Modern Japanese in Downtown Dubai

Toko delivers style, sophistication and stunning food.

Neil Churchill September 26, 2014


Toko oozes modern-Japanese style as soon as you walk through the funky, oversized door. A wooden interior, hanging lamps and snaking passages gives it the feeling of a minimalistic library, with textured walls adding warmth to the larger rooms. A separate bar area is tucked away from those dining, while the outside terrace is more eclectic with colourful paper umbrellas hanging above tables.


It is clear that this isn’t a Japanese restaurant stuck in the last millennia, but one that acknowledges the huge growth in popularity for Far Eastern cuisine over the last decade. Modern house music fills the restaurant, becoming progressively louder throughout the evening. The crowd is made up of equal parts businessmen, small groups of friends and couples scattered across the dining floor, creating a steady hum of conversation.


Based on the informal, Japanese dining principle of izakaya, the dishes are made to share. We started with soft shell crab tempura, which looked as impressive as the tasty accompanying wasabi mayonnaise. The rock shrimp tempura was refreshingly light with a spicy mayo, but the Wagyu beef gyoza was the standout dish – the tender meat proving incredibly moreish.

The okaki maguro – tuna on crispy rice layered with truffle oil – had a more gentle taste than you would expect, though it may not be to everyone’s palate. If raw tuna and truffle is the stuff of your dreams, then order a half dozen of them.

The spicy baby chicken severed in a hoba leaf and soaked with lemon soy sauce was incredibly good. When a chef can make something as simple as chicken taste that flavoursome, it’s a sign of a great kitchen.

We couldn’t judge a Japanese restaurant on its Dubai standing without tasting the black cod, of course, and Toko’s is up there with the very best. Its creamy, soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture gives way to an exquisite taste that, in all honesty, makes this dish hard to share.

The dessert bento boxes offer a range of the kitchen’s most popular offerings. The panna cotta is small but well done, the yuzu cheesecake is light and the sorbet selection is typically refreshing. But the hazelnut fondant is the pick of the bunch, made from four different chocolates.


It’s everything you’d expect from a modern, high-class Japanese.

Details: Vida Hotel, Downtown, Dubai. visit