Arab News Japan
Japanese restaurant Kimura-ya launched in 2020 in the United Arab Emirates, and has already opened its fourth branch at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Deira.
The restaurant plans to add a new perspective that contrasts the Japanese fine dining scene that has been dictating the city’s tempo for over a decade with a casual, quintessential culinary experience that serves dishes at reasonable prices and “feels like Japan.”
Kimura-ya is already a firm favorite in its home-town, with almost 200 successful outlets across Japan. The decision to expand into the UAE stemmed from growing public interest in authentic Japanese cuisine.
“There are a lot of Japanese fusion restaurants in Dubai, so we tried to open an authentic concept Japanese restaurant,” Mogi Takahiro, the Director and General Manager of Kimura-ya said in an exclusive interview with Arab News Japan.
Despite the vast options of Japanese restaurants available in the UAE, Takahiro said that he was yet to find one that was truly authentic in embodying the taste and feel of restaurants in Japan, which inclined him to introduce open one that is strictly traditional.
“Many local people love Japan, and I hear so many people try to travel to Japan and what they see in Japan and what they don’t have here is the food. Some people will ask us ‘where can we eat authentic Japanese food in Dubai?’ So it’s a hard question for me because actually there aren’t authentic Japanese restaurants in Dubai so now we are saying come to our restaurant to have authentic Japanese food,” Takahiro said.
Takahiro elaborated on his description of “authenticity” by saying that the way to truly capture the essence of Japan is by having the restaurant run by Japanese people, who have experienced the restaurant in the country and the category of food they specialize in, an aspect which he considers is missing from the current scene.
“There are so many Japanese restaurants in Dubai, but usually Japanese chefs are in the sushi section only. But how about the table choices, the interior choices, kitchen design, menu selection? These are usually selected by foreign owners. But ‘authentic’ means from Japan, made in Japan, so its better to have Japanese people in the management side. That’s why in our restaurant, we have Japanese Chefs, a Japanese manager and a Japanese owner, so that’s why we are able to truly have a Japanese concept,” Takahiro said.
Arrivals are greeted by a lighted wooden panel directing them towards a rack of traditional Japanese garments such as Kimonos, providing guests with dress-up experiences and photo-taking opportunities that allow them to explore an aspect of Japanese culture.
The surroundings encompass all the trappings of a classic Japanese restaurant: sleek interior, a window that overlooks a terrace, and another one with a chef standing on the opposing side, fastidiously slicing food. The surroundings are soft and welcoming, with shelves covered in Japanese toys encircling the entirety of the space and ceilings that are decorated with colorful kanji tapestries featuring unique designs that add to the restaurant’s playful touches.
Takahiro said that the casual interior aligns with their authentic theme.
“I wanted to make the interior exactly like Japan. It’s not gorgeous, or luxurious, but when guests enter they feel like they are in another country, they feel Japan,” Takahiro said.
The izakaya-style menu of traditional dishes is extensive and varied, with hundreds of options including signatures such as the ebi and shiitake Dashimaki, Takoyaki and Wagyu Tonpei Yaki and more. The main feature of the menu is the shabu shabu hotpot and the Japanese barbecue.
What separates Kimura-ya’s barbecue from others is that it offers Japanese Wagyu barbecue at an unlimited quantity, allowing guests to enjoy Wagyu, but without the hefty price.
Even with abundance, quality still comes first at Kimura-ya, as the majority of the ingredients are imported from Japan to maintain quality and taste.
Kimura-ya has also started a new Japanese Wagyu beef brand that imports beef from Japan.
“Japanese Wagyu beef is so expensive in Dubai because they use primary cut such as sirloin and tenderloin, which people use for steak. But one cow does not only consist of these parts. Most suppliers only import the primary cut, and in our restaurant, we have a hotpot and barbecue where we can use secondary parts. We realized that we can use the full cow for this part of the menu and have been trying to import these parts from Japan to Dubai, which could also be sold to other restaurants in the future,” Takahiro said.
Takahiro added that the success achieved in the UAE in terms of customer reception has prompted him to consider expanding into other countries in the GCC, such as Saudi Arabia, in order to further promote authentic Japanese food, culture, and more importantly, showcase “Asian power.”