Casual Japanese at Inakaya - Venetian Village, Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi
The twist at Inakaya is the robata grill concept in which fresh ingredients are theatrically prepared and served on large wooden paddles - high on theatre, but no where near as unJapanese and dare I say corny as Americanised teppanyaki performances. It offers more authenticity. Inakaya is, therefore, unlike any other Japanese experience in the city, and its one of a kind style makes it a very desirable venue.
As we arrive, we walk under a large banner hanging outside announcing the name of the restaurant. A hostess in kimono greets us and we are seated bar style, seating that is part of the robata grill experience. Despite decor having been chosen with a foreign market in mind, it still feels very Japanese - I have had the pleasure of visiting a few izakayas in Nagoya and Tokyo. It is quintessentially Japanese with emphasis on minimalism. I like that it is not kitschy at all, and it is clear that Rika Yusmita, General manager of Inakaya, has her finger on the pulse of Japanese culture because she has done a fabulous job with the decor.
|Paper ribbons hang from the ceiling.|
In terms of decor, three special touches for me are the sake bottles suspended from the ceiling in one dining area, Japanese paper ribbons recalling shrine visits hanging from the ceiling at the entrance, and the almost zen like glass dining area which is so unbelievably tranquil.
|Yellow tail Carpaccio|
For my next drink I have the house sake, known as Masu sake, so called because it is served in square box. Recommended for that other world experience, crossing a cultural divide.
|One of the dishes served using a wooden paddle.|
Dessert, well Mochi ice cream of course, with a centre that is more creamy than ice cream. Sheer indulgence.
A standout feature for me is the manner of service. Staff understand all the Japanese names for the dishes and are able to call back the orders in Japanese. It makes for staff that are knowledgable and engaging. Also, with a very hands-on manager in Kenneth Kim, I find this to be a strong point of the evening. Service.
With a number of Japanese restaurants already in the city, Inakaya brings something very distinctive to Abu Dhabi. Its casual nature should not be misinterpreted as a watered down venue. On the contrary, it is a classy establishment that has an edge on its competitors because of its concept. Did I add that it offers the best value for money of all the high end Japanese outlets in the city? Furthermore, with a setting on the Al Maqta canal, it is quite an exquisite experience all round. The location allows you to arrive by car or by abra from the other side of the canal, and the latter in particular making for an all-round unique evening in Abu Dhabi.
At the Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 4041921
Salads 35-60 AED
Cold and Hot dishes 20-110 AED
Robata Vegetables 15-25 AED
Meat 35-130 AED
Sushi and Sashimi 30-210 AED