Liz O’Reilly discovers that Oishi, the latest new face at The Avenues – Bahrain, stands out for its fresh, light interiors and innovative menu.

Oishi can be entered from the mall side, which seems quite unassuming, but when you walk through into the main dining area, the light provided by a wall of windows brings the simple, fresh décor into its own. Traditional Japanese costumes are hung as wall art, while an industrialstyle grid ceiling gives way to the actual ceiling which is painted white with a gorgeous gold mural of koi fish to tease the eye. Make sure you look up.

The open kitchen is flanked by bonsai trees and gives a great view of the chefs going about their work and, it’s worth noting, Oishi also has a lovely outside terrace seating area overlooking the water, which will certainly prove popular as the weather cools. The first dish to arrive at our table was Maple Shrimp Salad – shrimp marinated with sweet chilly sauce, ketchup, garlic salt and pepper, and grilled. Shrimping season is here and it’s easy to tell as these were really fresh and solid with a great texture. The marinade, particularly the garlic salt, gave a great infusion of flavour and the accompanying mixed leaf salad was bursting with goodness.

Next came Karaage Chicken, which proved to be a favourite on our table. Marinated chicken breast cubes served with Togarashi Kewpi mayo and garnished with sisho leaf, sea salt and lime. The tender white meat in a crunchy crumb was flavourful and perfectly off-set by the tangy mayo. It disappeared very quickly. Grilled Sweet Potatoes to follow were an absolute triumph. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself to ditch my beloved spuds (it’s the Irish in me) in favour of less calorie-laden sweet potatoes, but the sweetness has always deterred me. These, though, managed to convince me that I wasn’t missing out. They are steamed and then brushed with chilli lime butter and finished under the grill. Served with Sasa Noho leaf, they’re drizzled with homemade teriyaki sauce and garnished with sesame seeds and chives. Not just perfect but so good that I took a portion home for later.

Crispy Hamachi with Fresh Truffle was next to the table. Seasoned crispy sushi rice cake topped with a mixture of Hamachi (Japanese amberjack or yellowtail fish) and homemade tartar sauce made with caviar, Hamachi, mayo, salt, pepper and onion, sprinkled with grated fresh truffle, chopped chives and served with truffle punzu. Now, truffle might not seem the most likely ingredient to find in a traditional Japanese restaurant but Oishi has already proved itself to be something different. This is fusion with a capital F and the chefs are constantly experimenting and adding to the classics to give diners an exciting culinary experience.

The Maki Special Platter was another revelation. For a start I loved the names of these creations: Osaka, Flowing Lava and Yama Hills. And while each offered a different flavour combination, my absolute favourite was Flowing Lava – breaded shrimp, sushi rice and avocado in a white soy wrap drizzled with dynamite sauce and torched to give an almost caramelised top which was garnished with fried onion flakes. The different flavour combinations challenge the taste-buds and this really works. Dare I say it, these actually gave an almost comfort food-like feeling.

Teriyakisoba Steak is a meal all by itself. Soba noodles, grilled beef steak, bean sprouts, spring onions, snow peas, bok choy, red onion, garlic paste and sliced red chilli tossed in teriyaki sauce, with tsuyo and curry oil for added flavour, and topped with coriander and mixed sesame seeds. The meat was pinkly perfect and richly flavoured and the profusion of vegetables infused in the noodles made for a satisfying and interesting taste experience. The last, and possibly most impressive, of the savoury dishes, the Short Rib Mushroom Rice is a show dish mixed at the table. Consisting of Hikari Japanese sticky rice, sauteed Eryngi and Shitake mushrooms, Yakiniku sauce, Yamasa soy sauce and chopped shiso leaves, the addition of Angus short ribs, slowcooked for 48 hours, elevates the dish to a new level. The flavour and texture of the meat – so soft that the chef could pull it apart with just a spoon – is something you don’t find very often and it’s a dish not to be missed. By this stage, I truly believed I couldn’t eat any more. But, then came the desserts…

The Vanilla Mango Float consists of layers of light-as-air vanilla sponge with vanilla ice cream, Graham crackers and mango sauce topped with slices of fresh mango. This was so fresh and fluffy that I was amazed to discover the list of very rich ingredients, including whipped cream and condensed milk. Sinful but worth it. And last but certainly not least, the Chocolate Dome was seriously impressive. Moist chocolate cake in a chocolate dome that collapses as milk sauce with caramel and hazelnuts is poured over it. Served with amazing homemade vanilla ice cream with crispy chunks of burnt caramel it’s so, so good! You have to check it out for yourself. ✤