Chef Reif Othaman adds his Midas touch to the Ikigai menu bringing chic Japanese cuisine to an izakaya-inspired eatery and bar at Millennium Place Marina.

Cindy Bailey

From the bustling taverns of Japan to Dubai Marina, comes the new social Japanese restaurant, Ikigai. Taking its name from the Japanese concept, “Reason for Being”, this restaurant and bar offer delicious Japanese street food. Acclaimed chef, Reif Othman – who has being at the helm of an array of impressive restaurants such as Zuma, Play and Billionaire Mansion – provides an authentic taste to the Ikigai menu. While head chef Minho Ted Shin brings a fresh, edgy, and unique take on the Japanese culinary scene in Dubai. From grilled tiger prawns with Kombu butter to crispy tempura burgers, Ikigai’s menu gives diners the chance to sample Japanese influenced dishes with mix-and-match plates that are ideal for sharing. And we love it.

Ikigai’s artistic interiors are funky and chic, while the ambience is laidback, that’s partly due to intricate wooden interiors, mood lighting and graffiti murals. We were sat at our table, had a quick and informative chat with our server and were swiftly served spicy edamame, which was bursting with flavour and had us politely pretending we weren’t licking our fingers.

This was followed by a series of small plates, with the standouts being the thinly sliced tuna with a truffle ponzu sauce and Wagyu beef tataki with goma truffle sauce – we may have fought over the last of these.  We then had a series of sushi and plenty of sashimi. Our favourite was the salmon and avocado with lemon mayo – so simple, yet it tasted sublime.

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This was followed by one of the most tender and succulent burgers I’ve ever had the of pleasure eating. I know, it seems ‘wrong’ to order a burger when dining in a Japanese restaurant, but I have no regrets. In fact, I’m going to order it again on our next visit to Ikigai. What was so special about this burger you ask? Well, it was a perfect blend of wagyu and Angus meat, miso caramelised onions and cheese sandwiched between a soft, lightly toasted brioche bun.  My date ordered another standout dish, a 200g Wagyu rib eye with an ancho soy glaze and, according to him, was the best dish of the night. It was difficult to compete with the delicate and succulent flavour the rib eye offered us. I, of course, requested a bite after my husbands bold statement. This dish, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson, makes me want to be a better writer.

Dessert was sweet potato semifreddo with fried mochi and Valrhona chocolate goma fondant with vanilla ice cream – both were a tasty interpretation of popular desserts.

Located at Millennium Place Marina, the restaurant is the perfect spot for Marina residents who need a pick-me-up after work or catching up with friends on a chilled Saturday afternoon. And while the dining scene in Dubai may be saturated, Ikigai’s service and its delicious food make it shine brighter than the rest.