You must smile at other guests; talk softly and eat food straight off the fire, learns I. Singh
Ramada Hotel, Dubai
All the action at the Ramada's Japanese restaurant was happening at the teppanyaki table. The chef danced around with two sharp flat-bladed knives (more scalpels, really), chopping sautéing, serving with impunity.
They looked like a natural extension of his fingers. He used the knives to flatten the prawn, dice the garlic, cook - and scrape the table clean.
For added effect, he did a little drumbeat with salt and pepper cellars and made a fire blaze on the table. We watched the drama with open mouths, almost forgetting to put the food in.
Almost, but not quite. We loved the way he did the chicken, hammour, salmon, shrimp and veggies (all separately). Cooking them quickly, lightly, on the black hot electric table with a drizzle of oil, a dab of garlic and a dash of exotic sauce. And then serving them with a sprinkle of crushed salt and pepper.
At my request, he added some spring onions to the hammour for an extra punch. I was glad to see he was willing to adapt.
Just like I was willing to learn. I was fast learning the etiquette of the teppanyaki table. Smile at your fellow guests. Shut your ears to their conversation. Talk softly yourself. Be careful of the scalding table. Say thank you to the chef for every dish he prepares. Enjoy every mouthful.
We did all that and hugely enjoyed our 45-minute stay at the table. We could have stayed longer, but they were clearing the restaurant, setting it up as a playroom for next day's brunch.
Of course, we'd entered Teppanyaki House much earlier. We began our evening at a quiet table tucked away by the window.
There was my dining companion, someone who swears by Japanese food (and even enjoys pre-packed supermarket versions). And there was myself, who only feels comfortable with the well-fried tempura.
So we made an agreement right at the beginning. He would eat quite a bit of the raw stuff; I would stay with the cooked.
We discussed the menu with a friendly server, ordered a fair selection, sat back and sipped chilled Coke.
The sashimi came first, a selection of prawn, salmon and octopus. They looked lovely on the platter.
The prawn was a very pale orange, the fish white shot through with salmon pink (naturally!) and the octopus again white but with a frilly maroon trim. They looked too pretty to eat, but my companion ate them anyway, spicing them up with the deadly wasabi and the more serene soya. He liked all, but voted the salmon best.
Next came the sushi, the little rice and fish parcels served on a mini wooden table with lashings of shaved ginger. My companion stayed entirely with the salmon here - he tried the salmon roe and the salmon skin. And said both were excellent.
He also tried the Japanese beef carpaccio. Very different from the traditional Italian version, he said, but still nice.
All this time I was looking at the food, admiring the colours and watching him eat. But now the tempura came - and I could eat too.
The prawns were large, tender inside and crisply golden-brown outside. I sprinkled them with salt, dipped them in a sweetish onion sauce and loved them.
From that point I did not look back. I tried a bit of the teriyaki duck - glazed, grilled duck slices arranged like a freshly cut chocolate cake - and loved its flavour. My companion loved everything about it, particularly its medium-rareness.
After the duck we moved to the teppanyaki table for some more food, this time cooked with drama, as already described.
We ate generous portions of the seafood, meat and veggies with a sticky-fried rice and fried Japanese noodles.
We finished our meal with the fruit platter. This I thought was a little too skimpy - very few slices of kiwi, strawberry, orange and sweet melon. That was the only (minor) hiccup in an otherwise excellent meal.
The food was not inexpensive. But again, Teppanyaki House is one of the most reasonable Japanese restaurants of its class in Dubai.
Service was attentive. The décor elegant. Best of all, the meal pleased both of us - someone who loves Japanese food and someone who knows it only vaguely.
- Getting there: On Al Mankhool Street, near Spinneys, Bur Dubai.
- Open: 12.30-2.30pm; 7-11.30pm. Fridays closed.
- Décor: Elegant.
- Seating: 11 (teppanyaki table); 6 (sushi bar) and 16 (regular).
- Dress code: Smart casual.
- Recommended: Everything teppanyaki, duck teriyaki, salmon sushi, prawn tempura.
- WEBSITE: www.ramadadubai.com