DETAILS: Dhs295 (soft drinks), Dhs395 (house beverages), Dhs445 (sparkling grape), Dhs495 (French bubbly). Fri, 12.30pm-4pm. The Collection, Saadiyat Island (02 678 3334).
While Japanese cuisine is well represented in the city, there are only a handful of speciality Japanese brunches. And the number of quality ones is even smaller.
We always enjoy dining at KOI. Its modern twist on traditional fare just works. It has a snazzy setting and personable service, too. Three ticks for the restaurant then, but what about Friday brunch?
As the KOI brunch begins, the dining room is filled with excited, hungry guests getting ready to dig in to the sounds of club-style music that is just at the right level (we know, we sound old). It’s a great vibe that puts us right in the mood.
We take our places on its shaded outdoor deck – perfect now that the weather has taken a turn for the better.
The offer is a set menu that runs on for six courses, each of which come served to the table. Your only task is to make sure all the food manages to reach reaches your stomach.
You’ll get some edamame to snack on before the six starters to arrive. The portion sizes are small but you can order them as many times as you like, so that’s not really a problem.
The beef tataki is faultless. The thin slivers of wagyu beef sit in a shallow pool of ponzu dressing that knocks you out with a mighty flavour punch. The mushroom shavings round the dish off with a lovely earthiness.
The three salads (watermelon, chicken and fried calamari) are tasty but don’t impress nearly as much as the other appetisers.
The salmon tartare, on the other hand, is a winner. Unlike others we’ve had, here the cubes of fish sit on crispy gyoza discs, which add a crunchy contrast to the tender fish.
Next to arrive are the maki rolls and an arrangement of assorted sashimi. The standout from the lot being the crispy tuna rolls.
The creamy rock shrimp from the tempura section make us fall back in love with a dish that, let’s be honest, has been overdone.
At this point you will probably be feeling the effects of so much food, but stick with it.
Of the mains, the big hitters are the delicate black cod, sticky-sweet barbecue spare ribs and absolutely tender wagyu short ribs.
Desserts are brought on a platter. There are four of them to contend with, the yuzu tart brûlée being our favourite.
The citrusy kick evens out the rich custard, and the crust is lovely. A close second is the sticky toffee pudding – an odd one given it’s not Japanese – but we aren’t complaining.
The vibe at KOI is very relaxed but the chefs in the kitchen are certainly no slouches. This one comes recommended.
The bottom line
A chilled-out but delicious option.