Katana reopens in The Address Downtown Dubai
Opening a restaurant two days before New Year’s Eve is always a bold move. But the people behind LA-born Japanese restaurant Katana at The Address Downtown had sufficient confidence in their latest project. Of course, what then unfolded on December 31 was the worst possible news for the team. But, happily, four months on, Katana is ready for a new start.
“I wasn’t here on the night,” says Lee Maen, a founding member and partner in Katana, the award-wining robata and sushi bar. “I was in Hawaii on vacation watching the fire on the news and just hoping for the best,” he adds. “We’re just glad everyone was safe and no one was harmed. It’s great that we’re now reopening and in the same magical location.”
The location does give the restaurant a lot of clout. “The view is something other restaurants can’t offer,” says Lee. “If you have one day in Dubai, you’ve got to be in this area… it’s amazing.”
The LA branch of Katana opened after a drive Lee took down Sunset Boulevard some 16 years ago, where he was inspired by a building that was “just gorgeous”. He instantly knew it had to be a restaurant. Lee and his partners already had two Sushi Roku restaurants nearby, so they travelled to Japan in search of something unique to bring back to the US. “That’s where we came across ‘robatayaki’,” says Lee.
Robatayaki is a traditional style of cooking originally adopted by a small group of fishermen in Japan and involves skewering fish, meat and vegetables onto bamboo to be grilled over a charcoal-induced open flame. “We’d never seen this before in America and thought it was amazing,” Lee says. “We had great food covered, with sushi and modern Japanese cuisine, but robatayaki had never done before.”
This style of cooking didn’t stay unique for long, though. “It’s funny because Zuma opened up in London six months after Katana in LA,” Lee says. “Supposedly, they were in LA looking at what we were doing before they opened. It was very similar timing, let’s say!”
The menu for Katana in Dubai is almost identical to the LA restaurant, with one or two tweaks. Chef CK Lim will be heading up the kitchen, armed with 15 years’ experience garnered from kitchens across Europe, USA and Korea, and notably designing and executing menus for the likes of Nobu in Las Vegas and Mövenpick’s Fusterie hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.
As Lee mentioned they have the “great food” covered, but he has an extra trick up his sleeve. “Similar to Nobu in London, Katana is an international destination in LA for everyone from rock stars to billionaire businessman to Hollywood actors,” he says.
“People love that, they love seeing that. And so any night of the week you might come here and see someone really special. In fact, P-Diddy’s two right hands were here last night.”
But Lee is quick to add: “We treat the regular people like rock stars and the rock stars like regular people. That’s what we are known for, that’s what we do.”