BACK TO BRUNCH
Less than two months after opening, Akira Back at W The Palm Dubai has launched a Friday brunch concept cleverly titled Back To Brunch. A relaxed and enchanting affair that makes an immediate mark on Dubai’s heavily saturated brunch scene, as FACT’s David Tapley finds out…
Akira Back Dubai is the latest in the portfolio of Celebrity Chef Akira Back, and appears perfectly suited to the young and funky ethos of the W Hotel brand. Its interiors ooze a sultry charm with pockets of darkness accentuated by sleek metal work and subdued lighting. A small bar area sits off to the left, while a show kitchen and raw bar is abuzz with kinetic knife work from the chefs gathered within. Sinking into a comfortable booth clad in gold and cleverly resembling the stripes of a tiger, we can’t help but appreciate not only the intimacy of the venue (which has wisely been kept small) but the skyline views. From our elevated position, our field of vision covers many of Dubai’s touristic highlights, including the Ain Dubai, Burj Al Arab and towering Burj Khalifa.
Menu knowledge is key and the staff appear to know the ingredients and cooking techniques inside out; they’re happy to offer recommendations and pre-empt guests’ needs without intervention from the diner. So what does brunch look like at Dubai’s latest celebrity-chef-fronted restaurant? Akira Back Dubai focuses on a fully plated table brunch of over 48 dishes! A menu of salads, sushi, robata grills and hot and cold appetisers is offered and dishes can be re-ordered in unlimited quantities, with the exception of main courses, from which you pick one. With many brunches around town providing a taster of what to expect in a bid to encourage diners back for a la carte service, Akira Back deviates from the norm by presenting much of the main menu as its brunch offering, including many of the chef’s signature dishes.
World class ingredients make Akira Back’s Japanese cuisine imbued with Korean essence, an innovative addition to the Dubai dining scene. Each dish utilises seasonal produce and artisanal ingredients to present plates characterised by nuanced flavours and intricate presentation. The result is a wholly memorable dining experience.
Back’s Salmon Tiradito, for example, presents thin slices of salmon sashimi atop chunks of grilled peach and finished with a marinade of yuzu and lemon. Creating an exciting dish of intense sweet and citrusy notes that mange to offset one another and harmonise the palate. With each dish skillfully prepared, it’s quite easy to be astounded by the ingenuity and sheer audacity of plates such as the Tuna Pizza. Offering a crisp base covered in thin slices of tuna that camouflage an umami aioli and white truffle oil concoction hidden beneath. It’s truly revelatory stuff and a textural delight, making it easy to see how this fusion of East and West has become Chef Back’s signature dish. Elsewhere, the Grilled Octopus is wonderfully tender and served with a trio of potato, salsa verde, and anticucho. Combine the mollusk with all three accompaniments and savour the experience of contrasting flavours that culminate into something altogether wonderful with each mouthful.
Simple creations of Rock Shrimp and Leek Gyoza are elevated when subjected to the Akira Back treatment. As each section of the menu raises the bar even further, we’re entirely unprepared for the succulent Lamb Chops slathered in a smoked jalapeño marinade and the Scallop In Half Shell which embraces kimchi and kochujang butter to startling effect. Leaving a wonderful taste profile but a somewhat pungent aroma for adventurous diners. The six main courses include the Wagyu Don, Edamame Rissotto, Josper Grilled Salmon and Jidari Chicken. Yet we’re encouraged by our charming waiter to order the Black Cod which is deliciously sweet thanks to the miso marinade. The sizzling Filet Tobanyaki is another strong choice, serving an almost hot-pot like dish of Black Angus beef, mixed mushrooms and Unami sauce. Back To Brunch is undoubtedly ambitious in scope and the sheer abundance of choice should be commended and there’s a distinct feeling of value for money, despite the high end price tag. Dishes arrive promptly and the staff are extremely attentive in the face of a busy brunch service, taking the time to build rapport with guests is a rarity in Dubai and something that does not go unnoticed.
While we would have preferred a more varied beverage selection (only two cocktails are currently included with this brunch) the standard of what is available is very high and it’s unfortunate that the room lacks a little atmosphere. With such dazzling decor and a jaw-dropping terrace we would like to see things kicked-up a notch to compete with the party atmosphere on the WetDeck Below. Sure this is a more sophisticated gastronomic affair, but a DJ would certainly help to elevate this brunch further. We wind down with a selection of desserts and while we find the stodgy texture of the butter mochi is not for us, the intricately constructed Black and White Sesame Cake is certainly memorable. Constructed of distinct coloured layers, a sesame crust, a dusting of matcha and a salted agave ice cream, our final dish of the day helps to cement our feelings towards this brunch as one to watch. An exciting spot to bring out of town guests of groups of friends. From the decor, to the view and the food, you will no doubt leave impressed. ✤
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