If you love sushi, you’re going to love Kokoro…

There’s no question about that, and while the fare is delicious, the novelty lies not in that, but the dining experience itself. Kokoro, Dubai’s first hand roll bar, is the newest Japanese offering at Alserkal Avenue, a small, almost hole-in-the-wall spot free of frills and fuss and full of the casual, inviting warmth one usually finds at a space like this. And fresh fish, of course. Every variety of it.

Everything about Kokoro says laidback but not lazy, spontaneous but not overwhelming, so very cool but not alienating. Like that hipster barista you know who makes you feel like they woke up today to brew coffee for you and you only (and the 12 other people in the line behind you). But that’s it – it’s easy and welcoming, to the point where I felt comfortable dining on my own.


The interiors are all wood and metal and glass – very minimal-industrial-chic. This new brand of simplistic design may seem like too bare-bones to have any flavour, but the stripped down-ness of it is the flavour. It’s that edgy effortlessness that blends in perfectly with the rest of Alserkal Avenue. Murals of traditional Japanese men against Dubai’s modern skyline are the picture perfect summation of Kokoro.

There are tables lined up against one corner of the wall, opposite the star of the show – the hand roll bar, the centre of this universe. Baby bar stools line the entirety of the outer semicircle, where you are seated as the sushi chefs from the other side of the table serve you freshly made rolls, prepared in front from you as you eat. Doesn’t get fresher than that.

The transparency goes into the meats, all cuts of fish open for you to see inside glass displays. Neon signage, the occasional spot of greenery and rubber ducks dressed in all things ducks don’t wear (my dinner companion was a storm trooper rubber duck and I almost committed theft for the first time in my life) complete the look.

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The menu is divided into three sections – handrolls, crudo and nigiri and sashimi, with a side of salad. You can pick from the different sets of three, four and five, which have the choice of handrolls predetermined. I was given the set of five (Dhs150), which had the sake, negitoro, spicy tuna, avocado and kani rolls. The rolls are simple – just rice, fish and slices of an accompanying vegetable, and a big sheet of seaweed. This helps the flavours of the ingredients shine, and you can tell that everything is premium.

The Maguro crudo (Dhs75) is my personal favourite, with bluefin tuna, pickled cucumber and ponzu. Not only is the fish incredibly fresh, it’s packed with bright, acidic flavours while still staying light and palatable. The sunomono salad (Dhs40) made with pickled cucumber, tomtato, crispy garlic and shallots is another winner – a delicious combination of textures elevated with a spicy, zesty dressing that is a flavour concentrate, and a great side dish to cleanse your palate as you go.

What’s On Verdict: Kokoro is super cool, and so will you be when you visit.

Kokoro, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Sun to Wed, 12pm to 10.30pm, Thurs to Sat, 12pm to 11.30pm, @kokoro.dxb

Images: Socials