This JBR joint brings Japanese joy to Dubai’s dinner scene
Ramusake is a name synonymous in Dubai with the party crowd, and slick DJs playing hip hop and RnB. But does it serve good food, too, or is it more about the atmosphere?
We arrived early on a Saturday night with high expectations. After sampling the dishes the Ramusake team put on at Taste Dubai, we were hoping for a good meal. The ‘Izakaya’ concept is trending in Dubai – it basically means eating more socially, and sharing dishes (but in our case that causes fights or over-polite stand-offs where there’s an odd number of pieces of food but an even number of guests!)
And it didn’t disappoint. The venue is dark, but lit warmly; varnished concrete floors add an urban touch, while the Japanese design underlines the culinary theme.
There’s a large, separate bar which you must walk through to get to the dining area, and a popular terrace, which we thought too warm for us.
We were personally greeted and seated by the extremely affable manager, Steve, who spent a long time with us describing the menu, the favourites and his personal choices. Formerly manager of neighbouring bar Copper Dog, Steve clearly knows his food, his audience and is passionate about Ramusake.
Our waiter, who hailed from Vietnam, was also knowledgeable and agreeably relaxed. He spoke with verve about the menu, and made some solid recommendations.
The dish we tried at Taste Dubai was one of those fusion dishes which a purist might turn up their nose at – tuna sashimi pizza – but there’s a good reason why it’s a best seller. It’s smooth and silky on the palate, ending with a crunch from the tortilla base. Chopped raw tuna is top grade, while the truffle cream cheese is perfect with a hint of wasabi, and a flourish of salty tobiko really hits the spot. We could eat these every day.
The ‘pizza’ is perhaps a poster boy for Ramusake’s style – Japanese food with a modern twist.
Salmon ceviche didn’t disappoint, either, served with a moreish ponzu ‘tiger’s milk’.
Another menu hit, according to Steve, is the cheese and truffle gyoza. That’s four types of cheese, and four types of mushroom. While perfectly cooked, the ‘truffle everywhere’ fad is getting us down. Still, a solid, tasty treat, but we love Japanese cuisine for its lightness and artistry.
Nasu Dengaku –baked aubergine and miso – triggers a reaction similar to the tuna sashimi pizza. It’s smokey, soft, salty and sensous to eat. A real classic for vegetarian diners, Ramusake has set the benchmark here.
Strong okonomiyaki vibes from the tako yaki omelette, with its dancing bonito flakes and rich Japanese mayo – this dense octopus dish is highly flavoursome, while the sweet unagi (freshwater eel) sauce elevates the dish to another menu must-have.
Fish for main courses – while there is a good selection of sushi and sashimi, we were hunting for different dishes. The steamed sea bass combines a light chilli butter with yuzu miso, hitting all the taste receptors with a delicious umami twang. Topped with ginger, onion and coriander, it brings more of a Thai feel to the table.
Miso black cod is always a crowd pleaser, and Ramusake’s version is good. Perfectly marinated, but the flavour was a little less than we anticipated, even though the cod itself fell apart with the gentlest of teasing from a chopstick, as it should.
Surprise of the night were the crispy, caramelised Brussels sprouts, an underrated veg which seems to be undergoing a renaissance in the city’s restaurants. Served here in a sharp fish sauce with furikake, this made us regret a childhood of avoiding these tiny cabbages.
Dessert, our waiter insisted, should be a new menu item – which turned out to be a giant bowl of green tea uji parfait matcha, an almost-overwhelmingly large array of cooling melon granita, unusual fruits, adzuki bean paste, cubes of matcha gel and matcha ice cream. The earthy twang of matcha is not to everyone’s taste, and this close-to-savoury dessert was interesting, but we have to sadly be honest and admit the kinako doughnuts delivered the sweet ending we were looking for. Tiny balls of lighter-than-air dough, filled with sweet spoons of jam and served alongside fresh Chantilly cream, we couldn’t get enough of them.
No surprise in this venue that there’s a sommelier. The Mauritian is qualified in sake tasting, and proud to share his knowledge. We took a Japanese version of sangria, which set the tone for the evening’s quirky presentation and flavour template. Friendly, fun and full of recommendations for the best drinks to accompany your food, we think he added an extra dimension to what was already a fantastic meal.
Ramusake knows its food. The chefs create interesting dishes without pretension. This is fusion at its best, elevated to a stand-out experience by the relaxed, knowledgeable staff and a very cool environment. We’ll be back – there’s a lot more creative dishes in Ramusake’s repertoire we need to try.