Contrary to the gourmet dish it has arguably turned into today, the concept of sushi started as a humble street food peddled along the busy streets of Tokyo.
Every day, a throng of workers, particularly factory employees, would cap off their day by munching on these cheap, wasabi-soaked delicacies.
Sushi has come a long way since then, turning from an ordinary-man meal into a staple in every Japanese restaurant, and sometimes in non-Japanese ones too.
Taking this love for sushi, and Japanese food in general, to a new level is Spanish restaurant 99 Sushi Bar, which opened its first location overseas at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island.
Blending traditional Far East minimalism aesthetics with dashes of industrial flair, the restaurant stuns with its elegant ambiance accentuated by wooden tables, red velvet and black leather chairs and warm lighting.
There’s even an outdoor seating area for those wanting to enjoy the cool weather along with the scenic city views made more fantastic in the evening.
We warm up by trying the king crab au gratin, a delectable seafood starter highlighted with crabmeat garnished with creamy tobiko yuzu, or fish roe, for a crunchy texture. We scoop down instantly to enjoy its sweet-savoury taste.
Next in line is the tiger prawn tempura, which is highly recommended by the staff as one of the menu’s signature dishes.
Splendid in look and taste, the shrimp, which is juicy in its own right, is covered in a light golden brown batter for added crunch. The accompanying spicy, creamy sauce gives a zesty kick to every bite.
Exemplifying the restaurant’s innovative spirit and showmanship is the matsuri maki roll, which is topped with tuna flakes that instantly wither in dance-like motion when poured with jalapeño sauce.
We finish our meal with another fish delicacy, this time ordering the 99 black cod. Good for sharing, this mouth-watering treat is made from Alaskan cod with double layers of red miso for a slightly bitter taste that still allows the fish’s natural flavour to stand out.
To be clear, you won’t find 99 sushi varieties here, as perhaps the name suggests.
Nonetheless, the rich selection of sushi and other dishes is more than enough to prove that this traditional delicacy is still constantly evolving and will likely continue to do so for many generations to come.
Need to know:
Location: 99 Sushi, The Galleria, Al Maryah Island
We say: A classy take on Japanese cuisine
Cost: AED 458 for two
Opening times: Daily noon-3.30pm and 7pm-midnight
Contact: 02 672 3333, 99sushibar.com