In a city known for its numerous high-end brunch offerings, everyone has their go to spot. Some like Traiteur in the Park Hyatt, while some swear by the Al Qasr Brunch. Both, exceptional in their own ways.
Some like the rowdy kind, filled with a bus load of pikey types, double fisting Coronas while balancing a margarita or two under each armpit. Not my scene.
Me? I like to roll with a little bit of panache – like a Gentleman….Which brings me to the Zuma Brunch.
This Brunch has become one of the hottest reservations for a Friday afternoon in Dubai. It gets booked up super early, and you have to plan way ahead – good thing that I am a planner. It’s a family affair – The upstairs private dining area is converted into a play area for the little ones. My son, even though he is allergic to all kinds of seafood, loves the Zuma brunch. Kids used to be free – but now, they are half price or something.
How it works is like so – All the favourites are laid out near the sushi bar, and downstairs, around the Robata Grill. In the back, near the elevator, there is a desert station – so far, all buffet style. You take what you want, and get to select a main course from the menu. Pricing – three tiers – (1) Non Alcoholic, (2) House Beverages and (3) Champers. The non alcoholic tranche includes unlimited samplings of Zuma’s famed mocktails, which are delicious and varied.
So, we sit down, and we are offered up some fried squid, steamed and spicy edamame, and some miso soup. Drink orders are taken, and then we are free to get what we want from the buffet. The favourites are pretty much all here – a very strong selection of sushi/sashimi/maki, some kobe beef shabu shabu, ramen noodles, the steamed spinach with sesame, seaweed salad, sliced sea bass with yuzu and truffle, various sorts of tartare, beef sashimi, gyoza, a brilliant mushroom risotto, the obligatory yakitori skewers – the list literally goes on and on. If you love something at Zuma from the a la carte menu, it’s probably being served up in the buffet. One of the most tasty things they do is they roast a large ribeye roast on the robata – slice it up a perfect medium rare onto your plate and give you a little pile of flour de sel – salty, crunch, moist – magnificent.
Mushroom Risotto – This is lovely. The rice is cooked al dente (was a little underdone for some on our table, but I like it this way.). The flavour is earthy and robust, and there is a hint of truffle that you can catch. It can be a little tough to find for the first timers – here is a clue – look in front of the grill. There will be a wooden serving bowl with a wooden cover – lift up the cover and help yourself.
The Maki Counter – Soft Shell Crab (my favourite), Spicy Tuna, California, Zuma’s classic Chirashi Maki, tempura, egg, eel, cucumber – if you can name it, the sushi chefs can likely roll it and serve it up. Everything is freshly made – there isn’t an exorbitant quantity of few items, like at many sushi buffets, so it keeps turnover high and the servers are always refreshing the offering. The rolls are tightly wrapped, the rice is subtly flavoured, and the main ingredients are left to sing their own glory. A little dip of soy, and you are good to go.
The fried heads from the shrimp served up for the sushi – they may look daunting, but if you haven’t tried them, and like soft shell crab, you MUST! They are crunchy and packed with the flavour you would expect from the heads of shrimp, crawfish, lobster etc. At a crawfish boil, you pinch the tail and suck the head. Try these ones too – they are surprisingly tasty!
This came from the robata grill – lamb riblets and seared scallops. The lamb was outstanding – crispy on the outside and moist, fatty and delicious on the inside. Scallops – of course, delicious. Just lightly seared, so not to damage the delicate insides – still cool and sweet on the inside, like these gems should taste like. People who over cook or over prep scallops need to be put on trial.
These may look simple but if you head to this brunch, make sure you get the grilled chicken wings. These are delicious – nothing on the menu is over spiced, so if you are someone who loves overtly spiced food, this is not for you – ingredients are of the highest quality, and are left relatively un-assaulted. You can taste individual flavours, layers and really appreciate what you are eating, rather than focusing on sucking air between your two eye teeth, because what you are eating is so darn spicy! Back to the wings – charcoal grilled, crispy, moist – fantastic.
Beef Yakitori and Black Cod Gyoza – Superbly tender beef on a bamboo skewer and grilled – served with a sweet teriyaki type sauce. Some on the table considered the beef to be vastly underdone – in all fairness, the temperature was close to rare. Perfection for me is a nice medium rare, but I don’t mind if it skews more towards rare, and less towards medium. I thought they were very nice. Not a big fan of the gyoza (dumpling) however, as the black cod inside was a little mushy for my taste – I thought it was unfair to take such a firm, flaky flesh and turn it into mush.
