Tomo tomorrow?

Tomo at Raffles DubaiAsk any Japanese diner in Dubai and they will rave about Chef Chitoshi Takahashi’s cuisine, as I do. Well after over three decades, he has left Kisaku at the Khaleej Palace hotel and is now ensconced in his new home, Tomo perched on the 17th top floor of Raffles Dubai – replacing the Chinese restaurant, Noble House.

An advocate for authentic Japanese cuisine, Tomo, whose name translates to a ‘lifelong friend’ was brimming with what looked like mostly Japanese diners on Thursday evening. As the hostess guided us to our table whilst we circled the all-glass restaurant, we drifted past the sushi counter, shabu shabu tables, the traditional Japanese sunken seats and many a private dining room before finally reaching our window table à deux. I thought we’d never arrive. The decor is austere and rather formal with Japanese folk music at play, but the glistening 360 degree views of Dubai by night help create a little more ambience.

The menu is ginormous with dishes true to authentic Japanese cuisine, and a far cry from the fusion likes of Zuma, Okku and Nobu – the latter I hear frequents Chef Takahashi’s old and new home on his nights off in Dubai. Our edamame order kept us going whilst we perused. First up was our request for sake with the carafe arriving sunken in hot water, a quirky touch, but sadly cold not warm as per our order. Yes I know the Japanese say cold sake is the way to go, but FooDiva’s a sucker for a little warmth. Efficiently remedied though with a new carafe of hot sake swiftly served and a declaration from the restaurant manager that it was on the house. Excellent service recovery.

Our two appetisers of fatty tuna maki and generous chunks of salmon sashimi were soft, sweet and succulent – but given Chef Takahashi’s strive for authenticity I would have expected freshly grated wasabi as the accompaniment, not the usual paste prevalent in Japanese restaurants here.

Salmon sashimiSunken carafe of sakeFatty tuna makiPrawn tempuraThinly sliced Japanese wagyu beefGrilled salmon teriyaki

For my main, I was drawn to the original Japanese wagyu beef selection (no sign of Australian Blackmore here) opting for ever so thin slices in a decidedly sweet, caramelised sauce served on a bed of rice with miso soup and pickles. FooDiva was half-expecting teppan-like slices not the teeny slithers pictured here, so whilst I couldn’t fault the flavours, I would opt for a different Wagyu dish next time that would allow me to request rare. My friend’s main dish of grilled salmon was so tender simply dropping off the chopsticks with the teriyaki marinade just the right side of sweet without being sickly – all served on a tray, Japanese style, with steamed rice, miso soup and pickles.

Rather than dessert, with such an impressive menu we were craving more savoury delicacies and decadently opted for tempura king prawns – five pieces arrived fried in a light and fresh batter. Moreish.

Aside from the authoritative restaurant manager, service was a tad submissive thanks to a hostess rather than one of the knowledgeable waitresses parked near our table. We ordered a second carafe of sake which was unexpectedly also comped…am pretty sure Tomo knew I was in review mode. The dishes are extremely reasonably priced ranging from a staggeringly low AED 55 to AED 80 each, mains included – cheap by Dubai standards – and by London according to my visiting friend. It’s rare to find a licensed restaurant here, in particular a Japanese one willing to make the dining experience so affordable, but I expect that’s at the heart of Chef Takahashi’s mission to continue engaging with the Japanese community.

Tomo at Raffles DubaiAt that price and given the stunning venue albeit one in a not too popular location, I would happily return to eat my way through the rest of the menu, but next time you’ll find FooDiva sprawled on the tatami floor-seating terrace which only just opened this week. Tomo, I think you may just become a lifelong friend. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating. Book Tomo tomorrow. Oh and itadakimasu!

How do you prefer your Japanese – traditional or fusion? Any favourite haunts?

Tomo Japanese Restaurant by Takahashi is located at Raffles Dubai, Wafi City. Open daily 12:30pm – 3:30pm and 6:30pm – 12am. T; +971 4 3577888. E; Licensed. Price per head AED 189 (without alcohol).

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
Reserve with RoundMenu
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31 Responses to “Tomo tomorrow?”

  1. Tony C W January 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Sounds like a great replacement for Noble….. must try it out

  2. Francine Spiering January 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Very exciting, and excited: put it immediately on my list! Fab-ly reviewed, as usual.

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks Francine 🙂 Get there quick as there’ll be many more new openings to add to your list this month!

  3. Kavitha January 8, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for the review . . . will definitely have to check it out.

