The top chef’s new licensed eatery is a grown-up iteration of the original…

When I first began spending a lot of time in Dubai’s food scene five years ago, chef Reif Othman was one of a handful of names to know. This small, but elite group of culinary masters, which also included names like chef Izu Ani and chefs Nick Alvis and Scott Price, began a movement that would allow Dubai’s homegrown food scene to blossom into the world class display of gastronomy that it is today. This saw them step out from the shadows of the international kitchens they came through the ranks at to go it alone.

For Reif Othman, this meant opening Reif Japanese Kushiyaki in Dar Wasl in September 2019, initially a 29-seater unlicensed restaurant that promised a affordable, unconventional Japanese street food. Fast forward four years and one pandemic later, and Reif Othman has added a second restaurant to his portfolio. The second Reif Japanese Kushiyaki, located at Dubai Hills Business Park, is a grown up iteration of the first. Bigger in size, it’s deceptively large, with tables arranged down a long and narrow dining space. At the end, it opens out to more seating, diners and the culinary brigade in the kitchen separated by a glass wall. Another big difference between Dar Wasl and Dubai Hills is that the latter is licensed, meaning the first area of the restaurant is dedicated to a bar, serving up an array of playfully named Japanese-cocktails, alongside all the usual wines and beers.

It’s got the same look and feel as the izakaya-style original, with light woods and minimal design laced with playful touches that are a nod to chef Othman’s fun personality. Huge vibrant artworks, shelves stacked with colourful trinkets and linen curtains in shades of sapphire, magenta and pale lemon conceal private dining areas.

Reif Othaman licensed restaurant

The restaurant is only a month old, but there’s already a lovely buzz when we enter on Friday night. We take a table in the middle at the back, whether either side of us tables for two are already filling with plates of kushi, gyozas, sandos and more. This menu is also far more extensive than the first, with all of the best bits of the Dar Wasl original (Reif’s Wagyu katsu sando is still among Dubai’s best), plus some new, more upscale additions.

We opt for a mix of both, kicking off with the Japanese hamachi (Dhs78), each sliver of fresh fish we soak in the flavourful sesame soy, roasted almonds adding a welcome crunchy to the soft textures. From the kushiyaki, we stick in familiar territory with the angus kushiyaki with truffle mayo and crispy shallot (Dhs79 for two) which are deliciously tender and slide effortlessly off the skewers. The tori (Dhs50 for two) arrive as crispy chicken thigh flaked with sea salt, the meat is tasty and tender, if a little too salty for our personal preference.

The escargot takoyaki (Dhs78) is something we’ve not seen before on a Dubai menu before, but the fascinating flavour and texture combination, from the meaty snail meat to the light takoyaki batter to the sweet soy, impresses. We’re less impressed by the California maki (Dhs78), which although tastes fresh, it’s a little dry and lacking the same punchy flavours we enjoy in all the other dishes.

From the star dishes, we order a chicken katsu sando (Dhs78) and the Reif’s Marble Bun (Dhs220) the later presented as layer upon layer of indulgent flavours that include rich and buttery otoro, thick bacon jam and full-bodied Kagoshima Wagyu.

Although we’re enormously full, we can’t leave without trying the matcha fondant (Dhs56), which oozes perfectly when we cut through it with a spoon. It’s perfectly balances with a lotus cream and vanilla ice cream, the mix of hot and cold and creamy and crunch creating the perfect symphony.

What’s On verdict: Another stellar offering from Reif Othman.

Reif Japanese Kushiyaki, Dubai Hills Business Park, Building 3, 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 12am daily. Tel: (0)4 255 5142,