Review: Kinoya, Dubai: A Story of Food
Kinoya: A Dubai Story Of Food
Kinoya, Floor P2, The Onyx Tower 2, The Greens, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 15 courses, 5 glasses of wine, 2 half-pints Asahi, 3 bottles of water: 1,157 dhs (US$315, €260, £224). Menu prices include ramen (50 - 60 dhs), kobachi (20 - 60 dhs), tempura (30 - 82 dhs), hot-pot (130 dhs), sushi (38 - 110 dhs), sashimi (50 - 116 dhs), robata (40 - 100dhs), rice (25-76 dhs), soup and salad (15 - 45 dhs) and desserts (18 - 45 dhs). +9714 548 6776; kinoya.ae.
Kinoya delivers comfortable, casual Japanese izakaya dining pushing a Dubai supper club favourite into the big leagues.
Written by EatGoSee // See more food reviews here.
Magnificently affordable dining in a city that overcharges for Japanese food
Casual neighbourhood eating spot
Licensed restaurants in leafy residential area
Local home supper club hero successfully pivots to the mainstream
Early teething signs where some dishes are not quite the best version of themselves
The service needs more support on the floor
The booking system needs improvement
Low (or at least unclear) vegetarian options
Social media enthusiasm creates unreliable hysteria and expectations
Kinoya: Dubai’s Story of Food
Neha Mishra, Kinoya’s chef, attracts a loyal cult due to a strong run curating one of Dubai’s most notable supper clubs. These supper clubs eluded me never mind a close friend enthused over the simmering depth and richness of the infamous ramen broths.
Now Kinoya’s buzzing BrothHive create hype, demand and expectations. Let’s put a pin in that and return to it later.
Kinoya’s a brand new Japanese restaurant in Dubai serving dishes including this masu matcha parfait (40dhs)
Kinoya opens to a crowded Dubai market
Kinoya’s Japanese themed decor and licensed bar
Kinoya offers much needed casual izakaya dining
Kinoya admirably sheds the glamour trappings that plague Dubai restaurants. Kinoya is accessible, intimate, casual and bright. A space where friends slump and catch up after work. A neighbourhood izakaya to share stories over a (few) brisk Asahi beers after a long week (35 dhs for half-pints on draught, full pints available). People want to come together after months of being apart. We need more of these unpretentious get-togethers littered across Dubai.
Hungry diners may want the ramen bar so as to better bear witness to Neha assemble her craft. More private dining rooms are available and of the moment for people who want even more social distancing. Our group sat in the main dining room.
Kinoya’s ramen dining room
Kinoya’s menu offers fantastic value
Kinoya’s five beef gyoza dumplings are lysing with meaty filling accompanied by mounds of ginger-infused daikon and soy for dredging (52 dhs). A Flintstone-sized miso butter aubergine arrives flanked by toasted sesame seeds and gossamer-thin bonito shavings (35 dhs!). The glossy aubergine drips with moisture and purrs with smokiness. The bonito flakes add much-needed umami (but perhaps they should be served on top of the aubergine?). The dish demonstrates that vegetarian dishes make for exciting food. But wait, this aubergine is not marked “vegetarian” (perhaps the bonito).
Neha is known for her ramen. Our quest leads us towards two dishes. Firstly, her shoyu ramen of slow-cooked chicken broth with shoyu tare and, secondly, the chicken broth with miso, chilli and garlic paste (both 50 dhs for regular, 60 dhs for large). Between the two, I gravitate back to the spicy miso chicken ramen for the interplay between spice and the umami-dense miso.
Our table is divided by the burnt butter scallops (50 dhs). I would return to this pudgy duo of seared bivalves and their murky, ochre brown butter pool. We agreed the slivered mushrooms were strong challengers to the scallops. Neha, if you’re reading, please provide a dish of these mushrooms in a ladened butter-drenched heap. It deserves a place on the menu.
