Venetian Village and I are having quite the relationship these days…
Up next on my tour of this unique culinary area of Abu Dhabi is Inakaya, a Japanese restaurant with only in three other locations: New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Situated on the waterfront in Venetian Village, the interior of Inakaya is broken into different sections including a robata/sushi bar, a semi-private dining room, and a ‘glass house’ area which, when the weather is nice, can be opened up.
Without meaning to, I’ve been to a heap of similarly themed restaurants in the past few months: Toko, Katana, Ramusake, Zuma (and even Asia Asia, if I’m completely honest) and I was curious where this Abu Dhabi entry would fall in.
To start, I absolutely LOVED the presentation of food and drinks. We chose to sit at the brightly lit bar (a feature that sets itself apart from the other similarly genred restaurants I’ve mentioned). Initially, I was worried it would be awkward to sit and not face my lovely friend, but we were able to converse quite easily. From our seats, most of our dishes were served up on a long wooden tray, directly from the grill — dinner and a show!
Another great feature? There was an authentic ‘team’ atmosphere present at Inakaya that the other restaurants are definitely lacking. As an example, to each person who entered the venue, a greeting was shouted (in Japanese) by everyone working (the kitchen, the hostess, and the service staff). This little gesture immediately put a smile on my face. This same sort of service was repeated with the delivery of food and drinks throughout the entirety of our meal (and to other tables). I guess there might be some diners who wouldn’t like the attention, but I thought it was quite fun.
For the meal, at the recommendation of our server, we decided to go with a bit of this and that (both from the traditional menu and the special Chef’s menu). Overall, nearly everything was a hit. Don’t believe me? Take a look at a selection of dishes from our meal:
Some other things that set the restaurant apart? You can choose your own fish! And
carbon footprint be damned they fly over special fish, just for Inakaya. We watched as a diner walked up to inspect the golden eyed snapper and spoke to the kitchen about how he wanted it prepared. … So, there you go!
A minor detail worth noting, there is no bathroom in the restaurant. For reasons unknown, Venetian Village seems to have not corrected this issue. The only set of bathrooms is somewhat adjacent to (but not in) Todd English’s Olives. However, from Inakaya, should one be wearing heels or the weather be, I don’t know, 40C+, the thought of walking a decent amount outside of the restaurant you’re dining in is a serious oversight. Nevermind if you’re a family with a pram, or someone having any sort of restroom emergency. While the servers apologized profusely (on something they had no control over), if I were one of the restaurants in the Village, I’d be loudly asking for an improvement in this area.
Additionally, and this is probably more an opinion than one that would matter to others, the cocktail list is quite limited. Where other restaurants really shine (Toko, Ramusake), I think some effort can be put in to building up specialty cocktails. To be fair, should you be interested in sake, there is a decent list to choose from.
The pricing at Inakaya is as you would expect and in line with similar restaurants and within Venetian Village. It’s not a cheap date, but you are paying for quality ingredients and service. If you are looking for a bit of a discount, I would give the upcoming Friday Samurai Brunch a go, or try to attend during September’s restaurant month (which would give you great value for money at AED195 for an expansive set menu).
Overall, given the range of food and excellent level of service, I’d say Inakaya is absolutely worth a visit.
Have you been to Inakaya? What did you like best?