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Holiday Inn on Airport Road continues to reinvent itself as an affordable F&B destination for its guests and residents of Abu Dhabi. Their Japanese restaurant, SushiSan, still the only place in the city where you can go for sushi and a beer without much fanfare and at a very cheap price, recently launched its Thursday evening 'brunch', Fusion. For those of you like me, who were disappointed to see the end of their Friday brunch, take heart from their latest offering.
I have an ambivalent relationship with two for one offers and it is this culture I believe that has lead to the demise of quite a few brunches. Granted, there may have been a couple issues with their Friday brunch, but when you have to compete with 5 star hotels mostly offering their elaborate brunches at half price, it is really tough on smaller brunches. It is with this and other issues in mind that I tried the Fusion 'brunch', aware that market forces often dictate the failure of otherwise good concepts.
I guess the fact that the Friday brunch was such a niche brunch, Japanese, it did have limited appeal. If you think about Abu Dhabi, there are only two other Japanese brunches. To have greater appeal, they have added Asian dishes, hence the name, Fusion. I think if anything can make it work, this is it. So, while regulars of the restaurant will be familiar with their sushi offerings, the other Asian dishes will excite. It is a telling thing that my guest and I spent most of our evening either at the two bars that have created for the brunch or, more significantly, the Ramen station, to where I know I made three trips. Made to order sushi and a small buffet combine to appeal to a wider range of guests too.
Drinks, finally being treated with respect
When people go to a brunch, I would say a fair majority of them are interested in the drinks. But it is not only what is served, but how it is served. Two makeshift bars have been added and I love the idea. Even though I like being served at a brunch, there is something nice about going to the bar and getting a drink, while interacting with the bartender. I recall when I tried the Friday brunch the first time, I said that drinks needed to be made sexy. That was the word I used. Well, it is evident here. Moreover, there is also one female bartender, still a work in progress, but I think she is great. Engaging and fun. It is not splitting the atom right? Engage, engage, engage. I want to see a bit more attitude and she needs to feel she owns the bar. Makeshift or not.
Dj in the house
As I walked into the lobby - by the way, you do not have to enter Sushisan this way. It has its own entrance - I could hear the music. It does not even feel like a Holiday Inn. The DJ, or Djane to placate the feminists, they have brought in plays mainly house. I was embarrassed when I asked for Maroon 5 and she gave me this look. Priceless. She is sassy with a lot of sex appeal - am I allowed to write that? But like many other Djs and Djanes, it is not enough just to select a song and play it. It is about your brand identity. She has the IT thing. The music brings to SushiSan what was also missing at the last brunch they had - fun. As for the volume, I say, if it is too loud, you're too old.
This is a major strength of the experience. Waiters and waitresses seem more energised than ever lead by a wonderful new manager hailing from Taiwan. I guess a new concept will do that. But the same is true of the hard working chefs behind the counter. From the Executive Chef to the lowliest chef in the kitchen, it is clear that they have all put so much effort into this. It is really heart warming.
I said this to the team that night: 'If this does not work, forget about brunch.' I really think they have covered all bases this time. I sat thinking, while sipping on a sake based cocktail, what else they could do to make it better? After all...It is a small intimate affair, with them likely to have around 50 covers on a great night. And that is close to capacity. They have extended the brunch dishes with dishes on display providing the visual element that the mass market of brunch attendees look for, while ensuring a more personalised experience by having sushi made to order as per the guest's request. On another note, I like the progressive timing that has it starting at 18h30. Finally, drinks have really been taken to another level with smoked cocktails, sake based cocktails and wine and Japanese beer. So, everything that could reasonably have been done, has been done. I would like to see more in house guests targeted because I really want to see this concept succeed.
Off Airport Road,
+971 2 6574890
185AED net Soft drinks
250AED net Wine, sake, cocktails