Shams El -Mutwalli Dubai
Japanese café, Simply Oishii, brings a taste of Japan to Dubai with their selection of authentic Japanese pastries and parfaits, launched in March 2019 by Indian born, UAE bred Sabitha Abdul Salim.
The inspiration behind the restaurant is rooted in a fascination with Japanese culture, specifically anime.
“Once while watching Detective Conan (anime series), I saw him eating a tall glass of delectable fruits and ice-cream. It looked different from the normal ice-cream and I searched a lot to find out its name. Later in another episode of Detective Conan, I saw someone snatch his glass and he was crying, ‘Parfait Parfait’. It was then I came to know its name,” Abdul Salim told Arab News Japan.
This resulted in Abu Salim eventually visiting Japan during the infamous Sakura season.
“Two years later my family accompanied me to Japan and on tasting parfaits they began to encourage me to start a parfait shop in Dubai. Thus, Simply Oishii was born,” she said.
Abu Salim stressed how the café has a clear concept inspired by Japanese pop-culture aesthetic Kawaii, and Oishi, meaning ‘delicious.’
This conceptual framework, and the founder’s dedication to it resulted in the integration of Japanese cultural elements in both the food and overall ambiance because of their eye-catching merchandise.
“We have adorned the place with Kitsune masks, Noh masks, Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival), Daruma dolls, Oiran dolls, Hakata figurines, Kokeshi dolls and various anime figurines. Each figure is an authentic one procured from antique stores in Japan,” she told Arab News Japan.
Visiting customers can also take up activities like origami to create pieces that are hung up on the ceiling or taken home, they can also enjoy reading from the café’s selection of manga.
The interior of the café is also influenced by Japan, especially the various Kumiko wooden panels, famed woodwork of Japan, on the walls.
Abu Salim shared that “we have adorned the shop walls with different Kumiko panels and have named on each panel its Japanese name” as “part of our effort to reflect the Japanese culture in the restaurant.”
Japanese culture is equally reflected in the food, as the café serves pastries ranging from Japanese Cheesecake to NamaShokupan bread, as well as various savoury options like sushi, bentos, and ramen.
The café prides itself on being the only café to import Hakurikiko (Japanese cake flour), to use in their desserts, giving them a “moister and fluffier” texture, typical of Japanese cakes that appeal to Simply Oishii’s “very loyal Japanese clientele base.”
The café is also renowned for their flavoured lattes like their Purple Potato Latte and matcha latte.
They also sell playful looking pastries modelled after anime characters, as their “cream puffs are shaped as Rilakumma bears” and their macaroons take on a range of other anime characters.
Abu Salim has observed that while in most cuisines like her own, “flavors merge together, in Japanese cuisine I have felt that each flavor is distinctive,” she told Arab News Japan.
While Abu Salim admires the distinctiveness of Japanese flavours, it is her admiration of it that has brought together customers of various cultural landscapes, including Emiratis, and encouraged them to experience various facets of Japanese culture within a setting that is fundamentally Arab.