Back for Friday Brunch at Koi, a Japanese brunch - St Regis The Collection, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

There are those brunches that feel like a comfortable sweater. You know the sweater I am refering to. You keep it in your closet and you wear it often and even while there may be new fashion trends, you keep wearing it. That is what Koi is to me. In view of some personnel changes, I was even more keen to see how my comfortable sweater, if you will, was managing. 

One of the first table brunches that is not a lunch

When Koi launched its table brunch about 3 years ago, then it was one of a handful of brunches eschewing  a large buffet and adopting a brunch served at your table. It is not always easy because of operational issues like kitchen size, for example, and also because there is always the possibility that a brunch can be a lunch because there is no brunch buffet as such. But this is very much a brunch. A music playlist that caters for a largely mature but cool crowd and staff with a bit of a buzz about them ensure that this is anything but a lunch. 


It is a substantial menu. The 6 course brunch carries pretty much the best of Koi, a restaurant already with an impressive a la carte menu - memorable among the starters is an institution at Koi, the Wagyu beef tataki. This is so good because of the consistency. I have been having this dish for the last 3 years and while the presentation may have changed, its essence has not. 

Expect a bento style sushi box and three types of sashimi served separately. The Sashimi, though, I felt, lacked imagination as far as presentation goes. On request, I received a sashimi selection that reminded me how Koi usually does it. I understand it is an operational issue, but I hope they can get around it. For the Japanese, presentation is half the meal. A highlight as always, was the Tempura, light and beautifully textured.


On my last visit for brunch, Koi was short staffed and were in a bit of a transition. On today's evidence, Koi seems to have weathered those issues. There was a fairly high staff to guest ratio. Drinks were topped up around the restaurant and plates cleared timeously- I made sure to look around at other guests because I am often accused of getting better service. One of the things I look for at a brunch is staff and how they are able to engage with guests, if required. Dusan, our waiter, and by no means the lead waiter, was knowledgable and when he was not sure, he came back to us. He gave his opinion on dishes and showed what happens when staff are properly trained. 

Koi offers 5 tasting portions of main dishes. I am in two minds about this because I think one hearty main is a bit more sophisticated than  these tasting portions. On the other hand, it gives guests  a bit of everything. The lamb kofta is an odd choice - there is no need to add an Arabic flavour to the menu. Koi needs to stay true to its roots. I spoke to a Lebanese guest and he said he did not expect to have that dish on the menu. He is right. 

Stand-out dishes were definitely the legendary Miso marinated black cod and Braised wagyu short ribs. However, I was really surprised by the super tasty Curry udon noodles - flavoursome; such a simple dish that offered so much.


Koi has it nailed down. With drinks printed on the menu, it makes the guest's experience easy as far   as this is concerned. I like a printed menu. It allows guest to plan their afternoon and it ensures that one does not have to deal with, sadly, staff that are often not well trained to deal with questions - this is so often my experience at brunches. The drinks selection here is great, with Japanese sake, 4 wines, cocktails, mocktails and Japanese beer among the choices. Brunch is not brunch without bubbly of course, and although G.H. Mumm NV is not my favourite, it adds to the occasion for teh high end package. 


An excellent brunch. A return to form for Koi in terms of service and vibe thanks to music turned up a bit. The menu offers a lot of food with quite a few memorable dishes. I do, however, see a lot of scope for growth like more interaction from the men in white and the man or woman behind the bar. Overall, this remains one of few brunches I would recommend without hesitation. Deservedly a perennial favourite

The low down

The Collection,
Within the St Regis Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
(Independently managed)
02 6783334

295 Dhs+ with Soft beverages 
395 Dhs+ with Regular Alcohol 

445 Dhs + Sparkling wine495 Dhs+ with unlimited French Bubbly    


Brandon Stoltenkamp