Ramen – Take your noodles, get them freshly heated, add some toppings and enjoy – not my cup of tea, but people seemed to enjoy it.
Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu – An elegant take on what has become a fast food phenomenon. A chef takes a few pieces of kobe beef, takes them lightly through a broth, and serves them up to you in a little bowl, with some sauce. It was lovely!
A slice of the ribeye roast on the robata grill, with some flour de sel on the side.
On to the sushi course. Sweet Shrimp (Ama Ebi) Nigiri in the foreground – Sweet Shrimp is served raw, as opposed to regular shrimp (you can see it at the back of the plate) which is served cooked. A little slimy, but sublime. You see a piece of Salmon (Sake) Nigiri, and a Spicy Scallop Roll to right. Won’t get into too much detail on these – Zuma is a highly rated Japanese restaurant. Rest assured, all sushi is magnificent.
Octopus (Tako) and Tuna (Maguro) Sashimi
The Spicy Scallop Roll
This is what it all comes down to! The Toro. In Sushi making, the most valued ingredient comes from Tuna and is called Toro. This is the fatty cut of the fish (most likely from the belly). There are two kinds usually – Otoro and Chutoro. Otoro is the better, MUCH more expensive kind – obviously the kind of the buffet counter was not this type. Regardless, melt in your moth delicious. Compare the colour of the Toro with the Maguro (Tuna) a few pics above – the Maguro is a vivid red – almost maroon. The Toro is a light pink, with clearly visible marbling. Texture wise, the Maguro is fleshier, tougher, more rigid, if that makes sense (it’s still lovely!) – the Toro is tender, buttery, melt in your mouth, and so rich. This is magnificent stuff, which you must put on your gastronomy bucket list!
What happens when you take a regular piece of sushi, and gently torch the fish? You get the Aburi style of sushi preparation. The taste changes – you are not cooking the fish here, but merely caramelizing the very top of it – this elevates the taste to another level. You get the fish, and the seasoned rice, but you get a new dimension of smoke, sweetness from the caramelization, and an enhanced aroma. Very, very tasty.
Salmon (Sake) and Maguro Sashimi
After eating all of the above, if you thought you were done, think again. Zuma has a list of main courses for you to choose from. The Adults get to choose from the main menu, and the kids get a choice of mini burgers/sliders, fish and chips, nuggets etc. My lil guy picked the mini burgers. On the main menu, you have your choice of (cut and paste from the Zuma menu):
Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Sesame, Chilli and Sweet Soy – A Zuma staple. A beautiful, tender cut of beef tenderloin, grilled and served with a sweet, and spicy sauce. Very well prepared, and hard not to like.
Miso Marinated Black Cod, Wrapped in Hoba Leaf – Zuma’s version of the Nobu classic. Very good, but as mentioned in my Nobu review, Nobu is still number 1.
Jumbo Tiger Prawn with Yuzu Pepper – Firstly, apologies – the picture came after I had already started pecking away. Very nice sized Prawn, with the meat already cut into bit size pieces that make eating it with a pair of chopsticks very simple. The Yuzu Pepper sauce provided a very nice citrus backdrop to bring out the delicate flavour of the prawn.
And finally, the little guy’s mini burgers and fries!
I’m not much of a desert person, as anyone visiting our home will tell you. We always seem to focus entirely on the dinner itself – desert, when it is remembered at all, is largely just thrown together at the last-minute. That being said, I didn’t take any pictures of the desert station. They have the obligatory chocolate fountain, cakes and ice cream, but where there seems to be a large line up for is the belgian waffle station – waffles are made up to order, and there is a smorgasbord of toppings that you can pile on – from chocolate sauce and whipped creams to berries and other fruit. The chocolate offerings are present, but me, the non desert eater, would like to recommend two things:
1. Green Tea and Banana Cake with Hot Toffee Sauce – The cake is cut tall and some hot sauce is poured over it to order. Its fantastic.
2. Chawan Mushi – The egg custard – Its rich, and smooth and just amazing. There is a passionfruit foam they put on top with some exotic fruits and it’s just magnificent.
So obviously, I like this place. A fantastic afternoon our with my family to our favourite brunch in town. Would highly recommend this for anyone who hasn’t tried it – you really can’t go wrong – everything is delicious. A wonderful way to try out all of Zuma’s wonderful offerings, without going through the a la carte menu, one by one.
Till Next Time