Entering the sedate, calm lobby of The H Hotel, you will not imagine there’s a dark, pulsating vibe present somewhere on the first floor. From the outside Okku blends with the hotel’s look – and then you enter a dark place with loud, cool music, low lighting, a lit-up bar and black…black everywhere. Very much the trendy spot to be seen in.
It’s crowded, buzzing and in a constant state of motion. Which leaves you wondering what the food is going to be like – the cuisine is Japanese btw. Assigned a waiter who knows the menu inside-out (massive shout-out to Justin for being an impeccable host for the night…thank you, you made our experience that much better), our drink choices to start off the evening included an appropriately named ‘Green Envy’ … which I fell in love with. The most subtle blend of lychee and lemongrass crossed my lips and I was surprised at how well the flavours mixed together, with neither overpowering the other. And certainly no sugar overdose in there. If I return, I will definitely have this again. Excellent stuff.
A sake landed on our table as well – as I was driving that night, I did not taste it but was told it was potent and very good – and apparently not a sake on the menu either! Must have been really special. A comment on my sake photo on Instagram that night went: “They’ve got a good selection of sake at Okku. Definitely worth a try if you go back.” Hopefully another time!
A starter of chili garlic edamame beans I enjoyed devouring, with the spiciness appealing to my senses. I’d probably not be the first person in a group to devour edamame beans on their own, but with the infusion of chili, I’m pretty sure I ate more than half my share!
My companion insisted on ordering miso soup. Now, I’ve had miso soup perhaps once before and I didn’t like it the first time, so understandably, I was hesitant. Okku’s miso soup is definitely better, compared to the joint where I had it the last time, so I heaved a sigh of relief. I like seaweed (weird, I know) so that bit was especially nice.
However, my favourite started would be the next: the Hushi Hu salad… crispy duck. I found the duck prepared well, the meat shredded, crunchy, and full of subtle flavours. Mixed with the vegetables, the duck salad was a highlight of the evening for me – wonderfully made.
Now used to ordering aubergines when I’m out with this particular dining companion, the Nasu Shigiyaki found its way to our table. First surprise: it wasn’t bitter…not even a hint of it. Broiled, or so my companion says, with sweet miso paste, it’s a different take on an otherwise not-very-sweet vegetable. Enjoyed this one.
My companion ordered sashimi, and since I don’t like sushi/sashimi in general (unless it’s a vegetable/cooked fish sushi roll), perhaps best I don’t comment! But my companion enjoyed it, so that’s a good thing. Ruby red tuna… it looked wonderful.
We weren’t being adventurous, said my companion (any more companion references, and you can start calling me Doctor). At this point, I was scared. He ordered eel. Yeah. Now, I’ve never had eel before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect… we got the unagi yakimono (grilled fresh water eel). Aannnnddd… *drum roll* … I didn’t like it. Eel is just not my thing, y’all. However, if you feel the need to try something new/different, go for it.
The shiitake mushrooms were another side – really liked this. Covered in sauce, the mushrooms are presented on skewers, and were really juicy as well as tasty. If you’re a mushroom fan, I would recommend these.
I was thirsty after gulping down my Green Envy – and Justin (our waiter) said he would bring whatever I wanted. I asked for something fruity… and off he went. He returned with a lovely creation: multiple fruits like green apple, strawberries, pineapple and more blended to perfection. I was happy. Happy fruity zone. A mocktail not on the menu and filled with fruity delights.
I needed non-fishy items at this point. Okku’s chicken teriyaki was the choice – grilled chicken hidden in what looks like a haystack (it’s not – I was told it’s lightly fried julienne potatoes) drizzled in a sweet sauce. It was good, but not my favourite from the night. Perhaps it was too sweet coming after many sweet dishes (aubergine, mushrooms etc)? As a standalone dish though, yes it was well-prepared.
We closed the night off with blooming jasmine tea… and as we watched the smoke unfurl, I relaxed. I’d had a filling meal. A good meal. What more can I ask for?
Apparently, a lot. We were informed that Sunday nights is when there is live drumming sessions, and the restaurant gets packed. Sounds like fun!
Okku is not cheap so bear that in mind – unless you have endless pockets, you can’t dine there every week. It’s really loud, so perhaps not for a romantic first date either. However, the service is great, and food top quality. So for good food and music, and for a night out with friends … why not? 🙂 Do try out the live music night and let me know what you think!
Note: The meal was paid for by Okku (although through rough calculations the meal we had was around AED 800-1,000).
This review is the first in a series organised by Men’s Fitness Middle East for its monthly print magazine focusing on healthy aspects of the food. My photographs will appear alongside the review in the magazine, which will be written by John Bambridge. Parallel to that, I will review the food on my blog as well.
Okku’s review will appear in the April 2013 issue of Men’s Fitness Middle East, which will be available in most major supermarkets and hypermarkets (completely different from what’s on my blog since its focus is purely on health).
PRACTICAL TIPS: There’s paid parking around the restaurant, or you can get it valet parked. Alternatively, take the metro down to Dubai World Trade Centre and cross to the other side of the road.