Dubai’s revered Okku is back. It has a new location, look, and feel, but with a menu that replicates its former glory.
Jellyfish float on a wall featuring three side-by-side aquariums in the newly reopened Okku 2.0 at the Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. Only they aren’t real – they are photorealistic recreations of the poisonous invertebrate made using LED screens. But Dubai residents familiar with the restaurant Okku will recall observing a tank with real jellies while sipping their drinks amid a dimly lit, upscale setting with nods to Japanese decor – traditional Yakisugi decorative wooden panels, stone walls, and a row of alluring neon pink beaded curtains.
Okku was one of Dubai’s most popular, best-loved spots for dining since it launched in early 2009 in what is now The H Dubai hotel, formerly The Monarch Dubai, on Sheikh Zayed Road. The homegrown eatery was a Dubai institution. The emirate’s veterans – particularly those who moved to the UAE metropolis around 2010 – remember Okku as the place where you dined with friends, family, or went on a date. It was the restaurant where you danced all night for your birthday at one of the private dining areas upstairs (as this author fondly recalls). All that changed when the restaurant closed in 2018.
“After nine hugely successful years and multiple awards, it was felt the brand and location needed a refresh. We did not expect that it might be five years in the making,” says the restaurant’s owner Ramzy Abdul-Majeed, founder and managing director of Whissle Hospitality Group. “It was always our intention to bring Okku back and we had been close to doing so on numerous occasions. This time the opportunity was undoubtedly the right one in the right location, at the right time,” he says.
The culinary offering at Okku 2.0 is nearly identical to its original “O-style” menu, featuring popular dishes such as dynamite kani, two whole baked king crab legs topped with spicy mayonnaise dressing, ginger salmon sashimi, Wagyu beef, foiegras Kushiyaki, and spicy tuna on crispy rice. This continuity of dishes was intentional. Head chef Adam Simmonds, who worked at the original restaurant, affirms that replicating the dishes was close to effortless. “I was extremely excited to join the team and to continue to build upon the incredible legacy that had been created. The food has always been recognized as some of the finest in the region. For that reason, we were never looking at a complete overhaul.”
Meanwhile, the decor and layout have changed. The Japanese inspiration prevails, such as the Yakisugi panels, but transformed into a more industrial feel, with an exposed ceiling and stone walls. There’s a central bar area that unites the space, a 20-meter-long sushi bar and robata grill where diners can view their meal being prepared. Okku is akin to a resurrection of sorts. Its second chance proves Dubai dwellers crave continuity, especially when the memory of a place stands the test of time amid incessant newness.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2023 issue of Vogue Man Arabia