Review: Contemporary Asian food via Amsterdam at Taiko
Is this new Asian contemporary import bang on or a dead beat?
Fun fact: ‘Taiko’ is Japanese for drum. It’s something that becomes quite obvious the moment you walk into the Amsterdam export now taking up residence in Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk. A woman standing at the entrance, dressed in a sort of ancient warrior costume bangs an enormous drum whenever anyone walks in. It’s quite the startling announcement for the rest of the diners who might already be enjoying their meals, but it’s all part of the drama.
Looking around, you’ll find a sleek, moody dining space, with decor that is a pleasing mix of contemporary minimalism and Japanese-style touches – including an intricate wood carved wall, bamboo lined booths and tasteful black lacquered hanging lights.
The kitchen, under the helm of founder and executive chef Schilo and chef du cuisine Guido, offers an Asian fusion menu that spans sushi, tempura, robata and more, with thoughtful extras that mesh Far East flavours with Middle Eastern ingredients and customs, the likes of which we’ve not seen before.
Dishes here flip between the outrageous to the outrageously brilliant. An example of the former was the infused melon (Dhs39) with kimchi and wasabi. Now, we like wasabi as much as the next person, but the green one nearly blew our heads off. By comparison, the edamame hummus (Dhs24) served with homemade seaweed and mushroom crackers was so creamy and heartening that we practically licked the bowl clean.
The hiramasa king fish sashimi (Dhs65) is a dish we found ourselves nodding at admiringly, rather than adoring. There is a powerful depth to the Persian saffron sauce but for us, it’s a little too overbearing. Less is more on this occasion.
We are, however, completely enamored with the sushi shisha (try saying that tongue twister a few times), which arrives at the table in stunning blue and white porcelain containers. When opened, plumes of fruity shisha smoke waft out of the containers to reveal two meaty rectangles: one topped with a generous wagyu slice, the other, a pink-perfect salmon – both flavour profiles elevated thanks to the plummy smoke.
Taiko’s take on dynamite wasabi prawns (Dhs75) was another excellent dish, with a golden batter hiding a piping hot prawn and topped with thin and crispy nori.
Finally, and courtesy of mind-boggling kitchen culinary gymnastics, we’re served perfect stone imitations, filled with wasabi (thankfully far less pungent than the melon appetiser), and a quirky, but tasty, chocolate mousse with wasabi sauce complete with lucky cat figurine to finish. A novel end to a theatrical meal in every sense. Taiko’s beat is one we’d certainly dance to again.
Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, Sat, Sun, Tue and Wed 5pm to 1am, Thur and Fri 5pm to 2.30am, closed Mondays. Tel: (0)42814010. taikodubai.ae