Kohantei: An authentic taste of Japan in the heart of Downtown Dubai

Updated 12 April 2018
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Kohantei: An authentic taste of Japan in the heart of Downtown Dubai

DUBAI: It isn’t easy to find Kohantei. The fact that this tiny restaurant discreetly tucked away in an outbuilding next to Dubai Opera isn’t signposted, and that even the security guard wasn’t sure where it was, all seems intentional — part of the narrative that makes it the complete antithesis of the typical Dubai fine-dining restaurant.

But fine dining this certainly is. Kohantei serves traditional Kaiseki cuisine — Japan’s version of the French-style degustation menu, a high-end affair consisting of several small, meticulously prepared courses. But that’s only half the story; Kaiseki also refers to the culinary skills required to create the food, as well as the ritual of the experience, complete with refined and sincerely hospitable service.

Kohantei — which translates to ‘lakeside pavilion’ — stays true to its time-honored traditional roots in every way. You could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a ryoken in Kyoto once you enter the restaurant (shoes off at the entrance, of course), thanks to the minimalist décor in small private rooms separated by rice paper partitions. Patrons sit on sunken tables to replicate the traditional low seating, and the restaurant is staffed by an all-Japanese team led by celebrated executive chef Hisao Ueda.

You can select from six to eight courses, with price points varying according to number of courses and the produce used to create them. Ingredients are of paramount importance, with most being shipped directly from Japan twice weekly. They are treated with appropriate reverence by the chefs when creating the dishes. This is integral not only to the Kaiseki concept, but to food in Japan in general, and Kohantei follows the Kaiseki tradition in which suppliers actually vet restaurants before allowing them to cook and serve their produce.

That level of respect shows in the final product. Typically, a meal will start with an intricate appetizer such as marinated deep fried seafood with shallot and paprika, served with in-season canola flower topped with bonito flakes.

I could wax eloquent about the flavors, but since the available dishes largely depend on whatever is in season (the slightly bitter canola flower for example, is widely eaten in Japan in springtime as it has a detoxifying effect, our gracious hostess informed us) it wouldn’t matter.
Suffice to say that each course, from the delicately flavored seafood broth with silken tofu, bamboo shoot, and a Japanese-pepper herb garnish to the as-fresh-as-it-gets sashimi of salmon, tuna, and prawn, served with a fiery but delicious house-made wasabi, were meticulously crafted to elicit the maximum umami.

Beef plays a starring role at Kohantei, with the many options — an A4-grade Japanese Wagyu and 9+ Australian Wagyu in my case — proudly displayed raw at first, then cooked and served in a number of ways, including as a grilled dish with deep fried potato and shisito peppers with citrus soy sauce on the side; boiled and served with marinated onions as a cold dish, served, enjoyably but somewhat unusually, after a hot main course; and finally in an utterly delicious rice bowl with miso soup on the side.

A citrus sorbet provides an appropriately light and refreshing finish to the meal.

The Kohantei experience is as much a cultural education as it is a meal. For fans of Japan — both its cuisine and its customs — the restaurant is a must-try.


Australia offers reward amid mystery strawberry needle scare

wholesale prices had fallen by half to 50 Australian cents per punnet, below the cost of production. (Supplied)
Updated 17 September 2018
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Australia offers reward amid mystery strawberry needle scare

  • Several brands grown in Queensland have been withdrawn from supermarkets, and there have been multiple reports of other cases in the states of New South Wales and Victoria

SYDNEY: An Australian state has offered a large reward for information after sewing needles were found in strawberries sold in supermarkets, in what the federal health minister described as a “vicious crime.”
The issue came to light last week when a man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after eating the fresh produce bought at a supermarket in Queensland state.
Since then, people have posted on social media photos of other strawberries with small metal pins stuck into them.
Several brands grown in Queensland have been withdrawn from supermarkets, and there have been multiple reports of other cases in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
“Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia — they are putting an entire industry at risk,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Saturday.
Her government is offering a Aus$100,000 ($71,500) reward for any information that leads to the capture and conviction of those responsible.
“I would urge anyone with information that may be relevant to this incident in any way to contact police as soon as possible,” she added.
Queensland Police told national broadcaster ABC the contamination of the strawberries — usually sold in small plastic boxes called punnets — was done “obviously to injure somebody.”
They have yet to reveal possible motives but the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said a disgruntled former worker might be responsible.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday he had ordered the national food safety watchdog to assess the handling of the cases, calling the sabotage a “very vicious crime.”
The Queensland strawberry industry is valued at about Aus$160 million ($114 million). The ABC said Saturday wholesale prices had fallen by half to 50 Australian cents per punnet, below the cost of production.
Consumers have been urged to cut up their strawberries before eating.