99 Sushi Bar is the latest dining destination to open at Abu Dhabi’s upmarket Galleria Mall, in a year when we’ve already been spoiled with the likes of Coya, Eat Greek, Loca and La Petite Maison. FACT sent our resident food fiend, David Tapley from Out & About UAE, to check out the new culinary concept and if it’s bringing its a-game…
Hailing from Spain, 99 Sushi has five branches in Madrid and one in Barcelona, with the popular sushi spot choosing Al Maryah Island for its first international location. Locating 99 Sushi is a little problematic due to a distinct lack of signage, but upon finding your way to the mezzanine level wedged between The Galleria and the Four Seasons Hotel, the reward is obvious. Waterfalls slide effortlessly down a golden glass facade, seductively inviting diners to discover what’s inside. Gold is most definitely on the agenda, like the palace of the mythological King Midas, embossed gold can be found everywhere – the walls, the menus, the uniforms and even the chopstick holders. This all-gold theme works surprisingly well, staying on the right side of gaudy and complemented by blown-glass and mirrored walls – 99 Sushi makes for one of the most appealing dining rooms in Abu Dhabi.
Much of this appeal is drawn from the restaurant’s size which is limited to around 80 covers, inclusive of the covered deck offering waterside views and a small private dining room. For an establishment that’s less than a couple of months old, the experience is truly impressive. It’s rare to see a team so well-versed in the menu and fully prepared to receive guests. The menu is a collection of Japanese favourites with a specific focus on sushi. We begin with the Tuna Tataki, presenting thin slices of impeccable tuna from the small interactive sushi bar, lightly seared on the outside and drizzled with a soy sauce reduction, coriander and passion fruit. It’s a bold introduction to the world of 99 Sushi, creating a burst of flavour to the palate that resonates with us long after the meal is over
The quality of the seasonal ingredients is evident in each of the intricately constructed dishes that materialised from the kitchen and the use of natural slate as place mats brings an earthy feel to proceedings, as if taking diners back to nature and the singular elements of each dish. The signature Tiger Prawn Tempura is 99 Sushi’s take on the everpopular dynamite shrimp and offers a plentiful portion of lightly battered prawns in a kimchi sauce. The success of this dish lies in the fact that it’s not slathered in sauce, allowing the prawns to retain a delicate crispiness, though we would’ve appreciated a little more heat from the kimchi.
The Matsuri Maki Roll is an interesting choice that literally comes to life at the table. For the maki come topped with tuna flakes that react to the heat of a jalapeno sauce that is poured into the rolls. With the flakes dancing hypnotically like some kind of insectoid, it’s a dish that is likely to impress. Also of interest is the Grilled Foie Sushi, served with raspberry and tare (thick sweet dipping sauce) it’s an ambitious creation that was perhaps a little too dense and rich for our liking. Aside from the sushi, there are a couple of main course options involving Wagyu in various forms (carpaccio, ribeye and short rib), corn-fed chicken and a selection of fish. We select the 99 Cod, 99 Sushi’s take on the Japanese black cod which has become an obligatory inclusion on Japanese menus in the UAE.
Here, the cod is sweet and succulent having been cooked in the oven and finished under the salamander grill, and at AED199 it’s cheaper than any of its competitors in the capital. As a new concept for Abu Dhabi, 99 Sushi makes a bold impression and an integral addition to the dining options on Al Maryah Island, perfectly slotting into the high-end niche of the island. It’s a venue that secretes a luxury feel from the very fabric of the building, to the amber-lit bar through to the elegant lounge. With a no entertainer and no brunch policy, it will be very interesting to see how diners in the capital take to 99 Sushi, but for us, it’s definitely worth another visit
GO: VISIT WWW.99SUSHIBAR.COM OR CALL (0)2 672 3333 FOR RESERVATIONS AND MORE INFORMATION.