Fortune favours the brunch…

The traditional Dubai brunch format of grand buffets with four-hour seatings seems to have joined the gastronomic endangered list in recent years. And we’re firmly in support of this sort of natural selection. Those dinosaurs of the old dining scene are being replaced with leaner models, that result in less wastage, invite less gluttonous frenzy and less self-chastising the following day. This is survival of the fittest, in its final form.

Virgin Izakaya, on Bluewaters Dubai, has a new Saturday session that exemplifies this streamlining trend. Their Fortune Omakase experience takes place over two hours (the drinks package at least, you graze through the four-course menu for longer if you wish), deals solely in sharing plates and signs everything off with a rummage in the mystery box. And who amongst us can resist the call of the mystery box?

Popping the cherry

Staged just a few steps away from Madame Tussauds, the interior landscape of Virgin Izakaya has a half-remembered dream quality to it. Vaguely industrial with splashes of steam-punk anime, the upper deck feng shui is pierced by crimson gorilla stalactites and art deco bronze cages. A soupy daytime light juggernauts through the folded-back floor-to-ceiling wooden shutters that open onto appropriately blue waters and panoramic JBR sand castles. Mr DJ is lost in his own eloquently delivered beats.

Old habits die hard so when the stopwatch on our two hours starts, we’re aggressively tearing through our opening course of edamame beans and an avocado salad when the waitress comes to take our drink order. “Can I get a Shirahama Punch please?” I mumble mid-chew. I could file an entirely separate report on the Virgin Izakaya cocktails, they’re smart, innovative and journey-worth in their own right, but their art is partly born in surprise, and I’m a stickler for not sharing spoilers. You can order prosecco too, and of course wine and beer, but the mixology is where it’s at. Get the Peach Boy.

I’ve found that, more often than not, it’s Japanese cuisine that seems to provide the best-case evidence for ‘salad is delicious’. In this exhibit, fresh rustic greens are tossed in a shabu-style sesame dressing that, pound-for-pound, would absolutely pummel a Niçoise in a food fight.

Just chicken in

Your second Omakase course at Virgin Izakaya, is a tale of two bowls – one with tender, crispy fried chicken morsels and one of grilled prawns. There’s aioli for dipping, and avocado – which seems to be a totemic background ingredient for the restaurant, serving both as a palate cleanser and a canvas upon which the nuances of Japanese flavours can be painted. If we’re limiting ourselves to one recommended course for reorder, this would be it.

I have a secret, now slightly less secret, agreement with myself to never get too excited by things done with chicken. It’s the one meat that stands in as a proxy flavour for describing all other vaguely meaty-tasting things. How many times have you heard ‘tastes a bit like chicken’ or ‘yeah, very chickeny’? from people as their opposite number nods their head in agreement.

It’s a poultry sort of compliment. What you’re saying about the miscellaneous chickeny food stuff in question is, that it tastes somewhat meaty without having an overall distinctive enough flavour to taste like its own individual thing, and therefore neither does chicken. All of which feels like an extraordinarily long exposition for the point that – if all chicken tasted like this chicken there would be far fewer branding issues. This deep, fatty, umami-ridden chicken, positively basks in its own glorious chickeness. Not a diss.

The savoury act closes out with a chef’s platter of sashimi, sushi, nigiri and open rolls – and it is all clearly strong-providence, expertly prepared fair. But that’s almost a Dubai standard now. We are a fortunate, as the name of the brunch honours, dining community. It’s mochi for dessert. Chilled, sweet and gooey, it’s the best call for bowing out on this two hour, a steal at Dhs275, brunch.

All life is a game of luck

Before you leave, you’ll get a go on the claw machine. It dips into a brittle sea of fortune cookies, and with a steady hand and a bit of luck, you’ll nab yourself sweet treat. Inside you’ll find either some sage life advice, a token for a free brunch or a designer handbag.

“Those who put wisdom before material things, live a more meaningful life” (you called it, we did not secure the bag).

Bluewaters Dubai, Sat, two hour seatings (for drinks) between midday and 5pm, Dhs275 including drinks. Tel: (0)4 589 8689,

Images: Provided