Icho, the Japanese restaurant at the Radisson Royal hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, certainly offers diners plenty of choice: three floors of it, in fact. At level 51, you can sample sushi while sipping drinks at the bar, floor 50 boasts a teppanyaki grill "where you can have a more theatrical dining experience", or you can opt to stay put on level 49 and flip through a menu featuring "Japanese specialities", which is exactly what we did.
All the way up there, the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the snaking highways and twinkling lights below is impressive. The decor is, to my eye at least, less so; while the intention may well be to reference Japanese minimalism, the stark symmetry of the room gives it a rather functional feel.
Eschewing some of the more wacky creations in the speciality sushi rolls section - which included a fish, chip and tartare sauce combination - we began with something a little more conventional, in the form of a three-piece sashimi selection plate. The contrasting colours of the raw fish (salmon, flounder and tuna) looked pretty on the plate and, importantly, tasted very fresh. Real wasabi provided the requisite pungent heat, and tangles of shredded raw white cabbage were pleasingly crunchy. By no means a wow dish, but a clean, refreshing start to the evening.
Our next two appetisers appeared a little while later. That is not meant as a criticism; I rather liked the measured, rhythmic manner in which they arrived; it gave us enough time to focus on each dish individually, rather than fighting to distinguish between a mêlée of flavours, which is what tends to happen when all the food comes at once.
The beef tataki dish was very good - our favourite of the evening. The slivers of very quickly seared meat had plenty of flavour and were well-marbled, with a properly melting texture and a slightly smoky aftertaste, which worked well with the sweet, citrusy soy dipping sauce. On a different note, we also really liked the unusual, khaki-green ceramic plate that the beef was served on.
Slices of roast duck were dressed in a pleasant, sticky soy and orange glaze, but the meat itself had been cooked for a little too long, meaning that it had a slightly gamey flavour and was quite chewy. The largest of the dishes we had ordered arrived next and was very simple, but much more successful: king crab cooked on the teppanyaki grill. When I first saw it, I did question the logic of covering the delicately flavoured, vaguely sweet white meat in a tomato-based sauce and while I'm still not convinced that the dish wouldn't have been better had this been served on the side, thankfully it did not overpower the taste of the crab.
Almost as an afterthought, we asked for a side order of vegetables, and were glad we had, thanks to the interesting combination of juicy shimeji mushrooms, green and white cabbage and charred onions all braised in a mixture of (I think) ginger, miso and soy.
The attentiveness of the service at Icho could do with a little toning down, and the attention to detail with ramping up. If that sounds nonsensical, then let me explain: within minutes of being handed the menu, three different people asked us if we were ready to order, but when we asked questions about various dishes, no one could tell us the specifics, until they had checked back with the kitchen.
A meal like this presents something of a conundrum: I can't say that I would recommend the restaurant unreservedly, but if friends told me that they were planning to go, then neither would I want to discourage them.
A meal for two at Icho, Radisson Royal hotel, costs Dh400, including service charge. For reservations call 04 308 0000. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
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