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Kavitha. Let me know how it fares for you.

  4. Grace @ Sandier Pastures January 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

    We love Chef Takahashi and happy he has opened his own restaurant. Save for the new posh ambiance, we thought we were still in good old Kisaku when we had our food at Tomo, with Chef Takahashi stopping by to chat.

    You’re right about the price – it’s affordable given the location. We’re certainly lifelong Tomo friends and we can’t wait to go back there again.

    My husband commented though that with the price and the food that’s common Japanese fare, the luxurious ambiance doesn’t seem to match. He expected Tomo to be looking like a bit simple, more Japanese, just a bit higher than an izakaya for example. Tomo at Raffles is too lavish like they could be serving the world’s most expensive sushi.

    No complaints though! Lovely food, affordable price and great ambiance. A winner for me!

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      So glad you also enjoyed your experience Grace. I know what you mean about the decor, but I think it’s as simple as it’s gonna get for Dubai – and thank goodness that dreaded carpet remains at Kisaku 😉 Did you know the new JW Marriott Marquis on the SZ has opened a Japanese called Izakaya? I loved trying out different izakayas in Japan – gastro pubs as I labelled them! Plus a new Japanese concept at Meridien Mina Seyahi has opened this week – so many new restaurants this month!

  5. Tala January 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I am sooo happy that you posted this review today. I am actually going there tonight. Who ever I asked has told me it was a great experience and that it was filled with Japanese Diners, therefore really looking forward to it. I am so torn between the seating. I have booked a window seat but I love the traditional sunken seats. may change my booking. And tempura king prawns – a definite order!

    I heart Foodiva!!

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks so much Tala. If you’re a large group I’d go for the sunken seats or the tatami terrace perhaps – otherwise for a more intimate gathering a window table for sure. Enjoy and look forward to reading your review 🙂

  6. Geordie Armani January 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    It sounds rather nice I have to say, especially the Wagyu beef, lovely review Foo x

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Thanks GA 🙂 So many more Wagyu dishes to try – mind you some are substantially more expensive. x

  7. Kelly W January 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Though I am not keen on Japanese cuisine, I would love to try those prawns tempura and grilled salmon!!!! Goood review!

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks Kelly. Thought your trip to Japan would have converted you? 😉

  8. amanda January 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Lovely last night of Xmas in Dubai meal for me, well written!

    • FooDiva January 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Fab evening Amanda and thanks for your patience with the photos!

  9. Sally - My Custard Pie January 10, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I’ve still a long way to go to understand really authentic Japanese food – this sounds an excellent place to go given the prices. Lovely review.

    • FooDiva January 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      Definitely Sally. Bentoya on the SZ is also very authentic Japanese, but sadly without booze!

  10. Expat08 January 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the hat tip. We were there last week. VERY nice Nigiri sushi AED180 for 10. I thought the Tamago and the Agedashi dofu sauce were a little too sweet. Also had Negi toro maki AED 55 (nice big toro chunks). Will definitely go again.

    • FooDiva January 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Great constructive feedback. Will remember that for when I return! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mike January 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I was there last week and fell in love with TOMO definitely coming back next month for my birthday treat!

    • FooDiva February 5, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Mike. I’ve fallen in love with Tomo too…my new hangout 🙂

  12. Kady February 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I love it .. the best Japanese food I ate me and my firned had a wonderful dinner their

    the place is sooo great .. I had some shopping than went to the restaurant for dinner

    I give 9/10 to the services.. they were very helpful and answering our questions about the food

    the food 10/10 .. I love it I ordered some salad I forget the name but it was delicious and also a potato salad it was also so yummy

    the chicken carry a must .. I love it
    Spider Rolls sushi ..yummy

    also we ordered Green Tea Ice cream and we enjoyed our time their ..

    their juices were so refreshment and must have :heart:

    and finished our meal by meeting the Chef

    definitely recommended if you love Japanese food ^_^

    • FooDiva February 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks Kady, appreciate you taking the time to feedback. Definitely one for authentic Japanese cuisine.

  13. expat08 November 3, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Just to report that food is still great – was there again yesterday. Solid traditional Japanese fare. Efficient and friendly service as well. Katsu Curry was nice. Brilliant sashimi for 100. Well worth the trek to the other side of town.

    • FooDiva November 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Completely agree. I’ve been back a few times. The otoro is out of this world 🙂 And in fact it’s not as far as one thinks it is. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

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