Smoki Moto review: Korean steakhouse brings artistry of Seoul to Dubai

Say hello to your new barbecue craving

Chef Woonchun Shim recommends the chuck flat tail, Galbi, dry-aged kelp rib-eye and butter-aged striploin. Photo: Smoki Moto
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The competition for the best steak in Dubai is high. Seriously high. From Prime68 to Hunter & Barrel, nailing down that one steakhouse to call your favourite can be a difficult, if not impossible, task.

That said, for a newcomer on the scene, Smoki Moto packs an impressive punch.

As close to unique as you can realistically get in this vibrant city, this Korean restaurant brings a wonderful combination of excellence and originality that will leave you wanting more.

Where to sit and what to expect

You can find Smoki Moto on the first floor of Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah – and there’s no beating around the bush when you arrive. The life-size multicoloured ornamental cow that meets you as you approach the restaurant tells you everything you need to know.

Granted, there are dining options for both vegans and vegetarians, but this is a venue that’s unashamedly courting a carnivorous audience. As if to stress this point further, you’re met with two large fridges displaying lines of prime-cut beef as you enter the eatery, setting the scene for the dining experience to come.

Smoki Moto has a stunning central bar area overlooking an open space featuring a wide selection of seating options, in a modern and stylish setting.

The piece de resistance is undoubtedly the jaw-dropping 180-degree view of Dubai Marina and Palm West Beach. With such a stunning backdrop, my dining partner and I choose a window seat to take it all in and we’re quickly made to feel at home before the main event of the evening.

The menu

Given this is a venue to eat steak, we approach the menu with that mindset. With one eye already on the main dish, you might think it’s wise to go easy on your appetiser choice, but the selection is simply too good to overlook.

Spoilt for choice, we share a salmon pizza (the restaurant’s signature starter) and a serving of the beef tartare. It’s fair to say neither disappoint, with the salmon offering an eloquent and light introduction to proceedings before the beef tees us up nicely for the steak to come.

When choosing our steak, variety is king – with a menu that features an array of categories and marbling scores according to preference – but the selection isn’t intimidating as knowledgeable staff are keen to help and recommend where necessary.

Settling on our choices (I go for a prime tenderloin while my dining partner opts for a black Angus rib-eye), it’s now that we see what Smoki Moto is all about.

Our steaks are served with a huge portion of salad, a variety of sauces and kimchi galore. True to Korean style, the steak is the centrepiece of the meal – and it works a treat.

The highlight is that the table has a built-in charcoal grill, making it a traditional barbecue experience that’s highly sociable and means you can cook your steak exactly to your liking.

We couldn’t be more impressed by this authentic, quirky and truly delicious dining experience.

To finish things off, the desserts feature Korean specialities and we opt for the mango bingsu on the recommendation of our server. It’s a delicious palate-cleanser that brings a fantastic meal to its fitting end.

A chat with the chef

Chef Woochun Shim has 22 years of experience in the world of gastronomy, having learnt his craft in his native South Korea. He worked in high-end restaurants across his homeland and in China, before moving to Dubai to broaden his culinary horizons with French techniques at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. He has been a key player in the Smoki Moto project from its pre-opening phase.

Chef Shim’s go-to ingredients are always root vegetables, but particularly cabbage, as reflected in Smoki Moto’s selection of kimchi. But two words perhaps sum him up best. “I'm more focused on colours and flavours, emphasising a healthy style,” he says.

“As healthy food is our top priority, I dedicate considerable effort to ensuring a balance, especially in our steakhouse. For instance, we serve steak with house-made ssamjang, Korean mustard, soy sauce, and a variety of organic lettuce salads and side dishes.”

Although Smoki Moto is a go-to destination for any meat-lover, Chef Shim is quick to point out the menu’s diversity. “We include some carefully crafted vegetarian options,” he says. “Our Korean silken tofu is dressed with perilla oil soy sauce and served alongside a fresh salad and assorted vegetables for barbecue side dishes, perfect for grilling over charcoal. Additionally, we offer tofu kimchi gimbap, featuring tofu seasoned with white kimchi.”

But if you’re there to tuck into some premium steak, here are Chef Shim’s top tips. “I highly recommend our Australian and Japanese Hokkaido Wagyu selections, including chuck flat tail, strip loin, Galbi, and our 30-day dry-aged kelp rib eye and butter-aged strip loin,” he says.

“Seafood aficionados will delight in our salmon pizza, featuring 72-hour cured beet ginger salmon, soy sauce pickles and umeboshi, sprinkled with sesame seeds. We also serve 48-hour semi-dried grilled sea bass and home-made seafood dumplings packed with a variety of vegetables.”

Price point and contact information

Appetisers start at Dh60, mains start at Dh90, while desserts start at Dh50.

Smoki Moto is open from 5pm to 1am, Sunday to Wednesday, and from 5pm to 2am from Thursday to Saturday. Reservations can be made by calling 04 666 1111.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: April 12, 2024, 6:02 PM