WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: RAMUSAKE
Maybe I’m late to the party, but when did JBR (that’s Jumeirah Beach Residence to the non-locals!) start morphing from typical hotel tourist bars to a place that’s finding its own unique pulse?
I have to say thank you to Piers Adam and Marc Burton for deciding that JBR was worthy of a hip jaunt. Although I’ve lived here for 5 years and love the place, it used to be that if you wanted that hip, urban, big city vibe (like London, NYC, or Sydney), you had to endure the traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road to get to the one place that had the party atmosphere—DIFC.
But now? Well, now you’ve got places like the DoubleTree Hilton at the edge of JBR which is the proud parent to new baby Ramusake!
Dubai downtowners now have a damn good excuse to get in the cab and head the other way because this new kid in town is bringing DIFC to the beach and let me tell you, it’s hot!
The red Ramusake sign and the itty-bitty greeting area might leave you wondering what to even expect but then the doors open and…wow. The decor is seriously hip and the concept they took on when designing the place just works so well. Mixing influences of 1920’s Tokyo with a ‘Blade Runner-esque’ futuristic twist, they’ve used elements like charred timber, aged concrete, and neon lights that all come together in this beautifully unique and sexy space.
With the bar on your left, swing to the right to see a spacious main dining area with a wide robata counter where, like an open kitchen, you can see the chefs grill your food, Japanese-style. But the terrace…the terrace is the spot that’ll draw you out and keep you there for hours. Along a section of the wall is a stunning painting in the same traditional-meets-new style of the restaurant and tons of wood, from the planter boxes to the tables to the chairs. There’s also a large counter table which has a large tree and greenery growing out of the centre of it. Thie section of the restaurant is dark, moody, and mysterious and you really won’t want to leave!
Ramusake has an awesome vibe with some of the best restaurant soundtrack I’ve heard in a while! Thanks to the DJ and the creative brains behind the restaurant, there was a steady head-bopping flow beats from Blue Boy to De La Soul to Tony! Toni! Toné! It’s basically music nostalgia heaven for us thirty-somethings that probably won’t garner quite as much enthusiasm from the younger spectrum of millennials.
Eduardo Maia, the general manager, was an absolute dream and you can tell he’s had a world of experience. Born and raised in Brazil, he spent 18 years in the US working across the country but it wasn’t until 2008 that he entered into the restaurant world by becoming a manager. It turned out to be his calling and Eduardo relocated to Dubai to work at Fume and before long, he was headhunted by MFMS (Mahiki Facilities Management Service) and moved onto Ramusake!
His influence on, and grasp of, the Ramusake brand is totally on-point, from the tunes that had our group of 4 head-bopping the entire night to the seriously slick service. The staff is trained well (my margarita was, simply put, awesome) and they’re attentive but never intrusive. Daryl was our main server and he took great care of us but we still had a couple of extra heads popping by throughout the evening to check on us and it was completely seamless.
As the GM, Eduardo seems to go above and beyond, not just for the guests but for his team of 85 (front and back of house). We found out that he’s promoted six team members since coming into this position and started an “Employee of the Month” initiative that recognises two team members each month. Not only is this a great way to acknowledge his employees’ hard work and allow them to shine, he also provides rewards like gift vouchers to other restaurants around the city that he’s received through the personal relationships he’s fostered around Dubai.
Oh, and he also fosters a community spirit within the entire team, has them share ideas, celebrates successes, and sets up trainings with suppliers so the staff get plenty of in-house education to help further them along in their careers.
Phew, pretty awesome, yes?
It must all be working because at the end of the day, these guys look like they’re having a blast and truly enjoying what they do. They laugh with you and join in on the experience instead of just standing on the sidelines, which is probably thanks to Eduardo and the company ethos. Honestly, though, doesn’t it make it all that much better when you can see the staff actually looking like they’re happy to be there?
Ramusake is also, hands down, a fantastic place for drinking and eating. (And you’d think all restaurants would be but how many places have you been to where the decor and vibe might be cool but the actual food is far from impressive?) Ramusake is modeled after the Japanese izakaya, which means that it encourages casual, communal-style dining with lots of small plates that are shared amongst your group. There are no courses or set pace—the dishes simply come out as they’re ready so you’ll always have a plate or two of something to enjoy. It’s a great way to spend the evening with friends, which is exactly what we did!
Taking care of the food concept is Chef Gohei Kishi, the MFMS’s Executive Chef. He oversees all three of the group’s restaurants – Mahiki (Polynesian), Ramusake, and Copper Dog (from Scotland’s Highlands). Born and raised in Paris, Chef Kishi made the move to Japan to get in touch with his roots and learn about the culture, food, and art of sushi. His first job ended up being at Michelin Star restaurant Kappou Nakajima in Tokyo, where he stayed for five years.
From there he went to Madrid to work at Le Garage, then to London which included time with Gordon Ramsay Group as a sushi chef and then Head of Asian Concepts where he developed a unique French-Asian touch to the group’s Asian restaurants, in particular Maze. Clearly Chef Kishi has a magical touch because the food at Ramusake? Yum!
Opting to go with the Chef’s Selection was a smart choice on our part (self-congratulatory pat on back) because every single dish won us over. There was the lovely Spider Maki (a maki roll with fried soft shell crab, spicy mayo, and takuan, a type of pickled daikon radish) and the naughty but very nice Cheese and Truffle Gyoza which came with fresh grated truffle (!!!). The Teriyaki Salmon, a dish you’ll find in plenty of Japanese restaurants but only prepared well in a handful, was perfectly cooked and even the simple side dishes like the sweet potato fries (accompanied by kimchi mayo and jalapeño dip) were impressively tasty.
The balance of the dishes and the portions worked out perfectly for our group, leaving us all wonderfully sated but not feeling like we needed to be rolled out of the restaurant. We also have to praise the steady flow of sangria and cocktails that never once left us reaching for an empty glass and having to search for a server to order another.
Ramusake also have special nights and events like Tokyo Hour, a happy hour where you can get two-for-one specials on select drinks every weekday from 6pm-8pm. For the ladies, stop by on Wednesday nights for Miss Independent night with a DJ, dancing, and free-flowing (read: complimentary) wine for the ladies. Not a night owl? Stop by for the daytime Sake Sessions on Fridays, a Deep House party concept with awesome music and 3-hour packages for just drinks or a food platter and bottle of rose.
The fun doesn’t seem to stop here at Ramusake. The buzz here was electric and somehow, despite the restaurant having seating for 250 with two sittings every night, it felt cosy rather than overwhelming!
And unlike the one in London, which is members only, we Dubaians get to experience this innovative and trendy restaurant without exclusion.
Doubletree by Hilton Dubai
Jumeirah Beach – The Walk