UAE Famous: In talks with Neha Mishra, the ramen queen
Meet the owner of Kinoya…
UAE Famous is a What’s On page focusing on people out there making the scene. They’re out there around town, shaping the UAE into what it is, creating the culture, food and life around us. We asked them what’s good in the UAE. We asked them what’s bad in the UAE. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves…
Your rise to fame in Dubai’s dining scene has been meteoric. How did it begin?
It was one thing that led to many things. As a creative outlet from my job, I created A Story of Food (@astoryoffood). I always loved cooking and it was a space just to freely pursue that love.
Then you got into ramen?
Oh, I became obsessed. Japan is such a hyper-focused culture, and ramen is so layered and complex that you have to keep doing it over and over again. It really fit with my personality. I was obsessed with improving the dish.
How did the supper clubs begin?
I had the owner of 1004 Gourmet over for dinner with his friend. I made ramen and we had the best night. Then, one of their friends called me up after hearing about the dinner and asked if I could do the same for their friends. And I did, but I wanted to host the dinner at mine. And so, my first supper club launched. Then those 15 people told more people and it snowballed.
What made you decide to open a Kinoya?
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In August 2020 my silent partner got in touch with me. It was a 15-minute meeting and by the end of it, we’d decided to go for it. So, I started looking for spaces. I wanted something inconspicuous, similar to the hidden gems you find in Japan. It was imperative the space was licensed, too. I knew from the supper clubs that was important. I also wanted to open a restaurant that I would want to eat at. Not in DIFC, but more casual. At the supper clubs I had people from all socio-economic backgrounds and I wanted Kinoya to continue that story; this was a place that was affordable and akin to eating at someone’s home.
‘Hype’ has been used alot to describe you and Kinoya. Does that feel weird?
I went from a ‘home cook mum’ situation. You always like that type of person, right? People root for you. But when you open yourself up to this set up, it’s different. You are fair game. People are paying for their food and they have a perception of you. People with conviction would say ‘Kinoya is just hype’; that I ‘had a fanbase and I’d landed so far’ but I ‘was going to fall’. You always remember the negative reviews. People were saying: ‘I was expecting this meal to change my life’. And I’d think: ‘Why? It’s just a bowl of ramen!’
Well, you did just receive a huge award – MENA’s 50 Best’s ‘One to Watch’…
Validation is always nice because it gives you a boost and it buys you time to get better. It was amazing, but it’s time to keep working hard.
Are you feeling positive about the future of Dubai’s restaurant scene?
Yes. Now we’re growing from within. Ten years ago, you never saw stories like mine. The barrier to entry was insane. That’s changing for the better.
What do you love about the UAE?
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It’s like saying ‘what do you love about home?’. It’s everything I know. I grew up, and had children here. So much of what I love is influenced by my upbringing here.
What frustrates you about the UAE?
I’m quite an unfiltered person and I like to say how I feel. But because of where we live that’s not always such a good idea.
Do you reckon Dubai is your forever home?
I love Dubai and would always love a base here, but sometimes I think you have to know when to leave the party. If all this goes well, and Kinoya expands, I’d love to see what new adventures that leads to.