Photos by Shakeb Nezam
Where: Downtown Toko Restaurant, Garden & Lounge at Vida Downtown [Google Map here]
How much: An average of about AED 300 for 2
Recommended: Salmon Tartare, Angus Rib-Eye and the Special Dessert Box.
Located in the very heart of Downtown Dubai, Toko Restaurant, Garden & Lounge at Vida Downtown, serves authentic Japanese food with a contemporary twist and an experience over and above ordinary 5-Star dining.
Bonsai Trees & Bonding
We were greeted at the door with genuine-feeling Japanese hospitality and started the evening on an intimate note. Japanese folklore says hanging your written wish on a bonsai tree makes it come true.
So, before you dive into your meal, the service staff gives you a small bit of paper, on which you’re to write out your heartfelt wish. You, then, hang it over the Bonsai tree in the restaurant. It made for one of the most interesting conversation starter, so we suggest this place is divine for first meetings.
This upscale restaurant cum bar has a varied menu with a range of appetizing dishes; from light and crafted sushi, to filling tempuras and steaks.
Appetizers: Starting light, our favorite appetizer was the Okaki Maguro, which is crispy rice with tuna and truffle oil. With contrasting textures, the truffle oil added a hint of depth to the tuna, satisfying to the taste buds and interesting to the mind.
Next, came the dish with the most alluring presentation – the Sake no Miso Tarutaru, which was a deliciously seasoned salmon tartare, with a side of crispy sweet potato chips. The salmon tartare is served in an ‘ice bowl’, which is then placed on a bed of ice, to ensure that the salmon stays cold till the very end of your meal. Distinct and impressive presentation and flavor, we guarantee this won’t let you down.
Entrees: For entrees, we had, yet again, an impeccably presented selection of maki rolls, pan-fried scallops topped with sweet pickled apple, smoked miso salmon, angus rib-eye, and rock shrimp tempura.
We especially cherished the 150 day grain-fed Angus Rib-Eye, cooked rare, served with a side of sweet coleslaw and a tangy lime pepper sauce that complimented the steak really well.
Another favorite you need to try is the Rock Shrimp Tempura, fried to a crunch and juicy on the inside, served with a spicy mayo sauce to die for.
Dessert: We ended our scrumptious meal with a Toko dessert bento box, which comprised of three scoops of perfectly smooth ice cream, a chocolate fondant, crème brulee and a mix of sliced tropical fruits.
Our server was kind enough to inform us that he is going to perform a bit of ‘magic’; he poured a liquid on a small bowl placed on the side of the bento box, and glaring white flames took over the whole dessert box; totally Instagram-worthy.
Ambience and Service:
From the moment you enter Toko, you get a sense of Izakaya style dining, with quirky Japanese artworks and sculptures placed thoughtfully at every corner of the restaurant. The wooden fittings on the ceiling and counters, and wooden floor, strike a balance between elegant and intimate.
The outdoor seating area, great for winters, is beautifully decorated with colorful silk parasols hanging from the roof.
The service was, as expected, spot-on and there was a welcoming smile; our attendant for the night, Emma, was exceptionally helpful with the menu and all our queries [which we had many of – Japanese cuisine is curious].
A great experience all around with more impressive dishes than ordinary ones. Recommended if you like Japanese food, interactive dining experiences or are meeting someone for the first time.
B-Change’s Foodie Rating: 8/10
If you’re interested, take note:
- Every Wednesday, ladies savour unlimited drinks from a choice of selected house grape and sake and enjoy 50% off shisha.
- Every Sunday to Thursday, Downtown Tokyo has a delicious business lunch from 12pm-3pm, with a choice of one, two or three courses.
- For more information or reservations, contact Toko Dubai: +971 04 442 8383.