It was a busy Sunday afternoon (work day here in the UAE) when I decided to have lunch at Zuma, which is located in the Dubai International Financial Centre, the heart of the city and not far from Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
The Japanese restaurant’s interior is designed by Noriyoshi Muramatsu – a leading designer at Tokyo-based design firm Studio Glitt -who has got the interiors of Zuma’s other restaurants in London, Hong Kong and Istanbul under his name. The restaurant in Dubai is spread over 12,750 square feet, including two levels, and is connected by glass stairs and a lift that also goes down to complementary valet parking in the basement.
A true follower of nature’s six elements of Earth, Fire, Iron, Wood, Water and Air – Noriyoshi wows the diners by creating an ambiance that appeals to all senses – sight, touch, smell, sound and of course taste. Not only that, he designed his playground so craftily that it adjusts the experience through the day’s moods. So if you arrive in the afternoon to have a business lunch, you’ll dine in a bright and airy atmosphere, not minding the 300-something people dressed in business suits and designer outfits dining around you. And if it is an evening meal with your friends or partner, Zuma offers an intimate ambiance that is very personal, chic and sophisticated.
The restaurant strictly follows an Izakaya-style of dining which means food is served to share. According to the Japanese legend, “Izakaya”, a compound word consisting of ‘I’ (to stay) and sakaya (sake shop), is a place where customers were allowed to sit in the premises and place orders for food and drinks throughout their meal.
While I looked around to see chefs working meticulously in the open kitchens, a waiter arrived with the Ebisu lunch menu in his hand. A quick look at the menu revealed that Zuma’s Ebisu set-lunch menu is a three-course meal with new dishes introduced every now and then. Aside from the price tag, it was difficult to distinguish between starters and mains. As soon as the Miso soup arrived, my companion and I placed an order of prawn and black cod gyoza, chirashi don buri, sweet corn tempura and grilled portobello mushroom, spicy ponzu and tomato for starters which paved the way for a delicious start of the meal. While all other starters were delicious enough to get our attention, sweet corn tempura made a unique impression on us – something as an unforgettable item in the starters list due to its crisp taste and tempting appearance!
Soon after finishing the starters, the waiter arrived to clean the table and ask what we would like to have next. Clearly, it was time to have something from the main course and we had the following to choose from:
nasu don buri (v)
spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chilli and sweet soy
stir fried ramen, seasonal vegetables, nori and dried chilli (v)
barley miso baby chicken, oven baked on cedar wood
miso marinated black cod don buri
With an insatiable appetite for beef and spicy meals, I instantly pointed my finger at the spicy beef tenderloin on the menu which said it is peppered with sesame and comes with red chilli and sweet soy. Soon, the “signature Zuma dish” was on the table and my senses were really stunned! The soft texture of the tenderloin with sesame seeds scattered across the plate was a delightful sight, the sublime smell of char just captivating, and its taste in the mouth was so tender and deliciously amazing, it felt like Zen heaven…
I also had a bit of Miso Marinated Black Cod Don Buri, selected by my companion, and must say that it was pretty alright despite its moistness and sweet sticky flavor. However, as a red meat fan, I was already relishing on the taste of spicy beef tenderloin in my mouth and did not wanted to lose any of it.
Ebisu AED130 per person – soup and three course meal
Ebisu Express AED72 per person – soup and main course
While the menu may seem pricey for an afternoon lunch, don’t let the prices scare you as the meal is really delicious which you’re guaranteed to have in a relaxed atmosphere. Although one of the hottest restaurants in town, the Zuma team has a seamless reservations policy and work hard to accommodate as many diners as possible each day. Arrive at the place on time and your order will be taken within no time. And while you start sipping miso soup from the bowl, the dishes will be on your table even before the soup gets cold.
In all, the service is fantastic; the servers are fast and attentive, and make an effort to help you understand the background of Izakaya and the food that is served during the course of the meal.
Three words that describe it best: Personal, chic and sophisticated
Food: Interesting and delicious
Service: Quick and caring
Ambience: Perhaps busy but bright and airy
Location: In the heart of Dubai’s financial district. Easily accessible by car/taxi/metro
Value for money: Slightly pricey but really worth it
Attractions: Location, good food, classy interiors and wonderful service
Zuma is located in Podium 6 at The Gate Village in Dubai International Financial Centre, and offers its guests complimentary parking.
For reservations, please call +971 4 425 5660 or visit www.zumarestaurant.com