The venue Set in the new beachfront dining complex Club Vista Mare on The Palm Jumeirah, Aji is a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant – a collaboration between UAE restaurant group Retail & Beyond and design company Keane – that combines the character and cuisine of both cultures to decadent degree. With indoor and outdoor seating, the venue offers a relaxed beachside vibe, as well as a curated interior with seating for an intimate dinner or an evening out with friends.
The design Despite the relaxed vibe at this waterfront location, the interiors are quite stylised and upscale. The shared history of these two rich cultures – Peruvian and Japanese – have combined to create the Nikkei tradition, a tapestry of both characters intertwined. Flooring tiles from Floor Tec Arabia depict traditional Peruvian Aztec patterns layered in concrete, which is contrasted with hand-carved Japanese parquetry. The dining room upholstery features Aztec prints in brocade fabric and faux leather chairs.
Stylish crystal chandelier lighting from Skylume draws the eye up to the ceiling and low lighting throughout bounces off the Japanese shoji walls (traditional dividing screens made from rice paper and lattice wood frames) adding privacy to dining booths. A Cherry Blossom Tree in the corner on the room adds a touch of Japanese elegance, while etched mirrors with Peruvian portraits add an element of mystique. A large Japanese graffiti wall by local artist Ramy Elzaghawy is a more contemporary, dramatic focus and the brass and glass back bar in the cocktail lounge makes for a chic hang-out.
The experience The word Aji translates to ‘chilli’ in Spanish and ‘flavour’ in Japanese and the experience is definitely a flavourful one. The extensive menu offers a broad selection of sushi and sashimi, ceviches and tiraditos, in the Nikkei cuisine tradition. The signature ceviche mixes succulent raw sea bass, scallops, octopus and shrimp with an excellent leche de tigre sauce spiced with ají amarillo that is zingy, yet well balanced and refreshing. The Maguro Taco with tuna and truffle oil is a surprising hit, but it was the black cod skewers with yuzu kosho dressing that won us over.