Walking into Radisson Blu's corridor-shaped, intimate Sumbiya feels like entering a small eatery in a Tokyo side street. Wood and pebbles abound, booths and low-sunken tables make up the seats and the air is filled with the delectable smell of freshly grilled food wafting up from every table. Every table? Yes - this is Dubai's only yakinuku restaurant, a Japanese tradition that means each table has a sunken coal grill in the centre of it on which you can cook up whichever type of meat you choose. It's different, and we like it!
After oohing and ahhing over the extensive menu, and checking out the all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh meats, seafood, salads and sweet treats, we opted to go à la carte (mostly because we knew if we unleashed ourselves on the buffet we'd eat our week's worth of calories in one go). The restaurant boasts both Korean and Japanese dishes, so we started with nibbles from both - Kim chi, a tangy, peppery cabbage dish that's normally served as an accompaniment to meat (so we saved it at the table to add to the later dishes), and Edamame, warm steamed green soybeans that are so delicious they only need a touch of salt. After that we welcomed a steaming bowl of Kim chi soup that had a touch of spice and an assortment of fresh seafood thrown in. This was one of the stars of the meal and the rich, clear broth is now firmly on our list of foods we'd travel to Deira for.
It was now time for the main event and the yakinuku grill was fired up - which also acted like a heater in the middle of the table, explaining why the restaurant's temperature was at pashmina-wearing levels of cold when we first walked in. The tradition of yaki (grilled) nuku (meat) grills began in Japan in 1871 after a rather odd thousand-year ban on eating red meat was lifted by the Emperor - and after generations of prohibition, grilling meats became a craze. Despite the fact it's red meat we have to thank for such a restaurant, we were most tempted by the seafood platter and decided to share it, and were pleased when a platter of lobster, prawns, scallops, salmon and more came out.
We were a little nervous about using the grill, asking the waiter how long each type of seafood should go on for, but after a while we like to think we mastered the perfect cooking time for a scallop, and the ideal technique for searing salmon. The fish was all fresh, and the meal was remarkably full of flavour considering the only seasoning we had were a few Asian dipping sauces.
We finished off with a blend of jasmine tea. It was nice to leave without that heavy feeling that accompanies many meals out - we were full to the brim with healthy, oil-free seafood. Kate Middleton take note, this place is a Dukan Diet devotee's dream.
Tasty trio: Interactive dining
This fun, friendly buffet restaurant is made up of a series of bridges, huts and waterways - with waterfalls as added talking points and Polynesian entertainment that you're invited to join in with. They also have a live Mongolian barbecue station, a Peking duck station and even a steamboat station (a Mongolian method of one-pot cooking in which you boil your food). The cuisines come courtesy of the Pacific Rim and Asian regions.
Location JW Marriott, Deira
Timing 7pm-11.30pm, daily (also open for Friday Brunch)
Tel 04 607 7977
Walk into this bamboo-filled fish restaurant and you'll be greeted with an overwhelming amount of fresh catch on ice. Ordering here involves wandering around the restaurant and picking and choosing combinations of flavours and cooking styles. We recommend the Thai flavours, the restaurant has an Asian focus so if you're after fried fish with mushy peas it's not for you.
Location InterContinental, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi
Timing 12.30pm-3pm and 7pm-10pm, daily
Tel 02 666 6888
This authentic and classy Thai spot serves up a special dish from the Esarn region, or northeast Thailand for three nights of the week only. The Juhm Jihm hot pot means your table is laden with spices, herbs and a bubbling Thai-spiced broth that you can then dip everything from scallops to sirloin into. The flavours are fresh and it's nice to have control of the final outcome of your dish.
Location Park Hyatt, Deira
Timing 7pm-midnight, daily (hot pot Saturday-Monday only)
Tel 04 317 2222
Cost Dh130 per person