When Samer Hamedeh took me around his new restaurant and bar concept, which was at the time, a construction site, and still nameless, publicly at least, in Dubai Design District six weeks before opening, I was genuinely worried for him.
Not that the place wouldn't be ready on time, (I've seen places come together in a day in lesser states), I was worried because I couldn't see what it was going to be. He described a bar, then an ice cream cafe, then a games room, then a radio station / DJ booth, then a pizzeria, which is actually a separate concept all in one. Then, on top of that is the Japanese inspiration it's all coming from. Oh, and also, he wanted to make it look like a street, but not a real street, because 'people aren't dumb', but more of a fantasy one. And there was something else, he also wanted to make it have a feel of a food hall, because Dubai hasn't got those yet and the rest of other big cities around the world do.
I had reservations, standing there while a pizza oven was being fitted, I couldn't see it come to life, I thought there was going to be so much going on. I wasn't going to put it past him though. He was passionate, energetic, he's been involved in many successful ventures before, and many would have questioned whether the hugely successful Stereo Arcade would have worked when it decided to bring 90's music back in vogue in Dubai in 2015. But it did work.
So when Akiba Dori opened on Sunday last, it was a relief to see the place packed, and all working fine, with zero confusion among customers as if it had been open for years. I went there on Friday night and couldn't get a seat (nowhere is busy in d3 on a Friday night, apart from Base nightclub perhaps). Then I went back again on Sunday for lunch, to check out the food.
Akiba Dori is located on the corner of Building 8 in Dubai Design District
There are two sides to the menu, one Japanese style mains and a selection of sushi dishes
There is a Wago Katsu Sando that tasted amazing
The crispy shrimp salad
Along with crunchy Californian and spicy tuna rolls
The second side of the menu is dedicated to the Tokypolitan pizza concept
This is the 5 fomaggi with honey on top
And there is even a pizza dessert that tastes like wafers and ice-cream
Akiba Dori and d3 go hand in hand.
It's actually only one of six venues that is licensed in Dubai Design District. A break away from the norm of licenses being connected to hotels, is this a sign of the future? It's also open from 12pm-12am during the week, and 12pm-2am at the weekend. Many other venues at d3 shut at 7pm mid-week as those working there go home.
There are already some wonderful eateries there like Lighthouse, Kraft Cafe, Molecule, Chez Charles to name a few. This is another one that has it's own unique offering.
Maybe in the fast paced lives we live, having the idea of a lot going on is just what our minds are used to, and that this can work for a restaurant too. It's also very Instagramable, which is very much in vogue in the industry these days as well.
Judging by the full tables it's been a successful launch. I thoroughly enjoyed it on both visits and will go back there when in d3, or even just to go there at the weekend. It's takes guts to back your instinct and launch a new project in a competitive market, so if it comes off, you deserve the platitudes.