Sushisan for a casual Japanese experience - Holiday Inn Airport Road, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's dining scene is one of extremes. It is either very casual or very high end. There is a big void in the middle. On another note, the last year has seen a proliferation of sushi outlets or restaurants changing their concepts to include sushi. The food has become extremely popular. Welcome now to Sushisan, another sushi addition to the dining scene. What Holiday Inn off airport road tries to do  is to bring this popular dish to people but to house it in a fairly stylish, minimalist space and price it in the mid-range bracket.

The restaurant is relaxed and casual, but clearly more high end than some of the fancy sushi outlets in malls. Very cool lounge style beats, waitresses in jeans and Converse sneakers and bold use of red throughout the restaurant make it a very nice option for those who want to have a beer with their sushi but do not want to go to a 5-star hotel and drop too much money. Also, the restaurant is quite small, catering for around 50 people making it  another reason to come and have sushi. Seating options abound, and for people seeking privacy, there are private booths in lower light.

A succinct drinks menu offers you what you would want at a sushi restaurant. A trio of Japanese beers gives you that authentic Japanese feeling - Kirin,  Asahi and Sapporo are beers you must try. If you are in a  slightly more sophisticated mood, they have well-priced entry level sake. In addition, you can get a  glass of wine for 30AED. I, however, have a small bottle of sparkling sake, which is basically carbonated sake, but the bubbles are pretty!

We order the Tiger tempura maki. While the spicy mayo makes it a  bit spicy for my daughter, I like it. Sesame seeds bring real bite and even crunch to sushi that also has carrot, cucumber and parmesan. 

I then order the Salmon temaki - for novices, it is a cylindrical cone of nori and rice, with salmon and avocado stuffing. I like the generous amount of avocado. This temaki is very subtle in its flavors. They serve two for 35AED. For the more adventurous, there is also an eel and avocado temaki!

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the menu really offers some very good pricing. Extra items like miso soup, plain rice and Mitsuki's favorite, edamame, go for 15 AED. No, that is not a  typo. 15 AED. 

We end the savory element in our dinner with the Seared Tuna loin - at 55AED for 10 pieces, you will not find better value for this dish. It is very lightly seared,  dressed in miso and covered with scallion salad. Finally, it has a bit of bite thanks to a bit of chilli. 

For that quintessential Japanese dessert experience, we have the mochi ice cream - just a little piece of heaven if you haven't tried it. 

What Sushisan manages to do successfully is to offer a sushi  evening that is both enjoyable and  very affordable. People are becoming more and more price sensitive as they realize how expensive Abu Dhabi is. Moreover, the restaurant, with a separate entrance to the hotel, also makes you feel you are not in a hotel while having the benefit of alcoholic beverages served to you. Great value for money sushi while sipping on a glass of something? That sounds like something I want to do again. 

The Essentials

Holiday Inn
Airport Road (Embassy Area)
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 6574888

Average price for 2 incl two glasses of wine: 220- 250AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp