FACT returns to The Experience by Reif Othman for the first time since the concept moved from The H Dubai (and was featured in our very first issue of FACT Dubai) and into Dar Wasl.
Reif Othman seemingly possesses the Midas touch. A string of successful openings and collaborations, including the ever-popular Mimi Kakushi with lines of glamouratti snaking out the door. Dubai Marina’s Ikigai is carpeted with Reif’s fingerprints and as if this was not enough, Reif is also moments away from his international opening, Reif Kushiyaki, in Cairo.
Yet the current furore surrounding the homegrown talent surrounds Reif Kushiyaki, the reigning FACT Magazine 2020 Favourite award winner, where Reif first stepped out on his own with aplomb. We return to The Experience by Reif Othman with an eight-course (AED 420) and twelve-course omakase menu (AED 620) that offers a somewhat private opportunity to dine with the man himself, Chef Reif Othman. The Experience by Reif Othman delivers a contemporary take on the traditional omakase, a Japanese dining experience where guests leave it up to the chef to decide and describe each course.
We sit up on the counter where, watching with intrigue, Reif crafts and chaperones the first of eight courses. A toasted brioche slab brushed with seaweed butter then generously topped with curls of the glossiest ochre uni, brightened by a dusting of lime zest. Seaweed butter re-emerges two courses later generously slathered on a scallop nigiri. A deliciously moreish dish that contrasts sweet scallop rounds with unctuous seaweed butter, so rich, you would pay for small pots of it as an undereye cream.
That’s correct, seaweed butter. Gloriously lardaceous, umami-packed joy that goads away at my inner culinary Id. Give me food that fills me with sheer bliss in the short term but challenges my long-term lifespan. Of course, there is more to Reif’s omakase than a sultry scrape of seaweed butter, but it is a toe-curlingly good place to start.
Some dishes are almost too pretty to eat. A caviar-crowned otoro gunkan wrapped in nori is a jewelled parcel topped with a fleck of sea salt and chives. Diced fatty tuna gives way to the caviar’s salinity, all lifted by the nori’s irony, crisp sweetness. A dish as impressive to eat as it is to watch come together in Reif’s hands.
The one-mouthful dishes give way to heartier fayre. A buxom, ash-grey marble bun positively lysing with Wagyu otoro glistening in beef bacon jam. Reif later serves another beef Wagyu dish: a Kagoshima Wagyu beef shabu-shabu steeped in the clearest of wagyu dashi jewelled with verdant, pert edamame beans and pools of lifting yuzu. In an omakase dining littered with big flavours, this Wagyu shabu-shabu sings with quiet restraint showing that Reif deftly bends both bold and subtle to his will.
We munch, chat and soak it all in. There is a bustling but intimate elegance to this omakase. Loyal to the Reif Kushiyaki casual vibe, The Experience is approachable and laid back. Shingled planks stained salted caramel adorn the walls. Minimalist brass lighting soothes a busy space — and boy is Reif Kushiyaki active. The kitchen bustles, flames lick over the grill and orders fly out to the restaurant floor. Reif tracks every order and inspects dishes at the pass, all while managing a cool, flowing rapport with his one-to-one omakase guests. We watch munching through a yuzu kosho and citrus Eton mess with caramelised mandarin segments. A fresh palate cleanser to round off the evening.
Who would enjoy Reif Kushiyaki’s omakase menu? Tasting menu fans who want the freedom from decision making when going out to eat. Japanese modern dining lovers, including regular Reif Kushiyaki patrons. Those looking for a special dining experience that is unique and intimate.
The Experience by Reif Othman will become one of the most talked-about venues in town, with gastronomes craving for reservations. Neither a chef’s table nor supper club, chef Reif has taken the idea one step further, inviting diners into his world. There really is nothing else quite like this in the emirates!
GO: Visit https://reifkushiyaki.com or call 050 235 7071 for reservations and more information.