Restaurant Review

FACT Review: Japanese dining but not as you expect at NIRI Restaurant & Bar

There’s no sign of miso-marinated black cod or dynamite shrimp at this Saadiyat Island hotspot.

Mamsha Al Saadiyat has fast become the dining destination of choice in the UAE capital. A place where a plethora of homegrown concepts can be found hugging a picturesque stretch of shoreline close to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Whilst the selection of coffee shops and casual licensed eateries flanked by powder white sands and the waters of the Arabian Gulf are undoubtedly appealing, team FACT recently went to investigate a Japanese dining destination that has been making waves at the beachfront enclave.

NIRI Restaurant & Bar can be found towards the end of the promenade, close to FACT favourites Antonia and Pickl. Yet this Japanese izakaya is probably the most elevated dining concept in Mamsha and one that offers instant appeal from the moment you enter into the stylish, minimalist interior.

NIRI Restaurant

Here, guests are met with a well-stocked bar and bi-fold doors that open onto the stunning beachfront. The interiors are simple, enhanced by neutral tones and earthen materials such as wood and stone. As a result, the place has an instant likeability, which is only heightened by NIRI’s kimono-clad affable front-of-house team.

Led by Managing Director Imad Obeid (formally of LPM Abu Dhabi and Zuma Abu Dhabi), Head Chef and sushi master Yasuyuki Takemoto, and Chef Omaka Orubu, this winning trifecta of talent provides a recipe for success at what is easily the capital’s most talked about opening of the year.

NIRI Restaurant

Anchored around the spirit of Japanese cuisine, diners are welcome to indulge in the expected sushi and sake but delve a little deeper into the menu, and you’ll be rewarded with dishes that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the county, let alone the capital. Whilst popular choices such as miso-marinated black cod and dynamite shrimp would be an easy sell, NIRI purposefully deviates away from these choices to offer diners something altogether more exciting. Instead, we suggest you expand your culinary horizons with the piping hot softshell crab (AED 56), which is generously seasoned and served with a punchy miso mustard dipping sauce. Or perhaps the toro sakusaku nori (AED 68), which presents fatty tuna tartare with nikiri soy and crisp seaweed crackers, or the wagyu tataki (AED 84) submerged in aromatic truffle oil.

With tuna imported from Spain, yellowtail and red snapper from Japan and wagyu from Australia, NIRI ensures that premium ingredients are used in the composition of its dishes. This is evident with the Hokkaido scallop (AED 75), served in its shell amidst an alluring rich butter sauce. However, items are also sourced locally and the asari sakamushi (AED 80) may be NIRI’s unexpected signature. The resulting dish is simply constructed yet full of complex aromatic flavours, prepared using Abu Dhabi clams steamed with lemongrass and fresh ginger.

NIRI Restaurant

One visit to NIRI Restaurant & Bar is simply not enough. It’s the type of place that encourages repeat visits to explore the food and beverages fully. For example, delving into the restaurant’s kinako pistachio cheesecake (AED 38), we’re impressed by the silky texture of the filling, complemented by the crunch of the nuts and a hint of sourness from the accompanying cherry compote. This interplay between texture and flavour makes NIRI a winning combination and a surefire contender for one of the best Japanese restaurants in the capital.

With space for seventy covers and a private dining room, NIRI Restaurant & Bar boasts an intimacy that makes diners feel as though they have stumbled upon one of Abu Dhabi’s best-kept dining secrets. It’s licensed, it’s casual, and it’s a whole lot of fun. So if you want to expand your culinary horizons, you know where to go.

GO: Visit https://www.nirirestaurant.com/ for reservations and more information.

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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As the editor-in-chief for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications, David Tapley is a self-proclaimed Hip-Hop aficionado, championing all things, food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the UAE and KSA. This sneakerhead may also be Kanye West's biggest fan.

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