Kinoya’s beef gyozas (52 dhs); miso butter aubergine (35 dhs)
Kinoya’s Slow Cooked Chicken Broth with Chilli, Miso and Garlic Paste (60 dhs, large); Burnt Butter Scallops (50 dhs)
Kinoya’s dishes do need some work
I liked Kinoya, but I did not love it. We devoured a sizeable portion of Kinoya’s menu. Most dishes are not yet their best version. Modest adjustments would amplify a solid foundation. Under-seasoned dishes were a clear theme. The shatteringly crisp quintet of prawn tempura (55 dhs) and the crusted karaage coupled with spicy unctuous mayo (50 dhs) need more seasoning, maybe a finishing salt.
Kinoya’s Prawn Tempura (55 dhs); Chicken karaage (50 dhs)
Our wagyu tsukune dishes presents four skewered, bulbous meatballs aching to be rubbed vigorously into an awaiting proud egg yolk (62 dhs for two skewers). The tsukune’s soggy mouthfeel leaves a lot to be desired; it feels like a beefy milk cake. A few more moments smoking away on a hibachi would introduce some much-wanted bite.
Kinoya’s wagyu tsukune with egg yolk (62 dhs); Kinoya is licensed with draught Asahi starting at 35 dhs
The bolshy, salted mackerel with its glistening blistered skin begs to be subdued with some acid (110 dhs). Instead, the mackerel is partnered with an ant-hill of soy-drenched daikon that is simply not up to the task.
The cuboid slab of egg flan with kumquat curd wobbles luxuriantly but the overwhelming acrid bitterness renders the dish memorable for all the wrong reasons (35 dhs).
Kinoya’s salted mackerel (62 dhs); Egg flan
Would I Return to Kinoya?
Kinoya is an admirably well-priced, casual, licensed Japanese restaurant producing good dishes. There are development areas leaving tell-tale signs of the pivot from supper club to the big leagues. The comments about the food are repeated.
In addition, Kinoya suffers from chronic popularity which causes two key issues: strained service and strenuous bookings.
The service is overwhelmed by the sheer demand. Kinoya is visibly understaffed for a Wednesday night. COVID19 restrictions may well limit Kinoya’s ability to add more floor staff.
Yet some simple early wins would drive efficiency. The service will learn to refresh plates and ramen spoons after every few courses. Customers do not want to taste the first course 6 courses later. Kinoya’s floor team will also learn to provide serving spoons with chunky dishes. Both the miso butter aubergine and salted mackerel fillet became unexpected team-building exercises as we faced precariously dissecting each dish armed with only chopsticks.
Securing a booking is an endurance test. You can call Kinoya repeatedly without anyone picking up. Online booking systems are available. Alternatively, save a select number of tables as walk-in seats for punters who want to throw the dice.
Still, I will return to Kinoya because the highs outstretch the lows. The lows are manageable. Kinoya must not grow comfortable with its hot girl summer status. Many restaurants come and go in 12 months. Bigger Asian restaurants with bigger name chefs and substantial financial backing exited Dubai.
Now, let’s return to the BrothHive
Unsustainable expectations surround Kinoya due to the BrothHive’s hyperbole.
Kinoya is not the thigh-slapping, lip-bitingly experience that the Instapshere makes it out to be, and that’s fine. Still, the BrothHive needs to take several seats. Voracious social media creates expectations that are both unfair to the restaurant and wildly misleading to the public at large.
This is a casual, neighbourhood izakaya churning out ramen, yakitori and more. This is not the best restaurant in Dubai but it does not need to be.
Customers: read through the noise. Consider your expectations managed. The BrothHive and other so-called social media “foodies” need to be more responsible.
Who Should Come to Kinoya?
Dubai folks looking for a relaxed lunch or an evening casually sipping chilled Asahi and nibbles. Ramen lovers. Japanese food enthusiasts. Anyone living close to The Greens. People looking for a more affordable night out that still feels special.