Go to Katana for the food, stay for the geology lesson

Slick Japanese restaurant arrives in Downtown from Los Angeles and specialises in robata and sushi.

Robert Chilton July 28, 2016

Our knowledge of geology is a little sketchy so apologies in advance for this but the plates at Katana, a sexy new Japanese restaurant, felt like they were made from volcanic slate.

We’re not sure slate comes from volcanoes but that’s what the plates felt like when we picked them up: rough, black, mottled, pre-historic. One wall near the bar was lined with enormous grey rocks (we told you our geology was poor). Tables, meanwhile, were made of African teak. Our knowledge of trees is as limited as what we know about rocks but we asked the boss and he told us it was African teak.

Elsewhere in this seductive, minimalist space, bonsai trees were attached to walls that have been covered with wonderful hand-painted murals from locally-based artist and collaborator Jay Khaldi. Katana has arrived in Dubai from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and that Californian cool has come along for the ride.

The restaurant clearly has a good DJ as an eclectic range of indie and pop including Amy Winehouse, Labi Siffre, Arcade Fire and a lot of other funk and soul we’d never heard before gently cascaded across the room. The location is first rate, overlooking the lake and the fountains at the foot of the Burj Khalifa.

Led by Korean chef C.K. Lim, who has previously worked in Zuma and Okku in Dubai, Katana specialises in sushi and robata – an open grill using charcoal imported from Japan – that cooks skewers of meat, fish and vegetables about 10cms long. They were served with three dipping sauces (the ginger is the best). The Chilean sea bass skewer (AED 40) was the highlight here, but try the asparagus (AED 12) and chicken tenders with wasabi too (AED 16): perfect appetisers.

The popcorn shrimp (AED 115) is a signature dish and was a generous bowl of sticky prawns covered in a batter that had a slight spice to it. Slices of floppy mushroom were scattered among the prawns – FYI, you need a salad with this dish, it’s pretty heavy. Go for the kaiso seaweed salad (AED 51) which provided what felt like our year’s supply of vitamins in one dish.

For sushi, we thought it sensible to go with the roll named after the restaurant. Yellowtail, spicy tuna and shrimp tempura made up the beautifully-presented Katana roll (AED 65) and sounded great on paper but the rice wasn’t quite sticky enough. That’s great if you like your sushi a little lighter on the stomach but not as satisfying as the typical densely-packed roll. For dessert, a globe of creamy coconut ice cream alongside a delicious mini green cake (AED 55) that was filled with a blend of white chocolate and green tea. The cake, to return to the geological theme, was shaped like a volcano and it totally rocked. 

Rating: 7.6 out of 10