FACT’s Liam Collens visits the causal Japanese concept from Neha Mishra — a poster child for the latest rush of supper club disciples across Dubai.
It is not that I do not like Kinoya. I do. Transfixed, I demolish mushrooms steeped in an ochre burnt butter, so meaty and unctuous, as if these mushrooms are hand-reared on a neat diet of bone marrow fat. I hardly care that these fine, fettled funghi are sidecars to seared scallops (AED 50).
This is my third visit to Kinoya in six months, solidifying the view it is not the life-changing breakthrough some insinuate. I do not share the voracious enthusiasm paraded by Kinoya’s online cabal of ramen stans. A swarm that bubble hotter than Kinoya’s affordable chicken shoyu ramen bowls (from AED 50). A clan I dub The BrothHive for whom Neha Mishra, chef and founder of Kinoya, is Queen Bey — a poster child for the latest rush of supper club disciples across Dubai.
Kinoya offers respite for Dubai residents who are, like me, weary of another high-end Asian restaurant in some sky-piercing tower that requires a taxi journey pricier than some de rigueur miso black cod on the other end. Dubai does not need one more eatery that courageously carries out a polite siphoning on my credit card because, you know, it is A5 Wagyu. Recently, at such a restaurant, I cooked this fat-soaked beef myself. At the table. On a hot stone. In 2021. Yes, this is still a thing!
Kinoya shuns gimmickry and leads with value for money. It is decisively restrained, an antidote to Dubai’s high octane interiors. There are no statement chandeliers here. A dojo-like dining space with ivory shojis and honeyed walls revealing private dining rooms and ramen bars with soft cushions. You may catch Haiya Tariq, fine Japanese tea connoisseur of Haiya Tea and Pass Me The Dim Sum, conducting a tea omakase behind its serene screens. Haiya, shall we call them “tea-torials”? Call me.
Kinoya is all a bit chill. The Pharcyde’s Passing Me By rolls out of the speakers as I munch another scallop sashimi fragrant with fresh lime (AED 71). A casual izakaya where residents of The Greens sip drinks with friends after work. Oh yes, Kinoya is licensed.
There is a joy to perching at the ramen bar, popping blistered, salted shishito peppers (AED 40) while watching Neha meditatively cradle hand-pulled noodles through her house-made broth.
Yet, have Neha and the team listened to the deluge of (unsolicited) feedback over the last six months? Kinoya showed early teething issues. Bookings are now effortless, while service is more organised and more attentive. The welcome addition of small side tables affords guests much-needed surface space.
The highs become regular orders. A miso butter aubergine, plump like a baby’s arm, slumped next to a shingled heap of bonito flakes and a scattering of toasted sesame seeds for a mere AED 35. Pleated gyozas lysing with glistening beef are primped with spring onions (AED 55). A spicy burnt salmon mayo bowl, sweetened by nori debris, purrs with smoke but does not deliver on spice (AED 46). Initially cynical about the strawberry parfait, my wife scrapes the wooden box’s joinery searching for one last mouthful (AED 40).
Kinoya’s strides are evident but some niggles remains. The spicy fried chicken lacks any discernible spice, notwithstanding a scarlet sauce that leans more hoisin than hot (AED 56). Like the spicy burnt salmon mayo bowl, the spice is not underplayed, it is missing entirely. There is a dearth of marked vegetarian options – a move out of step in the age of Impossible launches and vegan menus. A highfalutin nitpick for an izakaya? I will leave that to you.
Who should come to Kinoya? Diners looking for affordable Japanese fare. Ramen lovers, solo diners looking for lunch or dinner groups wanting to eat out in jeans.