I still remember the moment when sushi rolls turned into an obsession, taking over the world, soul by soul, appearing on everyone’s menu including places one would never imagine serving raw fish. Bakeries, bars, supermarkets and food trucks decided to dedicate their specials to green wasabi paste and weird tiny bites which in fairness combined a balanced dietary trio of carbs, protein and fibre. Luckily a few years later the avocado cappuccino went mainstream, killing all competition and letting the sushi craze fade away. Quality eventually overcame hype.
As a result, a number of incredible contemporary Japanese restaurants kicked in, fighting for a spot in the foodie’s and businessmen’s heart. No one can count the exact number of great deals signed over a delicious serving of smoky eel, resting on a carefully crafted cube of steamed rice, beside a miniature carafe of ice-cold sake (or my favourite, steamy warm).
Sushi, being an obsession for so many folks out there and especially fancy girls, has also proven that Japanese cuisine is so much more than just rolls. In fact the more one discovers the traditional side of infamous Japanese dining the more delicious it gets. Ramusake restaurant at the Double Tree by Hilton in JBR is a perfect example. I was very excited to barge my way into Ramusake on their popular Ladies Nights and that experience led to my personal obsession with the restaurant.
First of all, Ramusake is in style. It’s the place to be and a place to watch the crowd. Always being over booked on Wednesday nights they are also being stormed by the most beautiful girls from the Dubai and further. No matter how Insta famous you get (true story) there is no way you can reserve a table unless you call far in advance. My attempts to get a table for four on short notice failed miserably. On a brighter note, there are always a few spots left for the Friday brunch which, in my opinion, is the best way to discover the mystery of Ramusake’s success.
My usual Friday brunch strategy is to arrive early. The next move is to convince your server you are the most mega super famous person on Instagram to score an extra cocktail and some fantastic bar magic footage. They are easy to convince and it always works for me 🙂 Once your arrival drink is sorted, look through the pre-set menu and agree to everything they offer. The food at Ramusake is so damn good.
The moment the salted edamame beans appear at your table, start ordering and tasting sake. Nothing compliments Japanese cuisine better than this magical beverage, neither jasmine green tea nor Asahi. Sake, based on processed fermented rice, delivers a little kick of happiness with the every sip as well as a balanced taste that works in a harmony with any dish. No matter what you are sampling – a dessert, sashimi or chicken skewers, sake will deliver an accompanying flavour turning a meal into a feast.
While brunching at Ramusake it’s easy to sneak a peek at the chefs putting together rolls, main dishes and cooking their way through the experience. The concept of an open kitchen is indeed my favourite way of dining. I love to watch men cook. There is something truly magical when ingredients imported from all over the world appear in the form of something you never knew existed.
Do you recall those Friday mornings when you wake up and feel it’s gonna be a beautiful day? So you start with a lazy coffee, scrolling Instagram direct messages or giggling to ridiculous emojis from your favourite WhatsApp people. Then a random pop-up ad on YouTube reminds you of a new amazing dress still with tags longing for attention. For me this was the moment to book my brunch experience at 3in1 at Vida Downtown, the place where weekend lasts forever.
Vida, being a landmark itself, often appears in the news in connection with fashion shows, celebrities and events involving VVVIP+ (something super awesome that only exists in Dubai). The drive through the Downtown of Dubai is a separate treat. Lower speed limits result in extended views of palm trees, a mix of futuristic and stylized architecture and a sneak peak at new restaurants opening here and there. In the winter when Dubaians are spoiled with the best weather in the world, I roll down the windows and wave at folks crossing streets I’ve met some time somewhere. Downtown is a popular neighbourhood!
Friendly security and valet parking teams led my car right through a bit of Friday traffic directly to the entrance. Having complimentary valet over here is as essential as complimentary WiFi and obviously Vida offers both. A few steps down (please do not misunderstand me there is an elevator but I always fancy an appetising walk before a brunch), I was greeted like a star.
The concept of brunch is not new but the Western version of it greatly differs from what we are used to in the UAE. Again spoiled by choice we pick a package that suits today’s budget, mood or driving arrangements (my life). For Urban Picnic brunch at Vida’s 3in1 restaurant I chose unlimited soft beverages over unlimited house beverages (think refreshing Margaritas). I upgraded my choice to a table inside a private cabana and smiled anticipatingly a fantastic afternoon.
And what an epic brunch it was! Picture yourself sitting around a pool on a lovely sunny afternoon with a soft refreshing breeze playing with the silky curtains of your private cabana. The best of Latin dancing tunes including Lambada and Merengue act as the background, adding an authentic vibe to the event. Smoke from the nearby live cooking station encourages you to make another run for the bbq seafood of the day. Your Margarita never gets warm as an attentive server keeps an eagle eye on your happiness. Meanwhile a game of piñata starts somewhere in the corner and a friend hands you over a fun fail video taken at the spot to amuse you.
Believe me when the time is up no one wants to leave and no one rushes you out. Because there is more than one reason this party is the talk of the town.
Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.
“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.
In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.
When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.
Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.
Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.