Let's start with what an Izakaya is. It's where you would head down to with your colleagues to slam a pint and crunch on wasabi peanuts after work. It's Japan's version of a British gastropub or an American tavern. Izakayas are all about keeping things intimate and cozy, right from the ambiance to the food. Typically wallet-friendly and hearty, while Ramusake has nailed a typical Izakaya's atmosphere, the food and drink prices are far from inexpensive. It's scrumptiously tailored menu is designed to share, so make sure you visit with a gang of friends and family!

Reservations can either be made over the phone or at [email protected].

Ramusake is located on the parking level at the Hilton Double Tree at JBR. We drove up a slope and into the parking lot, spotted a valet parking podium, and handed our keys over.

Greeting and seating
There were three stages to the welcome ritual at Ramusake. First, the bouncer tossed us a welcome nod. Next up, the hostesses at reception greeted us with warm smiles and pushed open a stubbornly heavy door and guided us to our table. Finally, our server for the evening welcomed us to Ramusake, handed us a couple menus, and pressed play on the rest of the night.

Knowledge and service of the waiter
Ramusake treats its servers like family and it definitely shows. Our server blazed through the menu, recommending his favorites which conveniently aligned with exactly what we planned to order. To wet our whistle, he planted a cocktail dispenser on our table while he noted our food order. Before leaving, he flicked a tap pouring us a pair of drinks, and vanished with a smile.

Our first course was punctuated with refreshing sips of Japanese sangria. Spelled "sanguria" - Ramusake's recipe swaps out red wine with sake. Now here's the shocker – this delightfully sweet drink doesn't have a single crystal of sugar in it. It solely relies on umeshu, a Japanese liqueur! Riddled with fruit and fun, it's what I picture myself drinking on a summer's eve while sitting on a wooden porch. Preferably in a rocking chair while wearing an oversized straw hat.

Our order
Our dinner was a multi-course feast of Japanese sangria, a couple samplers of sake, tuna sashimi pizza, salmon ceviche, cheese and truffle gyozas, Taku Yaki omelet, crispy Brussels sprouts, steamed sea bass, grilled miso black cod, green tea uji parfait matcha, and kinako donuts.

Our appetizers featured a spread of Nasu Dengaku (fried eggplant with den miso), a tuna sashimi pizza, salmon ceviche, Taku Yaki omelet, and cheese and truffle gyozas.

If you're vegan and bummed out that your friends are dragging you to a place known for its meat - the Nasu Dengaku will rock your world. Unapologetically vegan friendly and tantalizing, each mouthful of this will leave your knees buckling. Ramusake's famous tuna sashimi pizza comes served in a nouvelle format - premium cuts of chubby tuna served on a crispy tortilla base and drizzled in a delectable shower of wasabi dressing. The Taku Yaki omelet gave off major okonomiyaki (classic Japanese savory pancake) vibes - the twist here being it was packed with fresh octopus. Soft and squidgy in all the right ways, it stoked my passionate inner flame for octopus meat. The salmon ceviche didn't disappoint, but the cheese and truffle gyozas did.

Round two brought forth grilled miso black cod, steamed sea bass, and crispy Brussels sprouts. Miso black cod is currently the Kim Kardashian of Dubai's culinary scene. Everyone either wants a picture of it or has a scandalous story about it. My partner and I have been sampling miso black cod around the city for awhile now, and this didn't rank high on our list. But if you've never tried it before, it's an ideal gateway dish to the dizzyingly delicious world of miso black cod. The steamed sea bass arrived wrapped in a banana leaf and sprinkled in cilantro leaves. Don't be fooled by the modest size of this dish - it packs a punch both in the flavor and fullness department. The Brussel sprouts were injected with a bold fish sauce, instantly kicking all the Brussel sprouts I've ever eaten with my Christmas roast dinner to the curb.

After an explosion of savory dishes, we switched to a sweeter route. Our waiter decided to surprise us with his personal favorites, and we happily complied. He arrived bearing a green tea uji parfait matcha (a new addition to Ramusake's menu) and the restaurant's popular kinako donuts. The matcha bowl was weighed down with green tea ice cream, freshly chopped fruit, melon granita, matcha gel, and adzuki. Mochi is one of my favorite desserts, so the server kindly asked the chef to toss a complimentary bite of it into my bowl. I'd recommend this only if you're a fan of matcha's distinct twang! Noacquired taste” warnings for the kinako donuts, though. Fluffier than a duck's underbelly and lighter than air, it's a best-seller and with damn fine reason. Up the indulgence with a splodge of chantilly cream on the side.

Courtesy extended during the meal
The manager swung by with every course and ensured we were enjoying not just the food but ourselves too. A warm personality, we were tempted to invite him to join our table. The manager was just the beginning of Ramusake's collection of wonderful personalities. Our waiter had an enthusiastic presence, followed by the restaurant sommelier whose passion for wine and sake shined so bright, it was probably visible from the International Space Station.

Ramusake's ambiance was easy on the eyes but not on my camera lens. Dimly lit, it resembled secret Tokyo ramen houses tucked in the heart of shadowy alleys. The walls were plastered in Japanese inspired art and eccentric photographs. A rainbow glow from the bar shined through to the dining area. The terrace was dolled up with string lights and lanterns, ideal for winter dinners under the stars. Retro music softly played in the background but was cranked up as it got late.

Ten dishes, three sake-laced drinks, and two bottles of water landed us with a 1153 dirham bill. We wouldn't normally recommend eating as much as we did that night, though.

Overall, would you return?
Our epic feast at Ramusake left me feeling full for a couple of days.
I'd definitely return (in the winter) since the al fresco terrace is where all the action's at.

Chef's recommendations
Cheese and truffle gyoza, tuna sashimi pizza, yuzu tart, sweet potato fries with kimchi mayo.