Finding the perfect dining destination for a romantic Valentine’s meal can be a tricky proposition, but with 17 restaurants, bars and cafes to select from the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai has you covered. FACT’s David Tapley takes a sea at Izakaya for an indulgent evening…

Dubai’s very own twin-towered five-star property has a plethora of romantic settings and carefully crafted menus ready for February 14. Team Fact had the opportunity to visit Japanese speciality restaurant Izakaya ahead of the big day to preview their Valentine’s offering. Situated on the 5th floor, the dark and atmospheric restaurant space is perfectly suited for romantic dining with evenly spaced tables tucked within atmospheric alcoves. The result is secluded privacy while also providing a wonderful vantage point to watch the sushi chefs in slicing and dicing at the raw counter or turning skewers upon the robata grill. For those in search of a more interactive dining experience, take a seat at the teppanyaki table where the chefs flip food and shoot flames with such theatrics, that you’re bound to be in for a memorable evening. Izakaya feels like the Kabukicho district of Tokyo with its neon lighting and colourful umbrellas suspended from the ceiling. There’s certainly a sense of playfulness and frivolity to proceedings with dishes labelled with cartoons of sushi rolls hand-in-hand that read “you’re my soy-mate.”

With seven distinct courses, Izakaya has crafted an impressive Omakase menu that will be available exclusively on Valentine’s Day. The bespoke concept of Omakase comes from a Japanese word roughly translating as “I trust you” or “I’ll leave it up to you.” Rather than order a la carte, diners leave their meal completely in the hands of the capable chefs, who much like an orchestra  will conduct the meal to ensure an experience showcasing the very best Izakaya has to offer

Our meal begins with the Wagyu Tataki in which the premium beef has been thinly sliced and marinated in a selection of Japanese herbs and seaweed. The marbling on the A5 Wagyu is immediately apparent, lightly seared on the outside and drizzled with a yuzu soy and punchy wasabi salsa which makes for a bold introduction to the world of Izakaya, and creates a burst of flavour to the palate that resonates long after the meal is over. Sushi and sashimi arrive next, with the sushi intricately constructed into the shape of a heart using compressed rice, salmon and avocado. There’s a distinct freshness to the fish, attesting to the quality ingredients, meaning the fatty tuna sashimi slices are purposely devoid of any seasoning or embellishment.

It seems apt at this point to call for Izakaya’s in-house Wasabi girl! Like an anime character brought to life, Wasabi Girl has fluorescent green hair and is on-hand to grate fresh wasabi straight from the root for diners. If you’re really lucky she may even read your fortune!  Course three comprises a roasted pumpkin soup made with pureed root vegetables, a touch of pumpkin oil and toasted pumpkin seeds for additional texture. The clean and hearty soup is undeniably creamy and works as a nice break from the meat and fish around which this particular menu is focused. What’s Valentine’s Day without lobster? Often regarded as a costly ingredient, there’s no expense spared at Izakaya whose  Ise Ebi Yaki presents a beautifully grilled half lobster in the shell. Complemented by a spicy miso sauce that provides an acceptable balance without overpowering the delicate flesh of the lobster. While the seafood is lovely, the accompanying cubes of wasabi sweet potatoes are wonderfully moreish! A palate cleanser of rhubarb, strawberry and rose sorbet turned more than a few heads during our visit and resulted in a number of orders for the kitchen. The sorbet is presented to the table amidst billows of dry ice and comes planted with a single red rose for extra romanticism.

Wagyu appears again during the penultimate course and offers an entirely different flavour profile from the earlier tataki. Here it’s sticky and sweet beef short ribs thanks to a tamarind soy reduction that has been prepared following an extensive eight-hour braising process.  Dessert is likely the most important course on a day associated with chocolates and strawberries and both ingredients are cleverly incorporated into the Manjari Chocolate Mousse. A dome of mousse covered in an impressive mirror glaze and adorned with edible gold. Providing a rich and decadent end to the meal and one that is likely to leave a lasting impression

The culinary team at Izakaya have done an admirable job in creating a Valentine’s menu that fully embraces the theme of love. With strong service from a team who aim to please, the seven-course menu is available on February 14 from 6pm to 1am and is priced at AED650 per couple, inclusive of one glass of bubbly each. A meal that’s absolutely worth the price tag!


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