Toshi - Grand Millenium Al Wahda

Over the last 2 weeks I visited Toshi on two occasions which I think allows me an opportunity to offer an objective account of the experience. The premise behind Toshi is that a Chinese chef visited a number of Asian countries and decided to combine the cuisines of these places, featuring Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Chinese. I am always weary of this because there is then a great danger of doing everything ok but nothing exceptionally well. For the hotel though, it allows the restaurant to really maximise marketing potential by targeting different customers through various promotions.

Toshi is not large, and on first entering, you get a feeling that it is a bit cramped. The use of dark colours add to this sense. red and black is the overwhelming colour motif. Fortunately, the large windows give one a sense of space. With most tables at the window, it does not feel as oppressive as it might have been without the window seating.  Another drawback with the seating is the incredibly heavy chairs. It was such a challenge pushing my daughter's chair in or even my own for that matter!

Toshi has a couple of theme nights, including a sushi night, which by all accounts is incredibly popular. For a very reasonable price you can enjoy endless sushi. Now when it comes to sushi, I am somewhat divided. I do not appreciate the Californication of sushi (making it more fun and accessible to the masses by adding interesting ingredients like chili sauce!). However, it is this very Westernising of sushi that has allowed it to spread worldwide to be one of the most recognisable high end foods! Also, there are commercial considerations. You try and cater to your market. And this is what Toshi has done. You can expect all sorts of colourful sushi combinations. If a more traditional take on sushi is your preference, then head to Toki instead ( Recently awarded Japanese Restaurant of the Year in Abu Dhabi by Timeout magazine). However, if it is fun, colourful and contemporary that you want, this is your place. Based on the crowds at Toshi, I guess the client base is quite happy with Toshi's sushi interpretations!

Sashimi is also served on sushi night and I had mixed feelings here too. While the salmon was acceptable, I found the tuna sashimi  to be somewhat chewy - It felt like it had been defrosted. Now I know that this is not the practice at Toshi, but that is the best way I can describe the feel in my mouth as I munched down. Another possible explanation is that the sashimi was kept at the wrong temperature, which is plausible considering this was a buffet with possible slow turnover of sashimi.

Green Papaya Salad.
Nice selection of Asian beers.
Angus Beef Teppanyaki
Toshi though, also offers a great a la carte selection. There is a great choice of classic Asian soups like Miso, Tom Yam Kung and Tom Kai. and salads. I had the Papaya salad which had a gorgeous balance between spiciness and tanginess. Toshi also has a teppanyaki open kitchen with all the bells and trimmings which allows you to enjoy the theatre that is teppanyaki,  from balancing eggs to throwing bowls in the air. I had the Angus Beef Teppanyaki which was very good. The secret with this style of of food is that you never go well done. I recommend at least medium rare. My daughter had the tuna teppanyaki which she thoroughly enjoyed. Finally, for dessert I had the Lemongrass Creme Brûlée which was an excellent choice. In fact, I was so impressed that I forgot to take a pic!The caramelised top was perfect and had just a hint of lemon grass. I recommend this as well as the Thai classic, Crispy Fried Banana with coconut ice cream!

Crispy Banana with Coconut Ice Cream
However, the major disappointment for me was the slow service and lack of engagement by staff meaning you had a feeling at the end of your meal that something was missing.  Too much time was spent trying to get the attention of a  waiter or waitress, Secondly, I think the host or hostess for the evening could also guide arriving guests through the buffet and explain everything. This makes it more personalised, similar to what a few restaurants in the city do. A bit more time by service staff on reviewing the basics could see Toshi becoming a very good restaurant. After all, they already have a great menu!

Toshi has great potential and with its niche being Asian cuisine, it is able to offer a  wide variety of dishes, as evidenced by its menu. The lack of soul, though, alluded to above, is something that can be changed by reminding staff of one of the key tenets of Asian culture - hospitality. I look forward to my next visit to watch this evolution.