Chef Izu’s latest concept is a marriage of East and West, but is it a happy one..?

If you’re old enough, nerdy enough, or foster sufficiently megalomaniacal tendencies to have played the strategy board game Risk, you’ll know how difficult it is to win a battle on two fronts.

The aim of the game is to invade and hold segmented provinces across the world. “What does this have to do with restaurants?” I hear you scream into the void. Well, if we swap the military conquest map for a foodie-flavoured one, home-grown restaurant hero Chef Izu Ani’s culinary empire currently covers a significant portion of that global cuisine atlas.

Within his ranks, he can count resounding gastronomic victories in Dubai-based European restaurants (Carine, La Maison Ani, Scalini, Gaia to name a few), he’s also made inroads into central Asian territory with a flag flying high above Shanghai Me.

His latest expedition, Kai Enzo which opened in June of this year, attempts to straddle those eastern and western gastro-nom-ispheres – offering a chimeric blend of Japanese and Meditteranean cuisines. But as we observed above, covering two distinct fronts simultaneously, will always be a potential ‘Risk’.

So, we’re here to roll the dice on this new outpost of the Izu empire, that crowns the roof of Hyatt Centric Jumeirah Dubai, just a sandy skip from the transitioning La Mer North leisure project.

After performing a swift drop and roll at the valet station, we take the dedicated lift up from the ground floor and walk into the cosy glow of a setting sun. The main restaurant space lacks some of the aesthetic audacity of its brothers-in-arms, but it’s neat and chic, with a statement central art deco bar.

We start with a creamy bowl of tuna and olive oil mousse “it’s basically old-money tuna mayo” we think “for the type of people with yacht catalogues on their coffee table”, it’s rewarding though and served with earnestly crisp potato chips (Dhs42). We’ve also called in support of a plate of delicious mixed pickles (Dhs35); and cocktail aperitifs, Ikigai (Dhs60) and Island Spritz (Dhs75). The Japan-inspired sip piles eastern favour on a tequila base with shades of matcha, rice milk and tea bubbles. It’s moonlight, VIP cigar lounge and Narita jet lag in cut glass. The spritz speaks in Esperanto and seaside glamour – breezy, brisk, with jabbed keys of herb and citrus.

A plate of wagyu gyoza (Dhs72) makes its way to the table. They’re stocky and juicy, a stewed fusion that results in one of the finest beef dumplings you’re likely to find within a healthy city spread. The market fish karaage (Dhs155) with tamari vinegar and wasabi mayo, provides another reason to look up and smile. Cumulus wisps of Japanese batter coat the tender, deliberately chopstick-friendly chunks of fleshy fish, ready for robing in nose-tingling wasabi garb.

We skip the sushi course and march into Chilean sea bass (Dhs175) and wagyu beef ribeye (Dhs395) territory. Battle lines are drawn with an understanding that there will be no pudding tonight.

Our flaky fillet of sea bass swims in a shallow lake of citrus miso, it’s a drum rattle of blended texture and refined culinary craft. The steak is served with flared fungi, it’s that almost paté-smooth grade of wagyu that makes it borderline impossible to avert a Nirvanic eye-roll, embarrassing ‘mmm’ noises and repeating a mantra of “it’s just so tender”.

In the distance, the trumpet of our safe driver calls, and our last stand is to make a beyond contented retreat.

Verdict: Chef Izu proves here, you really can have the best of both worlds

Hyatt Centric Jumeirah Dubai, Mon to Thu 5pm to 1am, Fri to Sun 5pm-2am. Tel: (0)4 302 1275, @kaienzodubai

Images: Provided