A Taste of Washoku

The word washoku means traditional-style Japanese food, which Sato offers with a touch of imagination. OHLALA’s editor went there for a palate journey into well-loved dishes and new additions in a renovated space.

What comes to your mind when you think of Japanese food? I am sure it is sushi! But the truth is that Japanese cuisine goes beyond these famous rice rolls. I think what makes it stand out is the quality of ingredients and the chefs’ sharp skills – the freshness of the fish and the perfect cut. Both things that you find at Sato at The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa, under the command of Chef Kevin De Guzman.

If you have been living on this island for long enough, like me (and if you haven’t, learn this), you already know that Sato is a beloved and well-known Japanese restaurant offering quality and great ambience. Talking about the atmosphere, the eatery has had a complete revamp to showcase even better what they do best: the food!

The long corridor reaching the round aquarium hasn’t changed, like the iconic welcoming drum beat with the irasshaimase greeting, which means: welcome, please come in. But the interior of the restaurant looks refreshed, with a modern touch. Japanese interior design is renowned for its timeless elegance, minimalistic aesthetic and connection with nature. The ‘new’ Sato embraces this concept effortlessly. The private rooms follow the traditional dining setting with low square or rectangular tables on a tatami mat and whimsical curtains, adding extra privacy without withdrawing you entirely from the outside space. There are also secluded rooms with teppanyaki stations. Teppan means metal plate, and yaki is related to grilled or pan-fried food. Perfect for a group of friends looking for a special meal preparation. The colour palette goes from sandy to coral tones with panels with printed cranes – considered the birds of happiness. However, I liked two things most: an elegant shelf with ceramic pots separating the main room and the cosy indirect lighting throughout the restaurant.

After a tour of the space, it was time to eat! Karen, our lovely waitress, explained that we would try a selection of Sato’s best-sellers and some new dishes. The spread started with the Kamikazee Roll, a new item on the menu; this sushi is composed of chopped tuna and salmon, salmon skin and spicy mayo topped with crunchy sweet potato and unagi sauce. We started strong as this was my dining companion’s favourite dish of the night for its mix of textures and smoky flavours. The perfect marriage between the elements made this a mouthful of delectable satisfaction, and she finished it in no time. The other sushi listed in the Sato Super Maki section of the menu was the Soft Shell Crab Maki. Made with deep fried soft shell crab and caviar pops paired with avocado, mayo and sweet soy sauce – it is a good choice if you are looking for exciting textures with a sugary hint.

The Tempura Soba Cold was an interesting-looking dish with buckwheat noodles served on top of an ice bow with seaweed sprinkles, accompanied by vegetable and prawn tempura. Karen told us the best way to eat this dish is to dip the soba in its accompanying sauce while having a bite of the tempura for a crunchy texture. Still in the combo concept, we had the Sushi Bento composed of eight varieties of nigiri sushi: octopus, cuttlefish, salmon, tuna, Hamachi, hammour (also known as hatta), prawn and tamago (a type of Japanese omelette made by rolling together layers of fried beaten eggs with a sweet and savoury flavour). The freshness of the seafood cut in a perfect slice (not too thin and not too thick) placed on top of a ball of well-balanced vinegary rice dipped in soy sauce with a piece of pickle ginger and a touch of wasabi made them a bite of perfection.

The traditional flavours that I was looking for were there varying with the textures of each meat’s properties, from melt-in-your-mouth salmon and tuna to chewy and complex octopus and cuttlefish. Continuing the exploration of simplicity and raw elements, we also had the Sashimi Matsu with five kinds of sashimi: tuna, salmon, grouper (best eaten with the accompanying lemon slice), cuttlefish and octopus. This dish comes in a bow that looks like a flower bouquet ready to be eaten – playing with our imagination and taste buds.

Last but not least, we tried another new addition to the menu, Beef Ribs Yakiniku, USDA beef shortribs slow-cooked for eight hours in yakiniku sauce (made with soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sesame seeds) accompanied by grilled zucchini and cherry tomatoes. This was the other star dish of the night, with the meat falling from the bone and the fats melting in the mouth – a delicious way to end the savoury courses and move to the sweet treats.

The Banana Tempura, made with discs of banana coated in fried tempura batter for a crispy and mushy texture, is coated in melting vanilla ice cream. I am of the opinion that everything tastes better when fried – not wrong here. The other sweet treat was a trio of mochis, the typical Japanese dessert of a capsule of glutinous rice filled with ice cream. We had strawberry, chocolate and green tea flavours; the latter was the most interesting one and we loved it.

Authentic Japanese cuisine with a modern twist is what Sato offers to its guests – now with a new stylish look! We will be back soon.

For more information or to make a reservation, please call Sato at
The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa on 1771 3000.

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