Kyushu dinner month at Tori No So - Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi

The moment I walk into Tori No Su, I am reminded of how Japanese place importance on the whole dining experience - not just the ingredients or the dish. The restaurant is exquisite, with an aesthetic element that would be hard to equal in the city. Floor to ceiling windows to one side of the restaurant, a slightly elevated bar to the other side. Wood. Stone. Glass. Fire. They all find their place here. 

Although the restaurant is modern and chic, its master Chef, Takashi Ando, is passionate about producing authentic dishes, faithful to his motherland. It is appropriate that when Jumeirah at Etihad Towers celebrates its fifth anniversary, it is Chef Takashi Ando who is still at the helm of this restaurant, for it is he who imbues it with so much soul.

Tori No Su's part in the 5th-anniversary celebrations revolves around a special Kyushu menu created by Chef - the menu that focuses on cuisine from the southern region of Japan. This region, with its proximity to China and Korea, is probably the part of Japan that has absorbed most influence from its neighbours. The menu reflects that in the noodle and fried rice dishes, for instances. It is a wonderful opportunity for lovers of this cuisine to learn that Japanese cuisine is so much more than sushi and sashimi. Furthermore, priced at only 225AED for a 5-course menu, it serves to open the restaurant to people who may have felt intimidated by the location and prices. It is a chance for guests to demythologise Tori No So. 

While drinks are not included, there are enough by the glass options to complement your dinner without causing too much damage to your wallet. This is also where a Japanese restaurant manager is so essential and Ryuta, with the restaurant for a year now, does just that as he pairs my courses with both sake and wine. 

We start off with a selection of sushi and sashimi- yellow tail, tuna, seabream, Kaisen sushi  roll. Freshness, they key to sashimi, is why this is just fabulous sashimi. Also, the sushi is of the best I have had because Chef Ando understands it is all about the rice, and while we have to live with limitations in Abu Dhabi as far as ingredients go, he has done well with the sushi. Paired with the sake served by Ryuta, it is a perfect way to start the evening. 

It is followed up a very Japanese dish comprising Mentiako with cheese, Renkon with mustard, Ika shumai and a couple others. The latter,a  squid filled dumpling, is common in markets and restaurants in the region. However, it is the Mentaiko egg roll that has me licking my lips because it takes me back to a recent visit to Osaka when I had this dish at a  regional restaurant. 

The Chicken nanban and Chahan is a story of two dishes. The chicken dish from Miyazaki prefecture is a type of dish that is common in Japanese cafes from this region. The sauce, mustard mayonnaise, is nicely balanced to ensure the chicken is not overwhelmed. Finally, also served with this course, is Japanese fried rice, but what distinguishes this chahan is the texture of the rice and the Japanese pickles added to it - a remarkably simple dish that is both hearty and delicious. 

The Champon-men is a Nagasaki-style noodle dish. The fact that, unlike ramen, the whole dish can be prepared in one pan because it boils in the soup, is symbolic of the simplicity of this dish and it turns out to be the homeliest dish on the night. It is the kind of dish that you not going to see on menus in Abu Dhabi because of its honesty, its 'down to earthness' - it is a real Japanese dish. 

Finally, dessert. When it is served, I can't help being impressed by the courses served, and the dessert illustrates that this is no watered-down version of the Tori No Su experience. While Chef rotates his desserts, I am thrilled I am here tonight for the one served. A trio of chocolate - Chocolate crunch with vanilla ice cream, a chocolate ganache with hints of berries and the chocolate fondant adorn the plate.  Dessert is a tour de force, accentuated by the chocolate fondant I place on par with the best one I had at a  French restaurant 18 months ago here in Abu Dhabi. I remove it from its bowl and allow it to run free on the plate. That is when its beauty is revealed. It flows steadily, not too slow and not too fast. A highpoint this evening.

The chocolate fondant, after it is released from its bowl. 
Tori No Su remains a restaurant you visit for its food and setting. And if ever you felt afraid because of the luxury tag it has owing to its location, this is the ideal time for you to take advantage of its offer of  a very accessibly  priced menu that takes you to a less obvious part of Japan, necessary for your education in Japanese cuisine - simple Japanese dishes influenced by its neighbours. I am pleased that Chef has not compromised by adding something to the menu to satisfy the masses. That word authentic again makes its way into my consciousness. Accessible yes, but still faithful. 

The Essentials
Tori No Su,
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 8115666

The Kyushu Menu Promotion runs for November at 225AED++
Disclaimer: I visited Tori No Su by invitation. All views are my own.