The breathtaking views of Dubai’s densely populated skyline from Raffles hotel’s Japanese restaurant, Tomo, are reason enough to visit at least once but, if our recent dinner was any indication, it’s the excellent seafood that will have diners coming back.
Stepping out of the lift on the hotel’s 17th floor, Japanese staff dressed in kimonos provided a warm welcome and led my friend and I to the restaurant’s outdoor rooftop terrace.
At Tomo, the outdoor seating is traditionally Japanese: low tables are set up on a tatami floor and customers are asked to remove their shoes before stepping on the mat. That high up from the city’s hustle and bustle, with the Burj Khalifa and Emirates Towers and their surrounding skyscrapers twinkling in the distance, the view was almost therapeutic.
From the moment we sat at our table, the service was impeccable. Our menus, extensive at 14 pages long, arrived almost immediately with a small light attached to the top. With 15 types of rice dishes to choose from, there were plenty of options.
We were offered a refreshing hand towel before ordering edamame and flowering jasmine tea, both of which were served promptly. Product knowledge appeared to be an issue, with one waiter who was unable to describe to us some of the food he was serving as our meal progressed. However, another waiter repeatedly refilled our tea pots with boiling water.
My friend started with a jako salad, which included tiny fried sardines with salmon roe and lettuce. This dish was all about balance. The crispness of the baby sardines married well with the soft texture of the roe, while the sweetness of the dressing was a perfect complement to the saltiness of the fish components.
Given my general dislike for vinegar, I was pleasantly surprised by the takosu, a vinegared octopus dish. The hint of vinegar was extremely light and it helped to further break down the tough fibres in the octopus; every bite was melt-in-your-mouth tender. However, although tasty, my salmon and avocado hand roll disappointed – it was loaded with wasabi, which overpowered the entire roll and ruined the delicate flavour that one tends to expect with the pairing of salmon and avocado. But the seaweed around the roll was crisp – a rarity nowadays.
The quality of the sashimi was top-notch. We indulged in the otoro fatty tuna, which is a step above the traditional toro version when it comes to quality. This was priced at Dh150 for five pieces. The tuna was extremely buttery and practically melted in our mouths – a true delicacy.
My personal favourite was the scallop sashimi – one of the best I’ve ever had. The slices were wedged in between lemon slices, which gave them the perfect hint of acidity.
We ordered shiitake mushrooms and prawn tempura, both of which were served with a warm dipping sauce of mirin, a sweet-cooking rice wine and a fish stock, known as dashi. The taste was excellent – light with a hint of lemon – but although the batter was not too oily, it could have been a lot crispier.
The kaki furai dish, or breaded oysters, were, unfortunately, mediocre. The breading was quite thick and the oysters had a strong fishy taste, which is not usually prevalent when served raw.
Another favourite was the traditional hotate toubanyaki, which included bite-sized scallops marinated in salt, pepper and butter grilled and served on a traditional Japanese ceramic plate. Had they not included the ponzu and chilli sauces on the side, we would have guessed that we were in a French bistro.
To finish off, we ordered a maccha roll cake, which consisted of green tea, red beans, vanilla ice cream, strawberries, mango and whipped cream. My friend found the cake a bit dry and there was no real green tea essence in the pastry.
However, the black sesame mochi was a hit. With a strange Snickers-like taste, the glutinous rice cake was not as thick as the more traditional mocha, which allowed the dessert to be somewhat light.
Overall, the serene and chilled atmosphere of the outdoor area, coupled with the towering Dubai skyscrapers in the background, made our dinner an extremely pleasant experience.
• A meal for two at Tomo, Raffles hotel in Dubai, costs Dh880 including service charge. For reservations, call 04 357 7888. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito
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