Netsu iftar review: traditional Japanese by way of Wagyu beef grilled in rice straw

The Dubai restaurant uses warayaki cooking in its three-course Ramadan menu

Japanese restaurant Netsu offers warayaki-grilled Wagyu beef on its iftar menu. Photo: Netsu
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I had never broken my fast with a warayaki-style iftar. Until recently, that is, when Japanese restaurant Netsu extended this intriguing premise to its Ramadan menu this year.

The chic and popular Dubai venue is serving up an iftar that makes good on the traditional warayaki grilling method, in addition to featuring other signature items.

The three-course meal comprises four starters, a choice of main and dessert. Edamame, water and fresh juices are also served prior to and during the main meal.

What to expect and where to sit?

The Japanese restaurant exudes a modern and elegant vibe. Photo: Netsu

You are in the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira so, not surprisingly, Netsu exudes a studied cool, with its high ceiling, wood-panelled floors and drawings of fierce Japanese warriors on large columns, in addition to old images inspired by kabuki theatre on the walls.

The centrepiece is the curved wooden bar providing a clear view of the kitchen and its signature feature: the traditional warayaki straw grill, which gives meat a distinct smoky flavour.

For foodies wanting to see how the magic happens, the wooden bar stools are comfortable enough for dining. Those looking for a more relaxed experience can take tables at the back of the restaurant. These are ideal for privacy, yet allow you to take in the elegant surroundings.

Looking for a resort vibe? Then dine on the outdoor terrace facing the sea. Those seats are hot property, according to staff, so reservations are essential.

The menu

With the iftar service available for two hours from 6.30pm, Netsu ensures no time is wasted by offering a swiftly served menu big in flavours.

The customary dates are not served; instead I break my fast with a glass of water and fresh, piping-hot edamame served with sea salt.

Up next is a bowl of delicious Korean fried chicken. The skin is crispy, and coated with a vibrant sweet and sour sauce and sesame seeds, while the inside is beautifully tender.

Since my dining partner is a pescatarian, she indulges in the eight-piece maki roll filled with prawn tempura, avocado and takuwan (pickled yellow radish).

The weakest link among the appetisers is the Japanese pickles. Consisting of small pieces of shredded pickled red onions, aubergine and the mild-flavoured daikon radish, the modest plate is perhaps better suited as a garnish for the maki rolls and fried chicken than being its own starter dish.

The addition of Netsu’s popular miso soup would have resulted in an overall winning first course.

The “chef's cut” of Wagyu beef is where Netsu's biggest weapon, the warayaki grill, comes into play.

With grilling temperatures of up to 900°C, the traditional Japanese cooking method involves burning rice straw so that when the food is cooked and grilled over the flames, it gives the meat a lovely earthy flavour.

Netsu's Wagyu beef mb-4-5 chef's cut is a winner. Photo: Netsu

My partner’s choice of main, the salmon teriyaki, served with grilled vegetables, is also perfectly cooked and only requires a squeeze of lemon to boost the flavour of the crispy skin and juicy interior.

Rounding off the main course is a mushroom rice speckled with truffle flakes. Lightly sticky and packed with flavour, it is rich and served in generous portions.

The salmon teriyaki is part of the iftar menu. Photo: Netsu

The dessert, a ginger and date pudding, takes no prisoners. Served with baklava ice cream, it is terrifically moist.

If, like me, you are not a big dessert person, one tip is to take the ginger strips and mix it in with the ice cream to undercut some of the sweetness. That said, it is a memorable way to end the meal.

Standout dish

Netsu's Wagyu beef mb-4-5 chef's cut is the clear winner. While connoisseurs would squirm at the idea of dipping such a fine cut of meat into any kind of sauce, the lemon-infused mayonnaise and spicy miso barbecue sauce are welcome accompaniments.

A chat with the chef

Chef Ross Shonhan. Photo: Netsu

When it came to creating this iftar menu, Aussie chef Ross Shonhan says he wanted to keep it simple and appealing for both seasoned and first-time diners.

“Our plan is just to make people happy with simple and hearty plates that are comfort dishes,” he tells The National.

“These are dishes that people who have never been to Netsu will discover as a great classic representation of what we do, and for people who have been before, [are] hopefully some of their Netsu favourites.”

Value for money and contact information

The Wagyu beef and salmon teriyaki dishes, if ordered separately, would alone cover the set-menu price of Dh265 per person.

This makes Netsu good value for those looking for a more refined venue to have iftar.

While the menu is executed with the quality and flair we have come to expect, those arriving famished and expecting to leave satiated may feel slightly disappointed by the menu’s limited options.

But if you are looking for a top-notch meal, served in an elegant setting at a decent price, you will be hard-pressed to go past Netsu.

The warayake-style iftar is available between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Reservations can be made by contacting 04 777 2232 or modub-netsu@mohg.com.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant.

Scroll through our gallery of 30 iftars to try during Ramadan 2022

Updated: April 18, 2022, 7:25 AM
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