DUBAI: A quick glance through the warmly lit wooden archway that constitutes the entrance of Clap Dubai and guests might think they have arrived at a quirky, though high-end, bookstore. Facing the elevator is a chaise longue made entirely of used paperback books save for its comfy musk-colored cushion top. Behind it are rows of varied sake glasses, positioned as if they were prized exhibits. In the reception area on the second floor, books form the base of the reservation desk over which hangs a super-sized chandelier made of 2,100 toys — and these are just a few of the restaurant’s awe-inspiring design elements. Walk through a short illuminated corridor and Clap Dubai, which opened in Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) in December, extends across a sprawling rooftop terrace with stunning views across Dubai’s downtown skyline.

The restaurant is divided into four sections — the indoor dining area, the terrace, the bar, and ‘Ongaku,’ which means “music” in Japanese and is a separate bar area with a live DJ. (Supplied)

The restaurant is divided into four sections — the indoor dining area, the terrace, the bar, and ‘Ongaku,’ which means “music” in Japanese and is a separate bar area with a live DJ. Each flows seamlessly into the next. In the indoor dining area guests who sit close enough can peer into Clap’s open kitchen where chefs prepare traditional Japanese dishes, while overhead is a suspended conveyer belt carrying toys and figurines, adding another playful touch to the otherwise refined venue, which is packed with solid stone and dark wood, both elements that dominate traditional Japanese architecture.

This is a stone bowl with Japanese Wagyu beef served at Clap Dubai. (Supplied)

In the weeks since its opening, Clap Dubai has quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in the area. Clap’s successful Beirut branch is temporarily closed due to the August 4th explosions and the pandemic. But the owners decided to bring its cutting-edge Japanese cuisine to Dubai on schedule anyway. Clap is scheduled to open another branch in Riyadh in the near future.

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With 141 dishes on the menu, choosing what to eat isn’t easy. After whetting our appetites with some moreish spicy edamame, we selected several dishes from the ‘bites’ section of the menu: The grilled langoustine with its tangy sweet-and-sour tomato shiso salsa came with its split shell elegantly arranged, and the crispy rice topped with salmon — five bite-sized textural delights bursting with flavor thanks to the masago and spring-onion sauce, perfect for sharing. Next came a trio of raw dishes — scallop sashimi, sea bass sashimi, and wagyu beef tartare. The latter was the highlight; served on a bed of crispy nori chips and topped with gold leaf, the capers and the pickled cucumber added the perfect amount of acidity to cut through the buttery beef — a dish so flavorsome and diverse in texture it will have you returning to Clap for more.

Salmon crispy rice is served at Clap Dubai. (Supplied)

The sashimi was also delicious and a prime example of allowing premium ingredients to shine. This was especially the case with the scallops, with the avocado purée garnish highlighting their natural sweetness. The shrimp gyoza came highly recommended. The griddled and steamed parcels held a delicate filling that was perfectly complemented by the accompanying sweet-and-sour tomato salsa. We ended the meal with a hijiki spicy tuna roll and the “Black Garden,” — the restaurant’s signature vegetarian roll. While the former is a well-executed classic, the latter is a great example of how dishes that cater to diners with plant-based or gluten-free dietary requirements can still be packed with flavor.

It may be located amidst an already glittering A-list line-up of restaurants in DIFC, but Clap Dubai still stands out for the quality of its food, its ambiance, and its magical rooftop.

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