While I enjoy most cuisines, Japanese is near the top of my list. When Ramusake started popping up on foodie feeds around Dubai, I was more than interested. And hey, points to anyone who wants to be bold enough to open a restaurant during Ramadan. An offshoot of the London brand of the same name, this venue boasts selections from the London menu and original recipes.
According to various details available on the Interwebs, “Ramusake is owned and spearheaded by nightlife entrepreneur Piers Adams, Ramusake features a sake bar and lounge, and a theatrical robata counter in the main dining area. The venue draws design inspiration from 1920s Tokyo with a Blade Runner-esque futuristic twist.” Sure.
With our recent visit to Katana in my head, we walked through the immaculately designed interior (serious cool points here, people) and were seated near the kitchen (complete with a fresh fish selection and a view of the sushi counter and robata grill). While perhaps not the largest selection of cocktails (perhaps this is still part of the soft opening?), I decided the vodka based Starlight was for me, while Hubs stuck to his traditional Old Fashioned. I have to admit, I wasn’t precisely prepared for the small glass that appeared in front of me. The taste was sweet (I wouldn’t necessarily order it again), but while it might be the same amount as the traditional martini glass serving, I have to admit, this felt on the small side (size matters, people!). While we waited, I also thought it best to order the sweet potato fries (with kimchi mayo and jalapeno dip) that I had seen everywhere — they did not disappoint, but I would admit my homemade sweet potato fries certainly seem a lot healthier than the order we received.
So, a quick digression, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to restaurant service. That is, I like establishing a rapport with a single server and counting on them for service throughout the meal. It makes them easy to identify, and easier to ensure that when providing gratuity, the person who has supported a table through the meal is recognized. While of course there are runners, hostesses, and a sommelier in some cases, for the most part, I prefer one person. Ramusake does not exactly uphold this model. While one person took our drink orders, two other people took our food order, and there was a sommelier. We probably interacted with five or six people during the night and it was slightly confusing
(maybe I’m old). I’m not sure if this was intentional (certainly, not every table was full) or not.
Having a look at the menu, there were a lot of similarities with Katana, such that we decided to order some of the same dishes so we could basically do our own taste test. Off of the sushi menu, we chose the volcano roll and tuna sashimi pizza. From the ‘hot’ section I chose my biggest ordering mistake of 2016, the Chili J-Dog (more details later). From the robata grill, the cedar smoked lamb chops and as a side, Eringi mushrooms.
Y’all, Katana ‘won’ every time. And here’s why…
Round #1: Sushi
The Katana volcano roll came out with a hot crab (temperature) topping, which was a delight. The roll itself was spicy, but not too much and I would’ve happily ordered another. The Ramusake roll fell apart in two places and did not have any heat to speak of. Similarly, the tuna pizza was…weird. Good flavors, interesting texture, but I think just because you can combine tuna and a fried pita, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. As with the sushi roll, we were both craving a bit more heat. This course left me wishing I had opted for the Chirashi rice bowl instead.
Round #2: Robata
The lamb chops at Katana were memorable in their presentation and taste. The Ramusake lamb chops (bonus, you get one more chop than the Katana order) were cooked to the perfect temperature, but while the chops at Katana had the great taste of teriyaki, the chops at Ramusake were overwhelmingly smoky and a bit fatty. I realize they are listed as ‘cedar smoked,’ but the smokiness far surpassed any other flavor. While the accompanying sauce (a spicy Korean miso) finally did add some needed heat, this dish was a pass for me.
Round #3: The Hot Dog
I ordered this because I thought, ‘What is a hot dog doing on this menu?’ I walked out thinking the exact same thing. Too salty, too pedestrian, I get the choices of being clever for clever’s sake, but that implies one must deliver on the promise. The hot dog with its super basic bun did not live up to any of my expectations. I didn’t get any of the wagyu because of the sodium levels in the hot dog. While there are a few other clever dishes on the menu, based on the hot dog, I can’t say I would have any interest in trying them.
- Our unfinished plate of fries was taken away without asking. Sure, there weren’t a ton left, but I like my chips!
- Also, Voss Water. Sigh. One day, there will be some forward thinking restaurant in Dubai that is okay with local water — today was not that day.
- And on the topic, the second bottle of water was brought out without asking our permission. Not the end of the world, but…
- There was no toilet paper in the either the men’s or women’s bathrooms (located outside the restaurant).
- While entirely not the fault of Ramusake, the drive up to the Doubletree is a bit awkward (and doesn’t seem to offer a lot of parking, but this is the Marina, so why would there be?)
Look, even if I hadn’t visited Toko or Katana, I still would have these opinions. And while I’m cautiously optimistic about a brunch from the group (due to hit the market in September), I can’t say that I’m in any rush to go back to Ramusake. While the music and service were good, the food wasn’t enough to win me over. The total of our meal (sans alcoholic drinks) would’ve been in the neighborhood of AED450. Given our order at Katana (with water and a glass of wine) was AED505… Well, I’m sure you can do the math.
Have you visited Ramusake yet?