Reif Japanese Kushiyaki
For Reif Othman and his team, the concept of kushiyaki translates to Japanese street food, and everything from the style of the fit-out to the menu, there is attention to detail found throughout the restaurant. Per the website, “Reif offers beautifully unconventional Japanese cuisine. A new, edgy and affordable version of kushiyaki – the freshly-grilled, skewered meats are inspired by Japanese robata restaurants.”
At this time, no reservations are available. There is not an online service or a dedicated phone line to book a table. As of now, be prepared to wait up to two hours during the weekend dinner rush. While we appreciate the first-come, first-served approach, we do wish a few seats would be open for reservations (but that’s mostly our type A personality). Please note that on Mondays the restaurant is closed, as the team works very hard for the rest of the week.
Dar Wasl offers underground parking, as well as valet parking, and street parking is available.
Greeting and Seating
We’re warmly welcomed and seated near the window. The configuration of the restaurant is compact but can be arranged for larger groups. The tables have been cleverly designed and open seamlessly to reveal menus and cutlery, so as not to clutter the table. We like the aesthetic. Given the restaurant seats just under 40 people, expect to sit very close to your neighbor. In a way that very few restaurants in Dubai accomplish, the setting is cozy and intimate – the feel of being in a small restaurant in Tokyo is apparent.
When we inquire as to our order – ticked on boxes on the paper menu — the wait staff are extremely knowledgeable. We’re asked questions about our specific preferences, and ensure we received the right amount (and not too much) food off the menu.
We immediately zone in on the Raw Angus Beef, AED59. With hints of peach and crispy lotus root for texture, we love the presentation and taste — subtly sweet to go with the richness of the slightly seared protein. Next up is our favorite plate from our visit, Beef Gyoza, AED42 for four pieces. We’ve had a few versions of this dish in town, but Chef Reif’s is a perfect blend of savoury and depth. Moving forward, we look at the Kushi section, which offers small robata style plates. With five different cuts of chicken (to ensure less wastage of the protein), we choose the Chicken Thighs with Teriyaki, AED42 and, from the vegetable section, the generous portion of Cauliflower with Black Sesame Paste, AED30. We finish with one of the most popular items, the Sanchoku Wagyu Sando, AED145. The moreish sando is split into four pieces, and just a tiny bit chewier than we can eat in one bite — so we use a fork and knife to finish the dish. While we’ve heard great things about the ramen, we don’t have enough room left to place an order (or room for desserts). However, we would happily order any of the dishes we tried again!
We also feel it is worth noting that we love the inclusion of refillable water, AED6 for still water and AED10 for sparkling water on the menu. This choice might seem like a small detail, but it’s one we would love to see more of across the country and applaud an influential chef like Reif for making the decision not to overcharge.
Given we’re seated one meter away from the kitchen, dishes arrive literally just off the grill — sometimes directly from Chef Reif, who often steps out to personally deliver plates to customers, and have a quick chat before stepping back into his role as chef. While we get everything almost straight away, we wouldn’t mind just a bit of time between the dishes. However, given those customers who are waiting for a spot, we understand the need to turn the table so others can enjoy the food.
You’ll know this is Reif’s place — from the signage out front to the open kitchen, where you can watch the small team hard at work. Seating is casual and close-knit — this is an establishment where you can see what the next table is ordering (and then decide to order it for yourself). There’s also a large custom Astro Boy poster on the wall, a whimsical nod to the chef’s youth.
One of the best parts about Reif’s menu is that diners can honestly spend whatever they are comfortable with. For example, the range of different dishes is such that guests can come in with a healthy appetite and have several small plates or go big on some of the more ‘luxury’ items in the menu. We’re a fan of letting diners decide. Similarly, dishes are easily shared or consumed alone. As an example, Reif designed the menu such that someone could order the filling Singapore chicken, AED58, which would act as a complete meal, and that vegetarians would have things to choose from as well.
Overall, would you return?
We’re already planning a return visit – there is so much left to try!
Get to the restaurant as early as possible, or plan on waiting. Smaller groups will be easier to accommodate (just based on the layout of the restaurant).
Disclaimer: MenuPages.ae was a guest of this establishment.