Yas Marina’s stalwart new Japanese eatery makes its mark…

During Abu Dhabi’s first thunderstorm of the winter, we’re relieved to step into Mr. Moto on picturesque Yas Marina. With its doors opening only a week prior, alongside neighbouring Greek concept Ela Ela, we arrive hungry and excited, expectations high for a multitude of lip-smacking flavours that are about to make every last thunderclap a distant memory.

Amid Japanese cultural icons, intimate booths, casual seating, smiling service staff and an incredibly knowledgeable sommelier, we grab a seat before one look at Mr. Moto’s menu has us pleasantly surprised. With all the noise surrounding the restaurant’s long-awaited opening, we’re waiting for payday before we dine here. Except, most of these super specials are priced at a little over what you’d be shelling out for a run-of-the-mill cheeseburger combo. Which is great news, since it allows for us to be introduced to an array of smartly-portioned bites. The Japanese are big on minimising waste, and that is evident at Mr. Moto. Mottainai.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mr. Moto (@mrmoto.ae) 

Sticky calamari (Dhs43) makes it way to our table, a beautiful mix of this popular seafood favourite and a spicy sauce. We’re half-expecting what you’d usually reach for at the bar with your eyes on the game. No way. The secret’s in the sauce, and you’re tucking in to a brand new snack. Despite the diversity of flavours and offerings on the menu, we’re the kind of people who believe a trip to a Japanese restaurant without sampling their sushi would be a shame. We order the tuna sushi (Dhs21), dry, delicate, almost jelly-like. The authentic sushi lover gets what they come for.

We’re tempted to take things up a notch on the Scoville scale, and order plates of the Nashville karaage, with spicy sauce, taste-bud puckering pickles and good old ranch sauce. At Dhs38, this is a deal to savour, and  one snack you don’t want to miss out on. Sink your teeth into these wonders once you’ve bathed them generously in ranch. We’re starting to have fun with the fire-and-ice effect, and almost synonymously, lightning makes an appearance. Flash all you want out there, but our attention is firmly on what’s happening on our plate. We move on to the shishito peppers (Dhs21): jalapenos, yuzu-kosko Mayo and ginger that arrive on a neat dish as we let a cooling beverage coat our palates in anticipation. Strangely, we’re not breathing fire. The trick is to chew along the skin and avoid the seeds.

It’s funny how you can try dish after dish at Mr. Moto and not feel remotely full, yet be strangely satiated. The Tokyo street corn (Dhs28) has us strolling the streets of the Japanese capital, lightly seasoned and bursting with flavour. To round things off, we’re strongly recommended the baby gem gomae (Dhs32), a healthful heap of salad with anchovies, sesame dressing and katsuobushi. It’s a recommendation we’re glad we take, as it turns out to be the undisputed winner at dinner.

Verdict: Mr. Moto makes a solid debut on the Yas Island dining scene. Chat with the fun, friendly staff and pick their brains about what pairs best.

Mr. Moto, Yas Marina, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, 5pm till late daily. Tel: (0) 56 603 7600. @mrmoto.ae