After writing about never taking good service for granted, I hope I’m not going to jinx Toki with this review. In the year since I started going, the food has been consistent, the service has been understated and good, and I’ve never had a problem with my fidelity card. Knock on wood.
So, why do I like it? Here’s a list:
- I’ve never seen Japanese people at Sushi-yo, Sumo-sushi or Yasu. But every time I go to Toki there is a booth of salarymen, or a private room with a Japanese family, or just a couple at a table.
- “Non-classics” on the menu. Everyone does sushi, ramen, donburi. Toki is a rare place that does okonomiyaki (although I haven’t tried it. I always get lured by the bento.) and cold Soba noodles. Even their tempura is acceptable (although I’m globally despairing on that front. I’ll probably need to go back to Japan to ever taste good tempura again.)
- The rest is a list of little things that just make it feel right. The decor is Japanese, but without trying too hard. The staff greets you with the standard “Irrashaimasen” and are neither intrusive nor absent. You even have a little button on the table to call them.
All in all, Toki is a very nice place for lunch or dinner. It may be on the expensive side for a family outing, especially if the kids leave half of their katsudon untouched, but they will love the little private booths. Just don’t let them discover what that call button is for. And you HAVE to take them to the bathroom, to experience firsthand the joys of Japanese toilets (for aficionados out there, this one is simple: only 5 buttons on the front panel. Not spaceship quality yet. Pictures to be twittered next time I go there)
As for food recommendations, as I’ve said, I usually get suckered into getting one of the bento. Everything else I’ve tried as been well prepared. In this weather, I’d recommend the cold soba if you don’t feel like a full on dinner.
Old hands will remember that Toki has a sister restaurant at the other end of the Corniche. I actually discovered Wasabi first, and it has an even more authentic feel than Toki. I don’t always like Time Out reviews (they are a little bit too prompt with the accolades …), but the one they did last year about Toki and Wasabi hits the nail on the head. Unfortunately, all the roadworks around Wasabi make it a nightmare destination. Taxis are de rigueur (if they agree to take you there) And on my last visit, I felt that the lack of clientele was starting to take its toll on the place. Just a tad more run down, a tad less enthusiasm. I’m hoping it’s temporary, and that as soon as the mess is cleared up, it will pick up again. For one thing, it’s much closer to work for a quick lunch break for me!
Toki is located just outside the Hilton Hotel, Abu Dhabi. You can leave your car at the valet (have the restaurant stamp your ticket). And they have a nifty little fidelity card where they actually print on it the amount of credit you have. Wasabi is in the Mina Al Diar hotel, next to the Corniche Hospital. Both are licensed.