Learning to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen, Chef de Cuisine Ando Takashi reflects the utmost respect for ingredients in his traditional Japanese dishes. FACT meets the man behind the menu at Tori No Su, Jumeriah at Etihad Towers to learn more about his authentic approach to creative cooking

It’s no secret that, often, at big five-star hotels and resorts, the authenticity of a type of cuisine can be lost in foodie translation. Not here, not one bit. And that’s what made us fall head over heels for the food at Tori No Su, in Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Not only is the venue beyond impressive, the menu offerings are traditional in preparation with the aesthetics of a modern-day dining experience. It’s this well-crafted culinary balance between true Japanese culture and the UAE customer requirements, that really had us praising Tori No Su from the moment we stepped into the restaurant, up until today (and probably for a long time to come). And there’s one man who deserves real recognition for his input and gastronomic vision at Tori No Su. Enter Chef de Cuisine, Ando Takashi.

With a practice that started in his grandmother’s kitchen, and took him to work in restaurants in Tokyo, as well as heading several hotel-based Japanese restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, and Dubai, Chef Takashi has years of hospitality experience under his belt. This was evident from the first dishes that came out for the FACT team to try during our chef’s table visit.

First up was a platter of seasonal appetisers including sushi, sashimi and zensai. The one thing that everyone instantly said is “it’s so fresh.” This, we learn, is all down to Chef Takashi’s approach to Japanese cooking. “At Tori No Su, freshness and connectivity to the seasonality of ingredients is given priority,” he says. “Japanese cuisine requires a deep respect for seasonal produce and flavours. Respecting each ingredient and appreciating its seasonality helps us in savouring it and ensuring the authenticity of the flavour.” It was the lava sushi that kept us talking until the second dish arrived. And for those who eat with their eyes, this was an absolute feast. Lobster Yuzukosho Fumi on one side and Wagyu Foie Gras with shiso sauce in another plate. Both were exquisite! We particularly enjoyed the pairing of foie gras with the wagyu beef – the flavours and textures together displayed Chef Takashi’s knowledgeable and sophisticated approach in the kitchen. “I want to take guests on a culinary journey where they can discover the intricateness of Japanese culture through food,” Chef Takashi explains. “As such we include menus from various cuisine styles including: kaiseki, teppanyaki, robatayaki and sushi among others.”

There’s a monthly ‘Samurai Chef’s Table’ experience for people who are really appreciative of the cuisine. This has become a popular dining experience through word of mouth and is a special monthly happening for which all ingredients are brought in from Japan. Next out of the kitchen is dessert; Mochi Ice Cream and Green Tea Cheese Cake. The presentation is impeccable and the use of dry ice to create a ‘smoky’ effect is subtle creativity that we really applaud. The pounded rice-filling in the mochi ice cream wins us over in one spoonful – delicious. “A wholesome dining experience is only possible when all the elements are in sync with others,” Chef Takashi says. “A dish has to be visually appealing and appetising as well.” We’re interested to learn how people in the UAE have taken to Japanese cuisine. Chef Takashi says: “At the beginning it was like there’s no tradition of eating raw food in this region, but as people kept coming back, each time they got a little bit more adventurous and tried something different.”

Chef Takashi is one of those professionals who has retained and celebrates his cultural roots and still values his authentic culinary teachings in his grandmother’s kitchen. With a man so dedicated to his home cuisine, Tori No Su is, hands-down, THE place to try the most bona fide Japanese food in Abu Dhabi.

GO: Visit Tori No Su at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Call (0)2 811 5666 for reservations and more information.