Katsuya By Starck. This has been one of the most talked-about new restaurant openings this year. Jumeirah Al Naseem and it’s F&B outlets have been the cause of quite a bit of excitement- mostly for good reason.
I was invited to the Chef’s Table launch event at Katsuya by Stark, to be hosted by none other than US-based chef owner Katsuya Uechi himself, at which only a handful of select thought-leaders in the Dubai dining-sphere would get to items on the menu, prepared by the Man of The Hour himself! Because my life is a joke, I missed out on this golden opportunity as I was out of town.
Since the launch event in May, I have been
wanting to dying to try out Katsuya by Starck, but I kept putting it off for a better time, a time when I was less tired, more in the mood for an elaborate, highly-involved review, preferably with my best gals Atozaatar.com, Theluxeologist.com and TheEmireati.com. Since the four of us are quite the in-demand lot (if I may say so myself), it proved to be nearly impossible for the four of us to be free on the same day, and whenever we were, we ended up engaging in one impromptu plan or the other. Long story short, I only got to visit Katsuya by Starck for the first time last week (it was an invite and I did not pay for the meal in cash).
As I walked into the breathtakingly beautiful, quintessentially MyDubai property that is Jumeirah Al Naseem, my excitement piqued. With stunning views of the blue coastline, the magnificent Burj Al Arab and a cute turtle lagoon, the property itself lends major points in favor of the debate on whether or not Katsuya by Starck is worth visiting/frequenting.
The debate on whether or not Katsuya By Starck is all that and more is a heated one. Arguments against it include claims that their sashimi is made from frozen fish, that their sushi falls ever so short, that standards are not consistent, that there isn’t a wow factor. Arguments in it’s favor circle around grading on the curve, on how the experience needs to be taken into account as a whole and the verdict should not be passed on the sushi alone.
The Spicy Tuna Roll looked clunky and messy and tasted quite forgettable.
Here’s how my experience went:
- Location. The location truly is everything. The next time I have guests in town who want to go for Japanese food, I would reccomend this over the Hashis and Katanas and Izakayas and Tokos and Tomos any day. Zuma and Play still rank higher in my books though.
- Ambience: I loved how sun-kissed the restaurant was. I can’t think of a better Japanese spot for lunch.
- Variety: The sharing -style menu was colossal. It might even be taken negatively, as it was an overwhelming one and we struggled to pick between the many apparantly tempting options!
- The service was excellent. Granted that the restaurant was fairly empty (we went for lunch on a Sunday), but the welcome was warm and the food arrived quickly.
- Pricing: Most of the items were priced quite sensibly and competitively. The shrimp for instance, was super bang-for-the-buck at AED 69 for a decent-sized sharing plate. One of the exceptions was the pair of wagyu sliders, which cost AED 95 for two tiny (but ridiculously PERFECT sliders). I feel that for AED 95, the portion should have had three sliders instead of two.
- Portion Sizes: were generous and satisfactory. Definitely good for sharing.
Of the things we tried, our favorites were:
- Creamy Rock Shrimp: The crispy-fried shrimp, tossed in a “dynamite” sauce, made ultra-famous by P.F. Changs, was delicious. At AED 69 per sharing portion, this was good value for money.
- Wagyu Sliders: Dear God, these sliders! Words cannot do justice to how perfectly sublime they were. Although cooked to a well-done, they were still ridiculously juicy, the aioli (although not quite spicy, as the menu described it to be) did not make the buns soggy, the buns were buttery and nicely toasted, and the single slice of dill pickle made this slider everything you could ever want a slider to be! The most important thing is that even though we took a few minutes to take pictures, the sliders were still perfectly warm. I can actually still remember how they tasted and how happy they made me feel! Priced at AED 95, I wished the plate contained 3 sliders instead of 2.
- Wagyu-wrapped asparagus: The paper-thin strips of beef wrapped around the asparagus practically melted in our mouths, and the asparagus- while nice and soft- still had a slight bite to it, just the way it should!
- Interiors: a little underwhelming and minimalistic. The sofa I was seated on was so lightweight that it moved back every time I got up to take a picture, and then I had to walk around it to push it back in before taking a seat. Not fun.
- The sushi was not super bad, but it was quite forgettable. Of all the sushi and maki rolls we tried, not a single one truly stood out and made me go “wow!”. They were all just “hmm, ok”. The Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna was actually crispy (as opposed to the sushi being rolled in some crispy rice after being rolled- I’m throwing shade at you, Hashi at Armani Hotel), so that earned them 10 points.
- Stripped Baze: The striped base was filleted, batter-fried and drizzled with a “Szechuan sauce”. The sauce ended up tasting sweet than spicy, which made it taste a lot more Thai than “Szechuan”. The striped base itself was spectacular, the flesh was beautifully flavorful and the crispy fry on it was on point. We ordered the half portion for AED 155, which is again reasonable pricing.
- Nebeyaki Udon: It’s so rare to find a broth that is satisfying in depth and layers of flavors. This broth was quite “umami” (for lack of a less cliché word). It was very, very comforting. The noodles were thick and perfectly cooked. However, I wasn’t a fan of the chicken (which was dry and not as tender as it should be),nor the prawn tempura (which I’m never a fan of when placed in soup, as the batter is always too thick in this case). Other than the chicken and the tempura, this was a very hearty bowl of soupy noodles! At AED 85, this really wasn’t overpriced.
We skipped dessert and wrapped up the meal with a couple of matcha teas. Overall, I loved Katsuya by Starck. I’m not a super easy-to-please diner, but I am somewhat swayed by ambience because that does add to the overall experience, and as far as I’m concerned, Katsuya By Starck is a winner. The next time I have guests in town who want to go out for Japanese, I’ll definitely consider this as a viable option, but I will most certainly not be ordering the sushi here again.