In a city offering gastronomic adventures at every turn, a restaurant with a new concept is always going to win the race to attract patrons to its halls. Radisson Blu’s Sumibiya restaurant on the Creek was Dubai’s first Japanese yakiniku-style restaurant in 2006, but a recent weeknight visit proves it is still holding its own.
Before last week, I had no idea what ‘yakiniku’ meant (a post-evolution character from Pokémon might have been my best guess). But that was before an enlightening visit to Sumibiya (it’s actually Japanese for ‘grilled meat’).
Say ‘yakiniku’ now, and it’s visions of thinly sliced beef, marinated chicken, bite-sized seafood and chopped veggies that come to mind — all grilled, sauced and devoured during what can only be a most enjoyable night out in town. For at Sumibiya, you get to play both customer and chef — and what could be more fun than trying to outdo your friends’ grilling skills for the night?
At Sumibiya, gas grills are built into the tabletops so you can cook your own meat, all of which are marinated and labelled at different stations in the centre of the room. The tables are made to seat four (no cosy little nooks for two here — though plenty of couples seem happy enough with the extra space, as were we!) — and the place is so well-lit it feels like it’s 5pm throughout.
It’s BBQ buffet night every night here, (although à la carte is available for those determined to take a break from duties even remotely related to the kitchen). You can have your pick of the appetisers and hot dishes — but the fun really begins at the meat stations. We pick up something of everything — but they’re so neatly (even, cutely) sized that you wouldn’t be overdoing it at all. I let my dinner partner handle the grilling, old hand that he is at it. It’s easy enough to do by yourself (so long as you’re watching the meat and not distracted by the hilarity that ensues when friends get together) but the servers are more than helpful and will take care of it for you, if that’s what you’d like them to do.
We dropped the chicken — marinated four ways — onto the grill first. The teriyaki chicken, spicy chicken, and the garlic chicken with lemon all came out fantastic; the yoghurt chicken was a little too bland for our taste. But right there is a fine demonstration of another observation that night — the food is mostly down to personal preferences. If you don’t like the way something has been cooked, there’s no running to the chef (the option to beat up your friend, however, is always open).
It was the same with the seafood. We picked up fresh bites of salmon, squid, cream dory and prawn — the server helped us out with this one, as grilling seafood requires slightly more refined expertise and is easy to get wrong. The cream dory was melt-in-your-mouth, and the prawn and salmon delectable. The rubbery texture of the squid rings didn’t appeal particularly to me — but then, I’ve always preferred cephalopods in the water, not on my plate.
The thinly sliced rib-eye, tenderloin, kalbi and sanchu varieties of beef were excellent — but special mention must be made of the restaurant’s Wagyu beef. Though not on the buffet menu, we sampled a portion of these and they were worth every bite.
A key part of the meal is the three sauces that accompany the meats: there’s one each for chicken, beef and seafood. Dip and devour or mix and match — but you’ll love going back for more. We had these along with kimchi rice (also requested separately) — the piping hot dish is mouth-wateringly good!
Leave space for dessert! The trolley offers more than half a dozen varieties of sweet treats from chocolate éclairs to strawberry cakes and mango mousse. It was a fitting finish indeed — and while your stomach may be grateful for the post-meal walk, your heart will be just as content for an evening well spent.