Ailsa Whyatt heads to Nozomi to find out what all the fuss is about.

Tonight, we are in for a treat; Nozomi – Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl. Japanese fine dining with a European twist awaits us, in an intimate setting overlooking the sea and grand façade of the main hotel. Plush leather chairs are our chariots for the night, which transport us to the best of contemporary Japanese cuisine, alongside mellow world music containing chilled beats to ease us on our way.

Our server, Tausif, swiftly provides liquid refreshment before proudly bringing forth a selection of Nozomi’s most delicious offerings. We are in extremely safe hands with Chef Vugar, who has long been a creator of Japanese delicacies in restaurants all over the world. Spicy Edamame, Rock Shrimp, Nikuman and Nozomi Tacos are our first encounters. The spicy edamame are warm and sweet, coated in a chilli sauce containing sriracha and kimchi, and the shrimps are elegantly served in a tall glass – delicately soft prawns, coated in an airy, crispy batter, drizzled with Japanese sriracha mayonnaise.

If steamed buns are on your hit list, then you must try the Nikuman: these are doughy and fluffy. They contain Wagyu beef marinated in a sweet teriyaki sauce and mixed with a delicious onion marmalade. Branded with the Nozomi logo, they are a show piece as well as a dish. The Nozomi Tacos are again Wagyu beef, marinated in Chef Vugar’s secret spicy sauce, placed inside crunchy taco shells, garnished with chopped chives and served with guacamole and some all-important lime wedges, which set off the sweetness, lifting the flavours.

Fresh from the sushi bar in the restaurant’s centre, where chefs are on display creating sushi, nigiri and maki for all, we are served Arabian Gulf Prawn Tempura Maki, Spider Roll and Khalij Maki, alongside the Nozomi Green Salad (from which truffle scents are tantalisingly wafting). Fresh ginger and wasabi adorn each of the maki plates – there is no hint of vinegar here, they really do taste as fresh as they are.

The Arabian Gulf Prawn Tempura Maki combines tempura prawns with avocado, glazed in a teriyaki and gently spicy sauce, and is showered with a flurry of panko breadcrumbs. Crucially, the maki has been rolled in sesame seeds, adding a beautiful nuttiness and texture to the dish. The Spider Roll is deep-fried soft shell crab, mixed with crunchy cucumber and tobiko (Japanese flying fish roe), and served with sriracha mayonnaise and ‘spider legs’ (tiny, deep fried potato shavings) covering the maki hiding underneath. We also have the Khalij Maki, chargrilled chicken with an almost smoky taste to it, small shavings of pickled cucumber and spring onion, served with Japanese mayonnaise and a blob of chilli garlic sauce on the top.

All of this is accompanied by the Nozomi Green Salad, which contains avocado tempura (think ‘lightly crunchy meets smooth and creamy’), salad leaves and a white truffle oil that has been blended with parsley in a vinaigrette that is fragrant and indulgent. Then we meet the main courses. Wagyu Beef Fillet and Mushroom Takikomi-Gohan. Both are out-of-this-world delicious.

Chef Vugar recommends we have our steak medium rare, and I can wholeheartedly say that this man knows what he is talking about! The steak is divine; taken from Takima Wagyu cattle raised in Hyogo, Japan, Nozomi serves only grade 9+. There is Wagyu and then there is Wagyu. This is the latter. A steak not only rare in consumption form, but also a rare find in the Wagyu world. Lightly charred on the outside, it is soft, tender and wonderful to eat. Beautifully served on a leaf, with sakura cress on top, a pot of Wafu sauce (flavours of sesame, soy and shredded carrot strands), and a small mound of salt; everything comes together to make the perfect steak.

Alongside this, we thoroughly enjoy the Mushroom TakikomiGohan – a decadent blend of truffle oil, silky portobello, shitake and oyster mushrooms, mixed with sweet, but still savoury, Japanese rice. It is so moreish, and I do really want to save myself for dessert, but honestly find myself unable to stop.

My guest and I steel ourselves, as we cannot possibly forego the Nozomi Chocolate Fondant being brought to our table. A warm chocolate fondant, inside which streams flowing chocolate, stylishly presented with the trademark Nozomi logo in a dusting of cacao powder at the centre of a large white plate, some freshly made vanilla ice cream sitting on a rich, buttery biscuit and a single redcurrant berry. It’s a thing of beauty.

Warm Nozomi-branded towels, infused with lemongrass, are the perfect opportunity to refresh ourselves after this delectable feast. We meet Chef Vugar on the way out, who is all smiles, especially when we tell him how much we adored his Wagyu and Takikomi-Gohan.

First established in London’s Knightsbridge area, the Nozomi brand is going from strength to strength, with new Saudi outlets opening up in Al Khobar and Riyadh. This award-winning restaurant is a favourite amongst the many people who have been welcomed through its doors. Indulge in an array of Japanese haute cuisine, but whatever you do, make sure to indulge in that Wagyu steak. ✤