Amid an increasingly crowded market place of Japanese eateries, including global names such as Zuma and Nobu, home-grown entrant Okku has carved out a niche for itself.
Launched just over three years ago in the Monarch Hotel, Dubai, and independently run by two entrepreneurs, the firm prides itself on ‘smartness, sophistication and glamour’.
Okku is spread over three levels: a ground floor restaurant, a buzzing bar on the mezzanine floor, and private dining rooms on the first floor. Where this eatery differs from most is in its almost nightclub-like atmosphere. A walk down candlelit stairs leads to a stylish, cellar-like room. It’s moody, dark, intimate, and ever-so-slightly self conscious.
Eclectic in nationality and age, Okku’s clientele comes in two categories: those who are a somebody, and those who want to be a somebody. Designer jewellery and clothes glitter under the restaurant’s low lighting, while a raised resident DJ spins tunes in the background.
Okku is known for its inventive and regularly updated menu – as well as its second-to-none cocktails, which are all made from fresh fruit. My date for evening tells me that her Apple Mohito is ‘the best she has tasted bar none’.
Our handsome, well-dressed waiter, ‘Valentine’, guides us through a long and adventurous menu. For starters we sampled the sear scallops with fig, chive and truffle goma – they were tender and succulent, with just enough bite.
And if you’re a fan of rare fodder, then you will appreciate the freshness of Okku’s Carpaccio (yellowtail, snapper and lobster), tuna tartare and steak tartare. The restaurant’s lengthy range of sushi will cater to most tastes, including the extravagant Wagyu Beef Gyu Niku, seabass with papaya, and Dynamite Black Cod Maki.
We particularly enjoyed the main courses, which were equally inventive. The shredded ginger-soy veal rib Shoynu comes recommended. Another favourite was the giant Dynamite Kami – two whole baked king crab legs, with masago and crab mayonnaise.
In a reversal of the regional trend of importing brands, the Dubai-founded Okku brand is now embarking on a regional and international expansion that will see a new flagship venue open in London this year and two alcohol-free ‘O’ by Okku restaurants open in Saudi Arabia.
As long as Okku can locate a niche, see-and-be-seen crowd with a taste for adventurous dishes, the brand is set to do well internationally.