Review: Zuma Dubai
The majority of us in Dubai are expats. We make this glittering oasis our home by seeking out a sense of belonging, a sense of attachment, a sense of comfort, a sense of flavour, taste and smell. I call Zuma Dubai home.
I take my food very seriously. Having a company that supplies bespoke furniture to some of the best F&B establishments and hotels around the world, I have been able to develop a palate that appreciates the amalgamation of flavour and one that demands more and more with every new experience. My freqeuent travel has helped me appreciate customs and cultures and how this transcends into one of the most important thing in most societies: sharing food.
Zuma requires little introduction to any lover of high-end food in Dubai. This contemporary Japanese restaurant, established in London with branches in many cosmopolitan cities around the work, recently added New York and Rome to its formidable list. It’s our little oasis within an oasis, But why Zuma and not any of the other great Japanese restaurants in town? It’s simple: you get comfort from the moment you walk in; you are welcomed. The temperature of the restaurant is perfect. The ambience is perfect. The food is great and always served the right way, and most importantly it is always consistent. It makes me happy.
But then you want more, you always want more. It’s just human nature. You want something new. Something different. Something big. Something to talk about. Something to make those taste buds explode. Something to transport you to the twilight zone. Well it’s here. The biggest, boldest menu shake-up since the day its doors opened in 2009. There was no compelling reason for these new dishes to be introduced all at once. The menu has always adapted to the season and available ingredients, but this is the biggest change because of the number of dishes added at one time. More variety, more flavour, a bolder approach.
I visited the moment my schedule allowed, to be greeted by the familiar decor of vivid, coloured sofas and chairs, coupled with solid wooden tables. Flanked by natural light by day, or lit with bamboo and metal lanterns by night, this giant location is filled to capacity every day and every night. The first floor restaurant provides more of a dining experience, while the second floor lounge is warmer, more intimate, sexy, with antique wood walls, tea lights and echo-free parquet floors that are perfect for the mood set by the resident DJs and their “Zumesque” sound, an eclectic mix unique to Zuma outlets worldwide.
The regular DIFC clientele of bankers, lawyers and businessmen were in attendance, along with the international travelers that Zuma attracts. But I skirted past the familiar faces to sit down and study the menu. It’s divided into signature dishes, cold starters and salads, hot starters, main dishes, subdivided into meat, fish and poultry, and then a separate branch of side dishes. The desserts rightly have a menu of their own, seeing as one should always have space for dessert at Zuma.
Each dish is presented in its own unique way, with different plates and bowls of varying sizes. Almost everything on any given plate is edible and should be eaten to enhance the flavour of the dish. Some of the cold dishes are served over ice to retain freshness, while some of the hot dishes are served over fire to retain the heat. The overarching flavours are those of a refreshing citric and Ponzu sauce, with tinges of sweetness and bitterness, and, most importantly, the flavour of freshness. The chili set helps enhance these flavours even further.
That’s the overview. Now for the favourites. The beef usuzukuri with robata enoki mushrooms and tomato Ponzu sauce was the first dish I tried and it set the tempo of what was to follow. It was crisp and precise, opening up my appetite for what came next. I wouldn’t share this one.
My all-time favourite dish came next: spicy, lemon chicken wings. I will not tell you how good this is, just go try it. I will tell you that they serve it with cold towels on the side, so use your hands, get stuck in and enjoy.
Another super-strange surprise was the avocado tempura with spicy ginger broth. Who in their right mind would tempura avocado? Zuma would and watch someone try and copy them. I’d recommend you have a bite without the broth. Then submerge the avocado in the broth and try it again. The way the ginger plays with the avocado results in a totally different burst of flavour.
Then it was time for the braised wagyu beef cheek with yuzu and Japanese herbs. It’s like a magic show in your mouth. You put a piece in, it disappears, and you keep repeating. This was soft, tender and succulent meat, which I coupled with the mushroom truffle rice.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert so I indulged in my favourite: the moist green tea and banana cake. The best way I can explain the concept is that it is where matcha meets a banana crème brûlée in the form of a cake, with a little caramel and brittle nuts thrown in for good measure. It is divine, but I made sure to leave room for one more indulgence, the chawanmushi. This egg custard dish is like a milky, bubbly foam with exotic fruits, with the additional surprise that you have no idea what fruits go into your mouth, as the pieces are submerged in foam.
These dishes are a few among the many to hit the menu. They complement the existing menu and, coupled with the ever-dynamic Zuma craft cocktails and extensive wine list, you get the total Zuma Experience. How would I summarise this experience? Simply that Zuma always lives up to its expectation, it is always consistent, with no shocks or negative surprises, which is why I take all my guests there for work or pleasure.
Trust me, I know what I am talking about.