The UAE’s love for all things Japanese is legendary – anime and manga conventions tea ceremonies and origami workshops dot the city. But the Nipponophilia is most obvious in DXB’s culinary scene. Sushi is as common as shawarma is on restaurant menus, and international Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants have Dubai branches. We can also boast of outlets for every imaginable Japanese dining style – from Teppanyaki and Izakaya to Omakase and Kaitenzushi with its conveyor belt serving. The best part though? Dubai’s got the perfect blend of traditional Japanese cuisine as well as eateries serving experimental dishes with a local twist – sushi with Oman chips, anyone?
1. Zuma Dubai
Zuma Dubai is synonymous with fine-dining Japanese restaurants in the city. Despite travelling the world and the seven seas, this global restaurant chain has everything diners look for in a glamorous night out. An izakaya-style sharing menu offers some delectable options of maki rolls, sushi and sashimi made using the freshest of the ocean’s riches that you’d be loath to share. However, it’s the perfectly cooked tiger prawn tempura and their velvety signature miso black cod that will induce gluttony. The spectacular bar here – a winner of the world’s 50 best bars – is a thing of beauty and ideal for sampling some sake in style.
📍Podium Level, Gate Village 06, Al Mustaqbal St, Trade Centre – DIFC – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Yes, yes, Korean bbq’s all the rage but have you tried Japan’s take on grill-your-own-food cooking? Enter Kimura-ya. With over 200 branches in Japan, this authentic yakiniku (barbecue) joint has been immersing Dubai foodies in Tokyo’s bustling casual dining experience on the down low for a while. Renowned for its Japanese BBQ and hotpot-style experience with unlimited side dishes, you can grill tender wagyu beef and simmer meats and seafood in tasty broths right at the table. All the while surrounded by Shijo screens, faux sakura flowers and Japanese lanterns and umbrellas. The wagyu burgers, sushi boats and ramen at this hidden gem are also worth a try.
📍1st Floor, Marriott Hotel, Dubai, Oud Metha Road Al Jaddaf Area – Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
3. ROKA Dubai
And if you prefer that experts grill your Japanese food, then ROKA is your spot. From the culinary team behind Zuma, this robatayaki restaurant and bar specialises in robata grills. Even if you aren’t a meat eater, their divine vegetarian options will keep you sated. When the weather’s good, dig into your order of sumptuous black cod and succulent lamb cutlets out on the open terrace with Burj Khalifa views. But indoor seating at this minimalist restaurant with a natural earthy vibe has benefits – you can watch the skilled chefs in action in the open robata kitchen and leave handwritten notes on the wish tree.
📍The Opus by Omniyat Level 1, Business Bay – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
When it comes to Japanese restaurants in Dubai, Benihana needs no introduction. The American chain by DJ Steve Aoki’s dad shot Japanese teppanyaki-style dining to mainstream fame for its ability to turn the table into a stage. At their Dubai outlet in JBR, the entertaining tradition of dramatic dinners continues with fast-talking chefs displaying culinary showmanship flipping food and tossing knives on a hibachi steel grill amidst flashes of flame. Grill options include surf n’ turf, chicken and vegetarian items. all served with a side of steamed or fried rice and dessert. The deep-fried banana tempura is a no-brainer, but the fluffy Japanese cheesecake can sway us too.
📍The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
That hackneyed pun Sushi me rollin’ gets literal at this bright and cheery foodie paradise. Endless plates of hand-rolled sushi (try the Cheetos sushi) and Japanese street food like prawn tempura and baos roll up to you on a central conveyor belt called ‘kaiten’. While that’s the highlight, you can also order separately off the menu digging into ramen, katsu curry bowls, non-alcoholic Asahi beer and more. Plates on the rotating bar are colour-coded and represent the average price of a dish. Pretty cool right? Cooler is the fact that Yo! Sushi uses only sustainably sourced fish and ingredients from artisan Japanese suppliers.
📍Various outlets in Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif City Centre and Dubai Marina Mall
Although this edgy Japanese eatery has a quirky atmosphere, it’s very straight-laced when it comes to the quality of the food. Wasabi is flown in directly from Japan and prepared at the table, and the Wagyu kushiyaki is cooked to a perfect medium. Don’t get us started about the yellowtail and salmon carpaccio which are bursts of flavour. For dinner and a show, head over to the teppanyaki table where expert chefs display their culinary skills. Additionally, a dedicated sake boy and wasabi girl dressed like anime characters ramp up the interactive dining experience at this upbeat restaurant.
📍JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
This quaint little ramen house is a homegrown concept that sheds fancy frills for flavoursome ramen that will have you slurp shamelessly. The Shio broth is to-die-for and the texture of the perfectly-cooked noodles is an art. Besides 8 different noodle dishes, the menu also offers chicken gyoza, yakitori options, sides like deep-fried agemono (veggies) and chicken meatballs. Attached to Japanese lifestyle concept store Frame, YiU’s dedication to authenticity is reflected in its pared-back wooden interiors and open counter design which feels like it’s been plucked from Tokyo and dropped in d3.
📍Dubai Design District, R03, Ground floor , Building 7
UAE-based Singaporean chef Reif Othman has won accolades ( Michelin 2023 Bib Gourmand and World’s 50 Best 2022) and hearts with his take on Asian street food and contemporary Japanese food. The cosy little restaurant in Jumeirah has made a big impact on Dubai’s dining scene with inventive dishes like Wagyu katsu sandwiches, 18-hour slow-cooked silky ramen and the eponymous kushiyaki – smoky, succulent grilled skewers. When it comes to dessert, the matcha fondue’s decadence is legendary. Also legendary? The omakase chef’s table here is called ‘The Experience’.
📍Dar Wasl Mall and Dubai Hills
A list of Japanese restaurants in Dubai would be incomplete without a mention of A-lister-loved Nobu. Recently reopened on the 22nd floor of the Atlantis, the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant with global outposts and celeb fans has a sleek new look. As a result, the contemporary refurbish features five dining areas including an incredible Instagrammable bar, lounge, private dining room and a terrace with spectacular views of The Palm and the Arabian Gulf. The updated menu though retains iconic dishes such as the Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail Jalapeño. However, scrumptious new additions such as the roasted duck with orange miso, caviar potato wasabi and scallop aji amarillo are equally enticing.
📍Atlantis – 22nd floor – The Palm Jumeirah – Dubai