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Review: Nozomi, Al Khobar

Familiar contemporary Japanese cuisine that comes with a stunning waterfront vista…

In Saudi Arabia’s Japanese dining scene, Nozomi is already a household name. After all, the name has bounced around the Kingdom since it opened its doors in Riyadh in 2012.

A quick recap, though: The Japanese restaurant concept – owned by Cavadore Group – has since closed its Riyadh and Jeddah outlets. And this time, in partnership with Al Moajil Hospitality group, Nozomi is back at a new location – in the Al Matal Complex, the new corniche development in Al Khobar.

Nozomi Al Khobar interiors

Here, diners walk through a pathway to the main dining area that takes its inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture, replete with bamboo, rich timbers, and textured stone walls. Every detail of the space is designed with an intimate yet inviting edge.

Expansive booths snake around the restaurant floor, with plush armchairs huddled up in intimate corners. The golden metallic chain columns not only serve as space partitioners, but they embellish the lavish setting.

Nozomi Al Khobar waterfront views

At 2pm on a Friday, we’re expecting the restaurant to be near empty, and it is – but this does little to deter from the moody and homey ambience. Beyond such atmospheric interiors, the prime waterfront vistas from the dining room and terrace do their job well, with natural light shining through the glass window onto the luxuriously soft leather seating.

@whatsonksa Looking for somewhere to dine at Al Khobar? Check out the new Nozomi spot at Al Matal Complex. It’s got the views, the food and the atmosphere… #whatsonksa #saudiarabiatiktok #alkhobarlife #visitsaudi #NozomiKSA ♬ My Heart Goes (La Di Da) Remix – Trixvel

A quick browse through the extensive menu will present familiar and classic options such as sushi, tempura items and grilled selections from the Robata. But look closer, and you will find that the menu is all about elevated Japanese cuisine with European flair.

We begin our meal with the melt-in-the-mouth toro carpaccio (SAR125), which is fresh and delicately flavoured. The chopped pickled apple and ginger-soy dressing that accompanies the tuna belly add warmth and richness to the dish. Throw in a bowl of steaming edamame (SAR45) and crispy Kari Kari squid (SAR65), and we are happy folks.

Now, we’re ready for our maki roll, which comes in the form of seared salmon sprinkled with 24-carat gold flakes (SAR125). Bite into each pillowy mound, and you will be pleasantly surprised by an explosion of cucumber and avocado filling with ikura and truffle cream toppings, creating a medley of textures spanning crisp and crunchy to smooth, creamy and salty.

Nozomi food

Nozomi has perfected the art of giving comfort foods a luxe touch, evidenced by the aforementioned maki roll and the addicting main course of beef rice – takikomi Gohan (SAR138). The nondescript-sounding dish is anything but. Presented in a hot stone bowl, it reveals a chock-full of succulent chunks of tender braised short ribs and mushrooms. With each chewy grain given a silky coating from the miso butter and mushroom sauce, the rice dish is a steaming bowl of goodness, each mouthful an umami bomb laced with a hint of smokiness.

The juicy chicken thigh Yakitori (SAR55) is wonderfully charred, saucy and smoky – all that a charcoal-grilled skewer needs to be. Meanwhile, the beef tenderloin Kushi skewers (SAR95) are a tad chewy, but the teriyaki reduction and wasabi pea powder help enhance the dish’s flavour.

Nozomi chicken skewers

You can’t go to a Japanese restaurant and not order the black miso cod (SAR255), no? Well, Nozomi’s rendition does not disappoint. It is perfectly cooked and moist, but we suggest leaving out the citrus miso sauce as it overwhelms the delicate taste of the cod, making it seem like a disconnected element.

Nozomi’s mocktails are exciting creations, inspired by Japanese ingredients and flavours, with just as exciting narratives. Go straight for the Ignite (SAR45) to wash it all down. A cinnamon bark is lit on fire tableside before stirring it into the drink, described as “smoky aromas of cinnamon, the softness of peach and warmness of Sichuan peppers”. But you won’t care what’s in it because this is one good mocktail.

Nozomi mocktails

The theatrics aren’t limited to tableside showmanship either. The show-stopping dessert of berries pavlova (SAR75) surprises with the restaurant’s smash-it-yourself meringue dome. All you need to do is cover the top with the half-sphere meringue shell, so the dome hides the raspberry sphere, white chocolate parfait and mixed berries, and then smash it with the little wooden hammer provided. This thing of beauty takes the classic pav to new heights.

If you’re looking for a night (or day) out with friends in Al Khobar, Nozomi would be a good place to start. A place for enjoyment and for like-minded gastronomes who delight in the presence of well-executed food. Plus, the service is spotless.

It will tempt you to remain, all through into the evening, revelling in one mocktail and one maki roll after the next – hours on end of pure fun. Here is a place of comfort and familiarity. A place like home. Perhaps this is what makes Nozomi, albeit a new iteration, even after ten long years, still an unforgettable experience to head back to time and time again.

Nozomi Al Khobar, 2nd Floor, Al Matal Complex, Alkurnaish, 6563, Al Khobar, Sun to Wed 1pm to 4.30pm & 7pm to 11.30pm, Thurs & Fri 1pm to 12.30am, Sat 1pm to 11.30pm. Tel: 9200 12681. @nozomiksa

Images: Provided