Koi Restaurant & Lounge, St Regis, Saadiyat Island – Abu Dhabi

Valentine’s may have passed, but the romance hasn’t. Fresh from a fairy-tale-esque romantic Bali trip, where the better half popped the question (yes I am officially engaged) – he wished to commemorate the first day that we laid eyes on each other, by taking me to Koi – a contemporary Japanese restaurant, located at St Regis Resort, Saadiyat Island. Now to those who have been avidly reading about my life experiences, you would know that I simply love St Regis – I have come to call it my second home. So extra brownie points for taking me back to a place I have a close affinity to.

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When entering into the restaurant, I was immediately struck by the dimly lit cavernous feeling of the place – the inviting bar lounge giving way to a romantic and intimate dining area – infused with simple yet trendy decor that gives the feeling of freshness, crispness and cleanliness. An aura of zen like peace and tranquility envelopes you – suffice to say, the ambiance was top notch.

After being escorted to our table, we were introduced to Wiwid, our attendant par extraordinaire from the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles (Indonesia) – and it just felt like everything was coming together quite nicely. With a genuine warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes, he advised us that the restaurant is California-style Japanese and some of the dishes feature a contemporary take on Japanese classics – this got me intrigued. Whilst we were diligently studying the menu, Wiwid offered me a delectable Saketini cocktail – apparently this is one of their signature drinks, and truth be told it tasted divine (highly recommended).

We started out culinary journey at Koi, by feasting on slivers of salmon carpaccio and black truffles shavings in a ponzu dressing. I could never say no to salmon in all its beautiful omega glory – with the citrusy ponzu dressing, the salmon carpaccio proved to be a sensational and sophisticated opener to our culinary journey at Koi. The salmon tasted extremely fresh and it just melted in my mouth – brought a satisfying smile to our faces – definite winner.

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We then moved on to creamy rock shrimp tempura – the tempura was brilliant – very light, crisp and really flavourful. The crispy pieces of fried shrimp slathered in a delicious sweet and tangy sauce had just the right amount of kick, proving to be another highlight of the evening. Both the appetizers set the bar very high – combination of flavours and textures heightened my expectation for the rest of the meal, and we wondered what other pleasant surprises were in store.

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After ordering a refill of the amazing Saketini, Wiwid brought a sashimi platter to our table – and my jaw literally dropped. It was a work of art with the vibrant colours – the presentation took my breath away – it was so beautiful I almost didn’t want to eat it. Wiwid turns up at our table again – this time with a fresh wasabi root, and proceeds to grate it in front of us, with a bit of theatre and gusto. The sashimi assortment consisted of toro, tuna, yellowtail, seabream, salmon and salmon roe. Needless to say, the pink toro with its rich buttery flavour was sensational. Come to think of it, I didn’t even want to dip the sashimi into any sauces as the natural fresh flavour was so delicious – made for an explosive blend of quality and style.

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The signature Koi dragon rolls followed next – crunchy shrimp tempura and baked crab are encased in a wrap of sushi rice and eel, with a blaze of mayonnaise and sriracha sauce. What can I say, cooked sushi at its best – had me wanting more, a lot more.

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We decided to take some time to enjoy more Saketini’s and were introduced to the resident mixologist Terence – who captivated us with a very interesting chat on how to make Saki. Fascinating really! By then the first of our main course was brought to our table – miso bronzed black cod. Once again, the presentation was amazing with the miso glaze a thing of beauty. The cod was cooked perfectly – I can’t get over how soft and buttery the texture was, yet still delicate and flaky – it practically melted in my mouth. Top notch and highly recommended.

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Our second main course was “Kobe” style filet mignon with asparagus and mushrooms – served medium rare, turned out to excellent, really excellent – buttery in texture, succulent and tender with a wonderfully mild flavour. Possibly one of the best beef dishes I’ve had in a long time – got my stamp of approval.

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By now, we were absolutely stuffed but after a short dessert presentation from our friendly server, I opted for the chocolate fondant, and was immediately transported to desserts heaven. It was an exquisite choice since the combination of sweetness, texture and flavours made each bite as gratifying as the next – perfect way to end the meal.

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All in all, in Koi I may have found my favourite restaurant in Abu Dhabi and possibly the whole of UAE – everything came together perfectly that evening. The service was fantastic, presentation took my breath away and the food was top notch – will definitely return to try out more of their unique dishes, and most certainly for the Saketinis.

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