Diana Farah Dubai
A Japanese restaurant known as KOBEYa is catering to the part of the UAE community, which is gluten-intolerant or prefers gluten-free food.
Speaking to Arab News Japan, KOBEYa’s owner Leiko H. said the idea to open such a restaurant was inspired from her own personal experience raising children with food intolerances.
“I am a mother of four kids,” adding that some of the family members had certain food allergies, such as gluten intolerance.
“I really struggled to cook for them, I had to be really careful with the ingredients I put inside, how to cook, what oil to use,” she said.
KOBEYa, which falls under UAE-based distribution company Middle East Fuji Group, has a food menu that includes various western dishes such as burgers and pasta, as well as traditional Japanese cuisine like ramen.
Leiko explained that her aim was to create an eatery which has options for the “Dubai family.”
“I’ve been living here for 18 years, since 2003, I have an idea of the food people enjoy here. My kids are Japanese but love westernized food like pizza. They even love Arabic food more than Japanese food,” she said, adding that the restaurant’s kitchen is exclusively gluten-free.
She told Arab News Japan that importing gluten-free products can be difficult in certain cases, even when it comes to Japanese soy sauce.
“Soy sauce contains gluten, which many people don’t know, so we need to use non-gluten soy sauce” Leiko said. “Middle East Fuji Group imports all the ingredients, but it can be difficult to get certain things. Aside from being gluten-free, food products also cannot include alcohol or pork.”
KOBEYa has been operating since October 2019 and faced a difficult period throughout the global pandemic COVID-19 due to lockdowns and closures. However, Leiko explained that the situation was improving due to delivery operations. She added that UAE locals and residents stayed in the country throughout the summer period, attracting more customers to the restaurant.
According to Leiko, the restaurant’s demographic included a variety of nationalities, but the majority of guests were of Arab origin.
She said her dream was for the restaurant to turn into a long-term establishment, where customers can return after years and be able to reminisce the times they spent dining at KOBEYa.