Sometimes when a restaurant refuses to pin itself down to a single cuisine, it’s a bad sign. Fortunately, the Pan-Asian menu at Wakame is an exception to this rule, effortlessly blending influences from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and further afield in an elegant atmosphere that has made it a contender for our top new date spot.
The interior is beautiful, all dark woods, intricate carvings and soft lighting. Get there early for an aperitif in the bar, which has over a dozen Japanese shochu infusions, all homemade and all natural (we loved the spiced butter infusion).
Don’t forget the bar snacks either; the flash fried padron peppers with yuzu miso (Dhs40) are crisp, spicy and moreish. The dim sum isn’t on the bar menu, but ask nicely and they might just make an exception – then order the salmon, cream cheese and chilli version. This is also one of the few bars in Dubai that puts as much care into its mocktails as its cocktails; try the Tommy Lee Jones, and make sure you get the backstory that goes with it.
Over in the restaurant, we ordered the Korean spiced marinated lamb chop (Dhs165), which masterfully captured the smoky, umami taste of Korean doenjang (fermented soy bean paste – trust us, its delicious) along with the black cod marinated in acacia honey and soy sauce (Dhs185), a tasty twist on the classic dish. The duck tacos with green apple, crispy leeks and pickled kumquats (Dhs65) were wonderfully fresh, as was the tempura snow crab maki with asparagus salmon and truffle oil (Dhs85).
After all that, dessert was stretching it, but the rich dark chocolate fondant with a white chocolate and matcha centre was worth the bursting waistband. Wakame is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in Dubai – add it to your must-visit list.
Sofitel Downtown, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, daily noon to 3.30pm, 6pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 5036666. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. sofitel.com
Atmosphere: Restrained romance and edgy poshness
Price: Dhs250 to Dhs749 for two