Taikun: A taste of Japan with a twist
Back in the day when Edo was the seat of power in 17th century Japan (and not Tokyo as we know it), Taikun was a diplomatic title used for the shogun in foreign countries.
Officially called the "Nihon-koku Taikun" or the Tycoon of Japan, it was a barefaced attempt by the then military dictators to convey that the shogun was more important than the Japanese Emperor. Cut to modern-day UAE and, in the heart of Downtown Dubai, along the Mohammed bin Rashid Bolulevard, stands the emirate's own Taikun that proudly parades the best of Japan - with a Pan-Asian twist.
Not far from the Burj Khalifa, shimmers the big, bold yellow LEDs that spell Taikun. That's also the point where the valet takes over. A few steps down a long passage, next to what should be a nice al fresco setting for cooler times, the glitter of a blooming red cherry blossom tree gives you a subtle, yet sure Japanese welcome. But once you are comfortably perched inside, the live music in an urbane setting will take you to a different world that marries the serenity of Asia with the verve of Downtown Dubai for a perfect Thursday night out.
All frills aside, Taikun is all about some seriously good Far Eastern fare inspired by traditions from Japan and beyond. Their crispy squids and dynamite shrimps will take you to the streets of any Asian city while raw items like Seabass Ceviche, Salmon Carpaccio and Tuna Taco will give you a quick tour of South of Europe.
Taikun's strength lies in its Japanese ethos, be it the sushi or an item from robata or the wok. There's a whole bunch of sushi platters to choose from, including spicy tuna, prawn tempura, chuka wakame and wagyu with fresh truffle - but Taikun's bestseller is our recommendation too: the Green Dragon with Prawn tempura, avocado, Wasabi emulsion, Unagi sauce and Tobiko that should set you up nicely for finer treats to follow.
A restaurant, a high-energy lounge, and an al fresco terrace that should open soon, Taikun is designed to provide three very different kinds of experiences, amplified by live entertainment from a resident DJ on most days. The best thing about her? She will play any colour you like.
How the restaurant rated
Taste (5/5): Few restaurants can pack their best in a one-page menu. Taikun does and the carefully curated list reflects the chef's confidence in the ingredients and flavours he has chosen to offer. A lot of that comes alive in his dishes from the wok. There's chicken cashew and the Malay beef with shitake mushrooms to drive home that point, but it isn't really a feast unless you have had the warm, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth experience of the robata grilled miso glazed black cod.
Ambience (4/5): Taikun, we are told, reopened recently after being revamped for months. Version 2.0 with its stylish fitouts and posh décor is a stunning dine and dance nightspot for friends and family.
Service (5/5): Top of the line and let's put it this way - there was never a dull moment! We spent a little over two hours during our meal that stretched over several servings, but we were well looked after throughout with our plates always full. What will impress you is their involvement and deep understanding of the cuisine they are serving.
Presentation (4/5): A lot of work goes into making Japanese cuisine look appealing to outsiders, but Taikun didn't need to try that hard. The sushi looked beautiful as did the black cod that came tucked under what looked like a little lid of the piano, like the rest of the food to complement the beautiful, luscious interiors.
Value for money (4/5): A dinner for two here could set you back Dh800 or so, but for the kind of location, ambience and food, it's still a top deal with mains like Wagyu striploin (Dh295) or a black cod (Dh210) and starters like Dynamite shrimps (Dh75) decently priced. Even the lavish Chocolate Fondant at Dh65 a piece is worth its price with 55% chocolate and caramelised hazelnuts.