A restaurant you need on your culinary bucket list

Reif Othman is a well-known name on Dubai’s foodie scene. Credited with putting Zuma on the international culinary map, he then turned his attentions to homegrown restaurant Play, where he also oversaw the creation of his incredible chefs table concept, The Experience by Reif Othman, before helming the kitchen at Billionaire Mansion. 

For his latest venture though, Othman has turned his back on big brands, lavish décor and sparkler shows in favour of an altogether simpler approach. His self-titled restaurant, Reif Kushiyaki, is a humble, 29-seater unlicensed Asian venue in Dar Wasl mall. 

The décor is simple, with plain white walls interrupted only by a specially commissioned Astro Boy manga artwork. Seating options are split between tables of two or four that form an L-shape around the kitchen, and counter seating for those that like a prime view of the chefs at work. 

Neat drawers pull out at the tables to reveal a laminated version of the menu, and cutlery for those that prefer it to chopsticks. A paper copy of the menu is also provided, with guests asked to tick their choices. As the menu suggests, there’s a big focus on kushiyaki (traditional Japanese meat and poultry skewers) here, but you’re making a mistake if you don’t also make your way through the South-East Asian influences elsewhere on the menu from the ‘Snacks’ and ‘Star Dishes’ section. 

From the ‘Tiny’ section, we order the not-so-tiny raw salmon (Dhs45), a beautifully presented plate of raw salmon, citrusy Shiso soy and crispy black rice. It arrives shortly before the chicken and beef gyozas (Dhs42 each). The beef was our favourite; four pieces of deliciously thin skinned gyozas delicately pan fried and topped with a sliver of pink beef. 

‘Star Dishes’ is definitely the right section for the Sanchoku Wagyu Sando (Dhs145), which is essentially the tastiest sandwich we’ve eaten this year. Already an Instagram star in its own right, cuts of perfectly pink Wagyu are sandwiched between a punchy tonkatsu sauce and two slices of toast. 

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From the ‘Kushi’ (skewer) section, served each with two skewers, the surprise hit is the crispy chicken wings (Dhs44), that pull effortlessly off the skewers, simply served with the option to add shichimi and salt. We also devour the angus beef and creamy truffle mayo (Dhs62) in record time. The crispy baby squid kushi katsu (Dhs42) is another brilliant Reif twist on a classic dish, drizzled with a yuzu kosho mayo that perfectly complements the crunch of the crispy squid. 

Desserts are listed on a board above the kitchen, and while they all look appealing, the molten cake (Dhs38) is a dish we know Reif does deliciously well – and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. Just warm, it’s gooey in the middle, with a salty sweet peanut butter oozing from the centre.  

By the time we leave, the row of chairs lined up at the front of the restaurant are all taken by folks patiently waiting for a coveted seat inside. Clearly, we’re not the only ones who know this is food worth queuing for. 

Dar Wasl Mall, Jumeirah, Sat to Wed noon to 11pm, Thur and Fri noon to midnight. Tel: (04) 3450761. reifkushiyaki.com

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Images: Provided