DUBAI: Omotenashi is a Japanese concept of hospitality historically related to hosts of the traditional tea ceremony. The term itself is divided into two parts, “omote” (public face) and “nashi” (nothing). “Together, it combines to mean service that comes from the bottom of the heart — honest, no hiding, no pretending,” according to the Michelin guide.
Omotenashi seems to be the guiding principle of Shun Shiroma, the executive chef of 3Fils, one of Dubai’s top restaurants. Overlooking Dubai Harbor, it’s a casual eatery that specializes in Asian- and Japanese-style dishes, including flavorful salmon carpaccio, Hokkaido scallops, and wagyu beef burgers. There is also a fresh offering of “Arabese” food, where the Middle East meets the Far East, such as their concoction snaa’tar, consisting of fine slices of Tai snapper covered with the deep flavors of zaatar.
3Fils is known for having its own rules, such as not serving soy sauce on the side as it might affect the freshness of the fish. But people are happy to keep coming back to what has been voted the fifth-best restaurant in the MENA region.
“There’s an ambience to it,” the restaurant’s representative Khalil Khouri told Arab News. “We want people to feel at home. You can come in shorts and flip-flops. You’re by the water and there’s that fresh air and fresh ingredients. We’ve expanded, and there’s still a queue. It’s testament to what the kitchen does.”
Shiroma was raised in Okinawa and started his career aged 16 at a sushi restaurant there. By 2009, he was in a completely different environment: Jamaica. This was followed by stints in Singapore and New York, among other places.
No matter where he has been, though, his love for the cuisine of his home country has never left him. “We have many categories and variety: Sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen, and curry,” Shun told Arab News. “It’s healthy and simple.”
Here, Chef Shun discusses Japanese hospitality, the importance of cleanliness, and shares a recipe for korya roast potatoes.
Q: What’s your earliest food memory?
A: I think I was three or four years old. I remember my mom making some bread, butter, and jam. I was shocked by how sweet it was. That’s when my addiction to jam started. [Laughs.]
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made?
When I was cutting something, like fish, my chopping board became dirty and it needed to be washed. But I moved on and did something else. My boss said, “Why are you not washing your chopping board?” I was giving 50 percent of myself to the work. My boss told me that nice presentation for guests is important, but it’s just as important to be clean in the kitchen.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Just one? [Laughs.] If I give you a cucumber with nothing, you can eat it. But, if I crack it, you can eat it easily. So, this is the ingredient: My heart. This is the best ingredient for food: “Omotenashi.”
Are you a disciplinarian in the kitchen? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laidback?
We’re busy enough here already, so I don’t need to shout at anyone. I trust our sous-chefs. I just give them small bits of advice sometimes.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
I love Japanese curry. I make it at home and my kids and wife also eat it. I’m a chef here, but at home, I’m totally not.
When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?
I don’t judge the food, but when I taste something different I’m always asking, “Why have they done that?” It interests me. I just imagine the culture, the history and the nature, then I understand why the dish tastes like that. Then I go back to my kitchen and maybe I’m inspired.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
To be hospitable and to make your own story.
Chef Shun’s Korya Roast Potatoes
3 agria potatoes, washed
30g olive oil
3 pinches black pepper powder
20g spring onion, chopped
10g crispy fried garlic
50g 3Fils Gochujang mayo
Salt to taste
1. Place the potatoes (whole) in a pan of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins.
2. Cut the potatoes into wedges, transfer to a tray lined with baking paper and season with salt and black pepper powder.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10 mins at 180 C.
4. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with Gochujang mayo and garnish with crispy garlic and spring onion.