Abu Dhabi is always on the agenda. A 40-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Dubai and you can be on the “happiness island”, better known as Saadiyat Island. My husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary earlier this month and what better way to get-away without taking a flight than a staycation in Abu Dhabi. Something that’s not always on the agenda however is Japanese food. I’m a huge fan but my husband isn’t too keen on the cuisine, so for our special day, he decided to indulge me as I made a booking for KOI’s Friday brunch, which I’d heard so much about.
It’s safe to say that he’s now a convert, thanks to the fantastic experience we had.
Founded in Los Angeles eight years ago, KOI has stamped its own mark on Japanese cuisine with successful branches in leading cities around the world like Bangkok, Las Vegas, New York and now, Abu Dhabi. The restaurant is located in The Collection, opposite the entrance to St. Regis Saadiyat Island Hotel. Decorated in restrained tones of brown woods and grey, the vibe is serene, complete with a faux tree screen that separates the bar and lounge area from the main dining space.
As our servers brought out course after course, we were happily satiated, chopsticks at the go but our minds saying “stop already!” A feast it was, traditional Japanese dishes prepared with slight modern Californian touches, using both local and international ingredients. The lovely General Manager, Alejandro, who happened to spend some time working in Japan chatted to us about tales from his time there. We spoke about the food, the culture, and everything in between.
The staff were polite and professional, always around to refill glasses, collect empty plates, or to explain what “that green leaf under the sashimi is called, and are we meant to eat it?” I learnt that its called sansho leaves – a common garnish in Japanese dishes, but also chopped and added to marinades, sauces and dressings. The leaves have a subtle spiciness with a citrus scent. Have you ever eaten it?
Here, I’d like to share with you, most of what is included in KOI’s Friday brunch, something I’d go back for again and again.
Edamame with sea salt, original or spicy miso soup, bang bang chicken salad with sesame dressing, green salad with ponzu dressing, and seared tuna salad with lime dressing
Assorted sashimi and yellow tail ceviche
One of my favourites from the afternoon, organic salmon tartare on this bed of crispy rice which stole the show!
California roll, soft shell crab roll, and Eel and foie gras roll
From top left (clockwise) – Chicken “Karaage” with “Shichimi” mayonnaise, steamed sea bass and tofu with ume sauce, creamy rock shrimp tempura, and grilled lamb chop with spicy miso
Wagyu steak and mash potato with Oroshi Ponzu sauce
For dessert, we tried (clockwise from top left) apple and cinnamon crumble, vanilla and chocolate creme brûlée, gianduja chocolate mouse, and vanilla and chocolate ice cream
There are many Japanese restaurants in the UAE but not many with the elegance that Koi delivers. This brunch is not about the alcohol – although there’s plenty of it – food here is the hero. Everything from humble pieces of sashimi to the delicate wagyu steak is made with attention to detail. If you’re looking for this kind of finesse this weekend, KOI is worth checking out!
Three packages are available – soft drinks for AED 295, selected beverages for AED 395 and selected beverages + bubbly for AED 495. The soft drinks package is also available on the Entertainer app until the end of December. Every Friday from 12.30pm – 4.00pm.
LOCATION – KOI, The Collection, opposite the entrance to St. Regis Saadiyat Island Hotel.
DISCLOSURE: I was a guest of KOI but as always, all opinions are my own.