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It seems that loyal patrons in both cities were besotted with the authentic, theatrical Japanese dining experience on offer at Inakaya. But would that same offering work in Abu Dhabi? In our opinion, the answer is a resounding yes!

AroundTheUAE.com was treated to a delicious selection from the menu, including the black cod filletAt the heart of Inakaya’s distinctive dining experience is ‘robatayaki’, which transforms the Japanese grilling method into an exciting performance for guests. Upon arrival, our group was welcomed by enthusiastic staff in kimono and happi coat-style uniforms. We instantly noticed that the décor has a traditional and homely feel, but at the same time, offers a modern, stylish and upscale setting.

We were seated facing the yakikata (grill-masters), who chanted a Japanese welcome to us in perfect unison, which was somewhat overwhelming but actually a really nice touch. Between our seats and the yakikata was a display of fresh fish, vegetables and other produce, allowing guests to know exactly what they’re ordering. After selecting from the menu, the dishes are cooked by the yakikata and passed directly to customers on traditional 1.2 metre-long paddles.

ALSO READ: WHY ABU DHABI'S NEW JONES THE GROCER IS WORTH A VISIT! READ OUR REVIEW!

Inakaya is more like visiting a special attraction, with so much authenticity that it almost felt like we were in Japan on a holidayThe team are led by Executive Chef Keneth Kim, who has 20 years of culinary experience in establishments such as Nobu in London, Sushico in Istanbul, and Honyaki in Dubai. We were treated to a delicious selection from the menu, from the tofu salad, miso soup and steamed vegetables for starters, and onto the black cod fillet and various chicken and meat dishes, all cooked to perfection.

We thought the food was high on taste, without being too heavy on the stomach. In fact, we still had enough space to try the traditional ice cream, which proved a great way to end our extremely satisfying meal.

Sanbon jime, a rhythmic clapping ‘thanking’ ceremony, offered an authentic and peaceful conclusion to the meal. If the timing is right, diners can participate in the mochi pounding ceremony – a New Year’s tradition that is a nightly occurrence at Inakaya.

At the heart of Inakaya’s dining experience is robatayaki, which transforms the Japanese grilling method into an exciting performance
The ceremony sees a lucky guest (yes, on this occasion it was us!) tasked with using a giant mortar-and-pestle to pound hot, cooked sticky rice into a delicious sweet rice cake; celebrities, including Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, have previously taken part in the tradition at Inakaya Tokyo.

This highlights the fact that a trip to Inakaya offers more than the routine dining experience. It’s more like visiting a special attraction, with so much authenticity that it almost felt like we were in Japan on a holiday. It’s a welcome addition to Abu Dhabi’s restaurant scene and we cannot wait to return in the future.

MORE RESTAURANT REVIEWS: Amalfi, Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi

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