Oni Lounge & Restaurant
4.2

Although the Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road has seen its fair share of refurbishments and restaurants, the recently updated Oni presents itself as a contemporary restaurant, promising “glamour and intrigue of Japanese culinary culture.”

Reservation
Call ahead on 04 405 2333.  Or visit https://www.onidubai.com/ for the reservations page.

Parking
Located at the Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road, longtime Dubai residents will know this is a tricky spot for public parking.  Valet parking is available at the hotel, and of course, guests can always take a taxi for easy drop-off.  As we’re going to sample some of the cocktails, my dining partner and I opt for a drop at the lobby.

Greeting and Seating
Situated on the second floor of the hotel, Oni is clearly marked on the lift panel.  Stepping out of the elevator, we spy black carpet and stylish signage outside the restaurant — a nod to the decor inside.  With the exception of the brightly lit open kitchen, the interior is quite dark, with a stark design.  There is low seating in the lounge, additional seats at the stunning bar (complete with an interior cherry blossom feature), and a private dining area along the back wall of the establishment.  As we’re here for food, we opt for the table seating towards the back.

Service
From our first interaction, it becomes apparent that the service staff is well informed of their menu.  We receive plenty of details regarding not only the special degustation we’re going to sample but also the coordinating cocktails (which are a highlight).  Interactions with various other members of the team at Oni yield similar knowledge.  Attention to detail is also worth noting.  For example, I make an offhand comment that I am curious about the small room near our table, and, after finishing our main dishes, we’re shown to the special sake room — a highlight of our visit.

Our Order
We kept our order to the exclusive and limited Yozakura Journey, which is in celebration of the Cherry Blossom festival and available through April.  There are three sets of appetizers to choose from (although, for the purpose of this review, we end up trying most of what is offered), then a choice between mains, with an optional wagyu offer (at an additional price).

To start, after a small amuse bouche, we’re delighted by the Matcha Soup, tastefully accompanied by a beautifully decorated crouton.  The matcha flavor is quite mild, and we were already happy with the direction of where the meal was going.  Similarly, the Hamachi Senbai were composed of wonderfully elegant bites, delicately seasoned.  Really, it was a tie between the two, and I would happily order either dish again.

For the next course, the clear winner for my guest is the Okonomiyaki, which was a very filling, well-portioned dish, but I’m leaning towards the Inarizushi.  With its unique composition, the tuna tataki is the stand out on the plate.  For our final starter, we both absolutely love the Gyoza.  For a starter that rarely disappoints, we’re delighted with Oni’s version, in this case, a filling vegetarian option.

For mains, there is a choice of three, but the kitchen is kind enough to indulge us, and thus we try all of what is on offer.  While I don’t usually expect Risotto on a Japanese menu, the vegetarian-friendly Asari Mushroom dish, like the other mains, is a generous portion with plenty for sharing.  My favorite of the mains was the Sakura Kasa Katsu, which was perfectly crispy, with a moreish sauce that was very well developed, and a fish that was excellently cooked.  For noodle fans, there is also a Wagyu Ramen.  While I thought it was lacking a bit of depth, like the other main dishes, it was a hearty portion.

Pacing
While just a bit on the rushed side (I wouldn’t have minded a bit more time between courses) overall, there is enough space to enjoy each plate (to the point we’re completely stuffed at the end of the meal).

Ambiance
With two concepts — restaurant and lounge — in my opinion, there is a bit of competition in the space.  However, if looking for a stylish venue with a matching soundtrack, Oni ticks the right boxes.

Price
The multi-course Yozakura Journey menu is running at a very reasonable AED199 per person.  Drink prices are competitive, and I appreciated there were specific cocktails to match the special menu.  Ala carte items including sushi and ramen can (of course) be purchased separately.  The team informs us a similar Iftar menu will be in place during Ramadan.

Overall, would you return?
I would be delighted to return to Oni.  In a city where the approach to Japanese cuisine is usually the same, I appreciated the kitchen’s ability to offer something different across the courses.  While I enjoyed the special menu we tried, I would be happy to try out some of the ala carte dishes.

Recommendations
While we liked literally everything and would go back for most of the menu – we’re still thinking about the moreish Okonomiyaki and as well as the delicious Katsu, our two favorites of the evening.  Also, be sure to check out the sake room, complete with some incredible home blends.

Disclaimer: MenuPages.ae was a guest of this establishment.