REVIEW: Katsuya by Starck
It is not often that we start a review by mentioning the ‘‘hello" we receive at a restaurant's door. But the greeting at Katsuya by Starck demands inclusion. As is customary in Japan, diners are met with a resounding "Irasshaimase" ("come on in") from all of the restaurant staff on arrival. Now that's a welcome we could get used to.
The Far Eastern touches don't end there, with the interiors particularly eye-catching; sleek and unmistakably Japanese, the shoji (those famous sliding doors) are a smart touch, opening out on to what looks like a Koi pond. It could be Kyoto. Chefs aren't usually willing to share the spotlight but such is designer Philippe Starck's influence on the restaurant, he receives equal billing with Katsuya Uechi.
This is one of ten Katsuya restaurants around the world, a brand that began in Southern California where Uechi's Japanese-American fusion cuisine quickly became a huge hit among Hollywood's glitterati. That star-pulling power persists in Dubai, with one of football's most famous faces dining on a nearby table when we visit.
The menu is extensive, giving a nod to most corners of Japanese cuisine - from sushi to robata. Given the sheer number of choices, the "Katsuya signatures" guides us towards the fresh yellowtail, delicately sliced and complemented by a tangy ponzu sauce and the gentle heat of diced jalapeños.
The crispy rice sushi with tuna is another cornerstone of the menu. It has become a ubiquitous dish in the LA sushi scene and it's easy to see why: the crunchy outer layer protects that more familiar sticky rice inside, making for an interesting texture and a buttery taste.
A more obvious fusion favourite is the shrimp croquette slider; part burger, part po' boy but no half measures on flavour. Creamy shrimp gratin is encased in a panko crust - how it retains its shape given the gooey inside remains one of life's great mysteries - served with an Asian slaw, mustard and a thick Tonkatsu sauce that is both sweet and salty. It makes a mess but the shrimp stain on the shirt is totally worth it.
Among a vast selection of sashimi and sushi, the Hollywood rolls are certainly box office - shrimp tempura, kanikama crab, avocado and cucumber rolls are densely packed and topped with spicy albacore tuna. If you're looking for something a little meatier, cast your eyes towards the robata. A cooking method that uses a charcoal oven to provide some serious BBQ notes to anything it touches, we're not sure non-robata beef short ribs will ever cut it again.
For dessert, the yuzu tart is a deconstructed version of a classic as thin discs of pastry are topped with sharp citrus curd and served alongside a small bowl of panna cotta with peanut butter, exploding fruit spheres and Nutella powder.
A slightly more substantial option is the Katsuya Napoleon, a reimagining of a French mille feuille using some Middle Eastern inspiration. Kataifi (shredded filo) pastry nests separate layers of fruit and sesame cream, blueberries and peach "caviar" - with a generous dollop of raspberry and caramel sauce to add the final flourish.
It has only been a matter of months since Katsuya by Starck opened but stylish interiors and creative dishes may see it crowned emperor of the Jumeirah Al Naseem eateries.
Katsuya by Starck
Where: Jumeirah Al Naseem
Contact: +9714 419 0676, website