Review: Daikan Izakaya at Yas Bay
A homegrown success story making all the right moves…
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From humble beginnings in Dubai’s JLT, this family-owned business has fast become one of the UAE’s most beloved homegrown, independent success stories. While this personality-packed eatery is adored for its soulful bowls of Japanese ramen, when the brand expanded into Abu Dhabi’s Yas Bay in December 2021, its menu offering expanded too, paving the way for Daikan Ramen to become Daikan Izakaya in the capital.
The Yas Bay iteration, sitting neatly in a row of restaurants on The Pier that includes other Dubai exports like La Carnita and Asia Asia, is more grown-up looking than its 10-table original in JLT. Daikan’s first licensed outpost has the feel of a sleek izakaya that wouldn’t look out of place in the bustling street of Tokyo, with its long wood and marble tables that encourage social dining, each neatly rowed with wooden bar stools. It might feel cold or industrial if it weren’t for a huge bookshelf that fills almost the entire back wall, which is laden with vinyl’s and coffee table books that further adds to the brand personality. There’s also a lovely outdoor area that overlooks the Yas Waterfront, which we eye-up longingly before concluding it’s still too hot for alfresco daytime dining.
The menu is now much bigger than the hearty broth-based bowls that made it a staple on the Dubai dining scene, but pleasantly most of its price points have remained in the comfortably affordable bracket. Upon recommendation, we pick something from most of the sections, with dishes arriving as they’re ready, a format that’s divisive, but we personally enjoy. From the small plates, we order the shitake mushroom gyozas (Dhs42) and miso aubergine (Dhs35), both of which must be applauded for their portion size. A half dozen plump gyozas are flavourful and have a perfectly crispy skirt, while we love the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the miso aubergine, topped with smoked bonito flakes to give a little crunch to each bite. The spicy Korean wings are a steal at just Dhs35, and a plate of four have impressive meat-to-bone ratio, coated in a spicy sauce that’s nicely balanced by a bowl of cooling ranch.
From the sushi section, order the build-your-own nori tacos (Dhs61), which arrive deconstructed so you can create your own mix from a bowl of spicy salmon tartare, pickled cucumber, avocado, onion, tobiko and ikura. It’s an invite to get a bit messy that we don’t need to consider twice, diving straight in to create our own mini nori tacos. Our only complaint is there aren’t enough nori pieces to eat up all the ingredients presented in front of us. There’s no dish we don’t like, but the standout undoubtedly comes from the charcoal grill, a pair of piping hot Wagyu steak skewers (Dhs62). Simply seasoned with salt, it lets the organic flavour of the tender Wagyu sing.
Verdict: A natural evolution of the Daikan brand, affordability and quality aren’t compromised at this grown-up iteration of a Dubai classic.
Daikan Izakaya, The Pier, Yas Bay Waterfront, Yas Island, 12pm to 12am Sun to Thurs, 12pm to 2am Fri and Sat. Tel: (0)58 124 1529. @daikanizakaya_ae