Review: Otoro, chef Akmal Anuar's Abu Dhabi debut
It’s a stellar debut for the acclaimed local chef on the waterfront of Abu Dhabi’s Al Qana…
Diners in Dubai are well versed in chef Akmal Anuar’s cuisine. Credited with putting 3Fils on the map (now ranked as the best restaurant in MENA by World’s 50 Best) he’s since put his passion into 11 Woodfire and Goldfish Suhi and Yakitori. Having successfully conquered Dubai, chef Anuar has turned his attention to the capital, with his first Abu Dhabi restaurant now open at Al Qana.
Set in a row of waterfront-facing restaurants, there’s a stripped back, modern Izakaya feel to Otoro. The interiors are light and neutral and except a few strategically placed plants, the walls remain largely bare. We love the way all tables and booths are neatly arranged around the impressive show kitchen, and those looking for a front row seat for the culinary action can even perch up on stools at the counter.
The restaurant is unlicensed, but there’s a handful of refreshing mocktails like the fruity and fresh Blooming Passion (Dhs32) as well as a selection of herbal teas, from which we pick a cup of Jasmine (Dhs22) while perusing the menu.We’re immediately struck by how reasonably priced the menu is: maki rolls are all around the Dhs45 mark, kushiyaki’s are almost all under Dhs80, and aside from a duo of Wagyu dishes, you won’t pay more than Dhs115 for a main.
We start with a spinach and seaweed salad (Dhs35), a crunchy tower tossed in sesame dressing and topped with buckwheat, and the yellowtail carpaccio (Dhs70). The flavour sensation is outstanding: punchy green chili, a light, fragrant leche de tigre, a sprinkling of mizuna and a wedge of lime we delight in squeezing over the yellowtail. Our only critique is that we’d have liked the fish to be cut slightly thinner.
We head off-menu when our next dish arrives, a truly standout special that sees a bed of scallop carpaccio topped with delicate pieces of foie gras and heaped with summer truffle shavings. It’s an indulgent amalgam of rich flavours that should feel overpowering, but carefully handled it creates a plate of utter perfection.
From the sushi selection we prefer the signature fatty tuna otoro nigiri (Dhs80) to the wagyu nigiri (Dhs80), although both – and in fact all of the sushi options – can be enhanced with fine ingredients like caviar and uni for an additional price.
While meat lovers might gravitate towards the chicken or Wagyu kushiyaki’s, the miso nasu (Dhs42) is aubergine cooked to perfection, with the just-right balance of creamy aubergine centre and still-tender skin. A topping of katsuobushi flakes could transport you straight to an Izakaya in Osaka. If there’s one dish you must order at Otoro, make it the melt-in-the-mouth shabu shabu burger (Dhs110). A burger like no other, its moreish wagyu slices, perfectly toasted bun and buttery caramelized onion make every bite jucier than the last. We lick our fingers clean.
If your stomach permits, a dark chocolate tart (Dhs46) is the dessert to order at Otoro. The 68 per cent chocolate showstopper sits in a sea of butterscotch sauce, topped with flakes of edible gold and sea salt. It’s a delight for any fans of a sweet and savoury combo.
Otoro is a near faultless debut for chef Akmal Anuar in Abu Dhabi, with simple, fuss-free cuisine expertly executed in a way that lets the best-in-class ingredients do the talking. Go, pronto.
Otoro, Al Qana, Abu Dhabi, 12pm to 11pm daily. Tel: (02) 886 9995, otoroabudhabi.com