Review: Akiba Dori Yas Bay, when Napoli and Nagoya collide
Yas Bay has a new Japanese pizza joint and that’s not a typo…
The Waterfront of Yas Bay recently dropped a pier-load of new taste experiences on our fair capital, and we’re doing our level best to try them all out. Purely for your benefit of course. We’re nice like that.
And one of the new restaurants has a name we became familiar with whilst exploring the foodie haunts of Dubai’s D3 neighbourhood, Akiba Dori. It’s a Japanese street-food restaurant that does a Tokyo-style Neapolitan pizza, a cuisine concept we concede at least sounds like it’s the result of a random fusion food generator, but to dismiss it as such, is an error that would take some topping.
We’re here at the Pier 71 location on this bright but breezy winter afternoon, to see if the brand’s second surge can recreate the unique gastro-magic of the original.
Akiba Dori has a style all of its own, eclectic and characterful, a hot melange of Atari pixels and neon Anime. We choose a table in the alfresco seating area facing out towards the water, behind us a distinct bar divides the terrace-side facade of the venue, we’re told it serves trendy mixology and licensed sips in the evening hours.
The main savoury section of the menu is divided into ‘street food’ and ‘pizza’ categories. The street food features a line up of Osaka-style light bites — katsu sliders, tataki slices, salmon rice, wasabi prawns, and rock shrimp with spicy mayo. We select the tuna tataki (Dhs66) and wagyu gyoza (Dhs64).
Presentation is such an important part of dining theatre these days, and the tuna tataki plays its part superbly. It’s elegant, precision-seared with a chisel-cut faultline, and it rumbles with marine-meat flavour. The tataki is served with truffle soy, adding another choral line to the tongue-top harmony.
And so to the gyoza. You know that feeling, where you put a thing in your mouth and your brain goes “hold up, we might have something here”, the olfactory dashboard lights up and you immediately fall madly and desperately in love with a mouthful of food.
That, dear reader, is what’s happening right now. It’s a juicy culinary incantation of deliberate umami, and is only improved by smothering the pink-fleshed interior in the accompanying, tart, dipping sauce.
The pizza arrives, as we sheepishly stuff the last gyoza, gerbil-like, to the inside of one cheek. The pizzas here are made using Japanese flour, and consequently, uncommonly light. Serendipitdous for us it transpires, because the double starter order is always a risky strategy.
We’ve chosen the truffle strata, which comes strewn with Italian herbs, shimeji mushrooms and stracciatella (a sort of burrata-esque dairy dish). This particular plate won’t replace our favourite pizza (a space still held by the Diavola 2.0) from Akiba Dori’s wheel house, it is a perfect demonstration of how neatly Japanese and Italian food blends. Fire baked earthy carbs brush through the forest musk of the mushrooms. The dollops of truffle-infused stracciatella are sizeable (slightly excessively so in our humble opinion), and deliver a fresh foil for the palate to riff on.
On the question of whether this east meets west crossover works, we direct you to the sympathetic condiment pairing of chili olive oil and soy sauce placed on each table. It’s symbolic. Though born of very different food dynasties, they just belong together, arms outstretched across the ocean. Akiba Dori makes the fusion of Japanese and Italian cuisine feel like manifest destiny.
Yas Bay, Yas Island, open daily midday to midnight. Tel: (04) 770 7949, @akibadori