There’s no doubt that the Vida hotel has done an excellent job in reigniting the ghost town that was once Qamardeen Hotel with the introduction of La Serre, Picnic Brunches and now Toko, a new trendy and upscale Japanese restaurant.
There were scandalous whispers before the opening of Toko that they poached someone from Zuma to start Toko as they did someone from LPM to start La Serre.
Upon my arrival I do ask the manager on deck “ So where are you chefs from?” He diplomatically responds, “That is private information but the majority hail from Japan.”
If your wondering, Toko is not a homegrown concept as is La Serre, but a franchise from the beautiful costs of Australia and we love everything Australian.
Walking around the restaurant the mood is sophisticated cozy, brown wood interiors, nothing overbearing true to the culture Down Under. Two main features distinguish the space, an open kitchen to make any foodie smile and a terrace laced with Japanese umbrellas.
We take our seats and comb through the extensive menus. The extensive menu business seems to be the case across all Japanese restaurants such as Zuma, Sake, Tomo etc. Granted the Japanese love their options, but how about a one page Japanese menu? Any one? Any takers?
Ten minutes and a tedious selection later our orders are made and my drink arrives to replenish my energy. A beautiful creation in theory, lychee and passion fruit, but in reality the cocktail falls short.
First come the edamame and miso soup, check and check.
Next, the Tuna tartare, and not just any, the kind of tartare that comes with fresh shavings of truffle. Lighter then a steak tartare my dinner dates comments that she could have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I agree.
The eggplant meso follows, with the light flavors that preceded the heavy and overly sweet eggplant disappoints.
I have strong appreciation for soft shell crab and it’s a dish I constantly order. When our plate arrives, I let out an “Oh wow!”, it’s the first time I see and experience soft shell crabs of that size. Duking the grab legs into the wasabi sauce and then into my mouth is wonderful.
Our spicy tuna makki, prawn nigiri and shishito peppers are adequate but we both decide that on our next visit they would be reshuffled for something else on the menu.
Finally our Alaskan king crab, at AED 235 a plate, perfection is our anticipation. Taking a bite of the crab, it’s juicy sauce dribbles down my chin. Juicy it is, but the crab had clearly been cooked in butter, which we find too over bearing. With a comment to the manager the king crab is swiftly taken off our bill and dessert made complementary.
Whisky foam, coffee ice cream and honey comb for dessert, not quite Japanese but hey there’s whisky in my dessert, I like it.
There are hits and misses in the dishes we tried keeping in mind we only sampled 10% of the menu while the prices are nothing to take lightly. But the service, the welcoming of the space and the power of 2 excellent dishes will make me return. Enjoying quality fusion Japanese no longer requires a side order of pretentiousness and dense crowds.
Oh did I mention the terrace?