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Dubai’s hot new Japanese restaurant

Words by Rob Chilton

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is the inspiration for the menu of hot new Dubai restaurant, Oni at the Shangri-La hotel

In Japanese folklore, an Oni is a troll or demon. But rest assured, there is nothing sinister about the food at the Shangri-La’s new restaurant, where the only devil is in the detail.

This is the second coming of Oni, which initially launched last year but has recently been reborn under new ownership and a new head chef in Emil Helmy, formerly of another popular Japanese haunt Ramusake.

Sizzling skewers at Oni Dubai

With décor drawing on the ancient Japanese tradition of Kintsugi (using liquid gold to repair broken pottery), Oni feels more like a sultry lounge than a restaurant.

Hokkaido remains the inspiration for Oni’s food, with ingredients sourced from Japan’s northern island and Izakaya (sharing) style plates punctuating a menu that contains plenty of crowd-pleasers.

Sushi platter

The salmon tacos were a great introduction – a dainty yet deeply satisfying reimagining of the Mexican favourite that had crispy rice shells packed with salmon, avocado and truffle.

The surf and turf maki roll is another example of a bite-sized portion packing a punch. Shrimp tempura, sweet pineapple and sharp yuzu shiso were wrapped in sushi rice and encased by paper-thin slices of wagyu beef carpaccio. Spiked by the heat of a touch of wasabi and dunked in soy, the eight pieces soon disappeared. Other highlights included the hearty chicken katsu kare (curry) and the miso black cod that had been marinated for 48-hours to produce a sweet and meaty result.

Oni Dubai is at the Shangri-La Hotel

With knowledgeable staff, sophisticated design, well-executed Japanese fare and an inventive drinks menu, this latest incarnation of Oni has all the ingredients to become a Japanese gem.

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