What to expect at Osteria Funkcoolio, the new restaurant by chef behind 11 Woodfire

Port De La Mer dining spot by Akmal Anuar to open in February followed by Taste of Dubai pop-up

Osteria Funkcoolio by chef Akmal Anuar will serve Italian classics with a Japanese twist. @akmalanuarofficial / Instagram
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A place that “shakes things up” is exactly what one would expect when dining at a restaurant named Osteria Funkcoolio.

It is run by Akmal Anuar, the experimental chef and owner of Michelin-starred 11 Woodfire. Not only will it open its doors in the first week of February, Anuar tells The National, but it will also bring a pop-up to the beloved Taste of Dubai food festival from February 23 to 25.

The Malay Singaporean chef says Funkcoolio is a place “where Italian cuisine meets the best of Japanese Kyoto ingredients”.

The Akmal effect

The chef is no stranger to Japanese cuisine. In 2016, he was one of three partners who launched 3 Fils, the Japanese-inspired dining spot that was named the best restaurant in the Middle East and North Africa region by the World's 50 Best group – albeit after Anuar left in 2019.

After leaving 3 Fils, Anuar set up his own hospitality consultancy firm, White Rice. In 2021, he opened another Japanese concept, Goldfish Sushi & Yakitori, which is included in the latest Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand category.

11 Woodfire, meanwhile, is a fine dining restaurant along Jumeirah Beach Road which specialises in natural wood-fired cuisine, a labour-intensive cooking method that relies equally on technique and intuition. The Michelin-starred venue's open kitchen means diners can witness the elaborate process where fresh produce is cooked at scorching temperatures that, according to staff, go as high as 700°C.

His accolades and versatility make Osteria Funkcoolio's opening a much-anticipated one. The intimate restaurant, located at Port de La Mer, seats but 30 at a time. Its funky and eclectic setting comes complete with an emerald green ceiling, grand light fixtures and red leather booths.

It all sounds perfectly in character with Anuar, who thinks Dubai's culinary scene is “so unpredictable”. He says: “Dubai is on another level every single time, and the ever-growing process of the city is unimaginable. No crystal ball can tell what's next in store.”

Taste of Dubai pop-up

While Osteria Funkcoolio's menu has not yet been revealed, the chef shares the four “deliberately classic” dishes he will serve at the Taste of Dubai pop-up: Three pizzas (margherita, pepperoni and chilli duck) and meatballs in signature Funkcoolio tomato sauce.

“They all sound familiar,” he admits, “but we are making sure we get all the ticks right.

Anuar adds: “We participated at Taste of Dubai last year, and I found it full of energy and fun.”

The three-day festival brings together some of the city's best chefs and restaurants. This year that includes Michelin-starred Torno Subito; City Social by British chef-restaurateur Jason Atherton; Atrangi, the Dubai venture of Indian celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia; Jun's, Akira Back, Hutong, Sumosan, Tan Cha, Maya by chef Richard Sandoval, Indya by Vineet Bhatia, Rhodes W1 and Bushra by Buddha bar.

The event will be held at Skydive Dubai for the first time this year.

Aside from restaurant pop-ups, the festival will also feature workshops from big-ticket chefs such as MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston, plus Dubai chef Kelvin Cheung of Jun's and Arab pitmaster Hattem Mattar.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 3:56 AM