Drink & DineReviews

The Insider Reviews: Ukrainian Gem Virgin Izakaya, at Bluewaters, Dubai

The Eastern European restaurant with plenty of Japanese flex has found a new home in Dubai.

Virgin Izakaya has a rather unusual backstory, originating from Ukraine but drawing inspiration from Japan. It currently still operates restaurants in Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Odesa, although the future of these venues is uncertain. However, the brand has found a new home in the Middle East, and now it has opened its first venue in Bluewaters Dubai.

Virgin Izakaya is not your typical izakaya-style restaurant. While a traditional izakaya is usually a casual spot where you can share small plates, this restaurant offers a more elevated dining experience. 

The ambiance of Virgin Izakaya is sultry and intimate, with dim lighting, deep red hues, earthy wood textures. One of two gigantic, roaring and chest beating, geometric red gorilla sculptures welcomes you at the entrance; another one half protruding out of the ceiling at the bar upstairs is quite quirky. The restaurant spans two floors and offers both indoor and outdoor dining options on its terrace and balcony. The lower floor, which offered a fantastic view of JBR through the floor-to-ceiling windows and a glimpse of the kitchen with its robata grill at center stage. We opted for the terrace to enjoy the perfect winter weather in dubai.

One thing that sets Virgin Izakaya apart is its dedication to using fresh and high-quality ingredients. The menu features a wide range of dishes, from raw delicacies like sashimi, tataki, tiradito, and hand rolls to kushiyaki skewers of octopus or chicken with Japanese mustard. We began our meal with freshly prepared salmon and bluefin tuna sushi, salmon sashimi, bluefin tuna and crab open rolls, and eel and avocado hand rolls.  The slivers of expertly-sliced salmon were ever so slightly seared…with a tangy, salty, and sweet yet simple marinade…a delicious complex array of flavors and aromas that melted in your mouth. The crispy shrimp popcorn was perfectly coated and a generously sized sliced avocado with fresh crab meat green salad was gorgeously delightful. We were so completely satisfied that we couldn’t even try the mains but will definitely go back to try them next time. 

However, we had to try the desserts, it was highly recommended – their signature milk cake…simple and velvety moist and the ice cream accompanying it was banana… hardly exciting, until you taste it, and it is absolutely fabulous, amazing texture and real deep banana flavors, not sickly sweet, and the perfect combination with the mango topping of the soft cake. And the banana ice cream is made on the Virgin Izakaya premises – not bought, not supplied. We also had to try another beloved signature dessert, an exceptional interpretation of flash-freezed coconut ice cream topped with raspberry…unusual in texture yet absolutely and surprisingly delightful. 

The restaurant’s location at Bluewaters Wharf offers stunning views of Dubai’s JBR beaches and Marina skyline. It is suitable for any occasion, whether you’re looking for after-work drinks, a spot for shisha, or a lively ladies’ night. In fact, Virgin Izakaya hosts a ladies’ night called Joshi-Kai every Wednesday from 8 pm, where women can enjoy for two hours free-flowing drinks for AED169 alongside two choices of dishes.

On Saturdays, Virgin Izakaya offers its iconic Fortune Omakase Brunch, where guests have the chance to win incredible prizes such as designer bags and free brunches at various restaurants in Dubai. Starting at AED275, brunchers can indulge in a menu featuring fresh salads, warm appetizers, an omakase platter with various types of sushi, and desserts. The restaurant also offers a daily happy hour called Nomikai from 4pm to 8pm, where guests can enjoy a selection of food and drinks for just 35 AED, including a shisha package.

Virgin Izakaya takes pride in redefining Japanese cuisine by combining tradition and innovation. The fusion of authentic flavors and creative techniques results in a tantalizing menu especially for this upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration with the breathtaking view of Dubai NYE fireworks and live DJ. Great options of the Balcony 1st Floor: 1,500 AED, Outdoor Ground Floor: 1,000 AED and Indoor: 750 AED which is a bargain.

For a unique dining experience in one of Dubai’s most beautiful destinations, make sure to visit Virgin Izakaya. For reservations and more information, you can visit their website at www.virginizakaya-dxb.com or contact them at +971 58 523 1702.

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