The inaugural picks.
Shortlisted for Hottest Newcomer
Cuisine Japanese Fusion
By Jou Pabalate
Spread across two floors, Riyadh’s latest Japanese hot spot on busy Tahliya Street has hit its stride in no time. It pacified skeptics, like myself, wary of concept outposts with carefully orchestrated dishes that harmonizes texture, theatrics and flavors.
On an adventurous mood, I skipped the menu, asking Ricky Gracias, restaurant manager for dishes that would satisfy my recent cravings for textured dishes with full-bodied flavors that don’t immediately overwhelm. The “wagyu and foie gras kushiyaki” alone managed to exceed my expectations in one simple solid blow. The tender wagyu provided the texture I was after, and having that foie gras meet my palate mid-bite was unraveling. For mains, two plates have me craving as I type this: The Zuke lamb, in all its succulent glory, and the smooth, moist black cod melts in your mouth.
The signature dark glam interiors are all there, including towering samurai statues and commissioned murals done by a Saudi artist. I expect social diners to flock for their mandatory “I was here” stories. But even if we strip away the playful presentations, piquing sushi/sashimi, and mocktail bars, OKKU would still be on the list of any epicurean.
Riyadh and Jeddah
Cuisine Asian Fusion
By Jou Pabalate
When it comes to Asian food, my go to are hole in the walls, hawkers, and streets. Rarely do I seek out fine dining restaurants for them. TOKI, with its revival in Riyadh and the consistency in Jeddah however however, is an exception. The sophisticated interiors and bustling ambience already sets the mood and the food rises to the occasion. The service is noteworthy, with staff that I’m close to assuming can read your mind and anticipate your needs without being intrusive.
Leave it to Chef Peter, who I have followed since he landed in Riyadh (culinary stalking is okay) to serve dishes that has just enough fusion in them to elevate the flavors while keeping the authentic core intact. The wasabi prawns and salmon sashimi is a kick and a twist that jumpstarts your experience. The Cod, as always proved to be the star of the table, smooth, silky and divine. I enjoy punctuating my evenings at TOKI with their Lychee bowl, theatrics paired with jasmine tea.
What can I say? If I’m going to done my best abaya for a night out of town and feeling a Mulan song coming on; there’s no other place I’d rather chill than this haut.
San Carlo Cicchetti
By Zahra Anwer
Located in the heart of Riyadh, Cicchetti (repeat after us: chi-ket-tee) is the latest chic concept by the folks behind Nozomi. With its small yet hearty plates laden with high-rolling ingredients, you can either share or eat alone. We particularly have fond memories of the Vitello Tonnato, lamb cutlets, Truffle and Pecorino Ravioli, as well as our favorite, decadent Filleto Fughi.