Hi there – I’m Courtney, an American expat behind the blog A to Za'atar, which seeks out unique culinary and hospitality experiences from the UAE and beyond. I’m currently living in Dubai and have lived in the GCC since 2007 (including stays in Doha and Abu Dhabi). When I'm not working on a novel, I enjoy visiting new destinations and sabering champagne.
Entering my tenth year in Dubai, I have nothing but fond memories of the Crowne Plaza hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. While I had previously focused on dining at either Wagamama or enjoying a ubiquitous night at Trader Vic's, Sakura only recently popped on my radar. Although I was curious about the Izakaya Nights (which occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -- starting at AED 195 per person, AED295 with alcohol), Hubs and I decided to make a reservation for a quieter evening, and were able to enjoy an entire grill experience to ourselves. Located in between Oscar's Vine Society and Al Tannour on the fourth floor, is Sakura, a Japanese restaurant, complete with a sushi counter, teppanyaki grills, and two private tatami rooms.
In case you've never visited a teppanyaki restaurant, or experienced the style of cooking, a group is sat together facing a hot grill. Prior to the chef arriving, there are usually a number of courses to enjoy first. In our case, as part of the menu, we had miso soup, a fresh green salad (topped with my favourite carrot ginger dressing), gyoza (both beef and chicken), and as part of my set menu, sashimi (as an alternative, I could've had tempura). Having given our orders at the start of the meal -- the Samurai Special for my husband (AED 263) and the Kaisenyaki Special for me (AED 315), the chef, with his wonderful basket of proteins, arrived at our table with a smile on his face and ready to impress us with his skills. It's worth noting that should you not be in the mood for teppanyaki, there are plenty of other options for you at Sakura (including a variety of sushi rolls, bento boxes, traditional Japanese mains, and other rice and noodle dishes).
As the chef started his preparation, we leaned in and watched as the show begin. Having trained for four years, our chef was a professional and showed off any number of grill skills including: a flaming onion volcano, various (and unexpected) shapes made out of rice and vegetables, fun and quick knife work, and of course, absolutely delicious food. We received fried rice, teppan vegetables, and a variety of proteins. Hubs opted for the steak and chicken, while I tried the seafood, and we were both given a trio of dips which accompanied the food.
I think it goes without saying that a meal at Sakura is not a standard dinner experience. The venue would be a great place for a dinner out with colleagues, a night out with friends, or a fun stop with out of town guests. If you had a group of eight, you would be able to book a grill for yourselves. Furthermore, if you are into sharing things on social media (which, let's face it, I definitely am), then you'll have an evening of Instagrammable moments to go along with your yummy dishes.
My suggestions? Plan on at least two hours to enjoy the full experience. Also, while there are other flavourful Japanese options at Sakura, go for the teppanyaki -- it's definitely worth the experience. Finally, I found the specials to offer an abundance of food, so absolutely bring your appetite (we ended up bringing food home!). If you are interested in smaller portions, I think it's probably best to pick your favourite meat and simply eat that (with perhaps an accompaniment of edamame, soup, or a salad). When I go back, I would opt for the Wagyu sirloin and call it a night. :)
Ultimately, the all you can eat Izakaya Nights would give you the best value for money and my biggest recommendation for enjoying dinner at Sakura. Finally, while there is parking at the back of the property, driving the slip road around this part of Sheikh Zayed Road can be a bit hectic, so I'd just plan to treat yourself to a cab there and back!
The restaurant, which is open for dinner, is located on the 4th floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel, on Sheikh Zayed Road (Dubai). For bookings and more information, call them at 04 4535425.
Have you been to Sakura? Do you have a favourite teppanyaki 'move' that you look forward to?
Disclaimer: A to Za'atar was a guest of Sakura. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.