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Jap is a fine dining Japanese restaurant by U.Bay and open now on the first floor of this iconic old house down in Jounieh's old souk. I've previously tried Jap's food on the rooftop and down at Table Fine, I've met the chef several times and now was time to try the restaurant experience.
A beautiful place with a sea view welcomes you for dinner. Take the elevator up to the first floor where a large open space and a glass facade are ready to amaze you. Beautiful wooden tables, grey parquet and a white ceiling, with a bar and decorative wooden strips set around the open kitchen.
The main decorative item is the stone chimney and the two green walls. A relaxed and lovely ambiance, placemats and a beautiful set of glasses and wooden chopsticks. You are welcomed with a drink and a cold refreshing towel and the tables are decorated with two green trees.
Welcoming and smiley, the staff is well trained and attentive to every tiny detail. Marissa approached us for the order, on her knees, she took the order at our level explaining every order with all its ingredients.
The menu, printed on carton paper, has a simple selection of starters, sushi, soup and salad, tartar, tempura, temaki, traditional style sashimi, new style sashimi and Maki rolls. You can also order from the Robata grill and there are the desserts.
You are welcomed with a drink. Ginger, lime and mint, a shot served in a ceramic cup. It is refreshing with a hint of sweetness and an end note of spiciness.
Tonight we eat Japanese, a large selection of sushi, sashimi and maki. It's a fine dining approach to Japanese cuisine produced by one of only two Japanese chefs living in Lebanon: Chef Masato Okamoto.
The ginger is very good, different from any I've had in town. White and natural, it has a fresh crunch, a light strength and a faded sweetness.
The soy sauce is homemade with 30% less salt.
Dinner is served:
- The shrimp and avocado salad is awesome! Avocados, shrimp, crisps and a strong spiciness. A rich and generous salad of shrimp cubes offering a premium taste. Recommended!
- Popcorn shrimp served in a wooden box with mayo on the side. Fresh and crunchy chunks of shrimp with no oily taste or feeling, a crunchy envelope and a tender warm juicy heart.
- The soft shell crab salad is not to be missed. A salad with such finesse it will awaken your dormant senses. A cucumber slice wrapped around fried soft shell crab on a bed of oranges, fresh greens, radish, soy beans and jelly. It is yummy indeed.
- Shrimp tempura prepared with cucumber fingers. It's so bizarre how this plate gives you a different flavor, one you're not expecting to feel. The crunch and freshness, oil-free and the taste! Bravo!
- Wow! Even though our guests ordered it well done, the quality and taste of the meat was awesome! Extremely tender and juicy waygu beef that melts under your teeth like butter.
- We even tried the dumplings. They were as good as you'd expect.
- The best of all, the main plus tonight, were the crisps. You know those tempura crisps we call “crispy”. For the first time ever, I saw red crisps. They’re marinated in beetroot, giving them a red color and a more enjoyable taste. Look for them.
- Scottish salmon seared sashimi, served with chives, julienne cut ginger and sesame ponzu sauce. At first it may look a little soaked by sauce, until you take the first bite. A tender salmon, soft like labneh, alongside a lemony and enjoyable sauce
- Thinly sliced local Hamachi served with sea salt, green chili, yuzu juice and soy sauce. Crunchy shredded radish adds an interesting texture to the tender mix. A simple plate yet strongly bodied, fresh and enjoyable. The lemon aftertaste stays around your palate for a long time.
- Next came the sashimi salmon and sashimi toro salmon. An eye candy plate decorated with green mustard leaves. The leaves are edible: wrap it around your salmon and enjoy along with the shredded white Japanese radish. Excellent quality salmon, amazing texture with layers of rich-bodied fat brings this salmon experience to gourmet standards. The scallops are amazing as well.
- The Temaki is out of this world. A crispy fresh nori leaf, a little rice, flavorful fish... Excellent!
Thirty minutes later, we started receiving the rice based rolls:
- The Naruto rolls are to die for. A must order!
- A rectangular plate with four orders. One line next to the other, rolls set on the plate majestically and simply without any division between them. Adequately sized, a good quality of rice, fresh fish, and tasty of course.
- The house-smoked salmon is recommended. Warm rice, thick slices of smoked salmon... A simple, yet amazing taste.
- Grilled salmon maki; loved the taste, the warmth and texture.
Amazing, recommended food... Now for the dessert. The offerings are special; finger ice cream, yuzu ice cream, teriyaki ice cream, green tea tempura ice cream and the famous Mochi.
- Kaki ice cream: A bad presentation, an icy ice cream, a lack of flavor. To be reconsidered.
- The chocolate cheesecake: Looks bizarre and not too appetizing for a chocolate cheesecake. Expected much better from a signature dessert. The cake is more of a chocolate mousse.
- The ginger tempura ice cream is amazing; it looks good, the fried envelope is crispy and warm, a flavorful ginger ice cream, a moist envelope. That's a good one.
The needed fixes:
- Smoking is allowed! Next to the open kitchen? That's unacceptable! Want to allow smoking, keep it for the bar only. Fine dining sushi with cigarette smoke? I was shocked!
- Service is slow, very slow.
- The wine glasses should be less full.
- Our plates were never changed during dinner even between appetizers and main courses. They should have been changed at least once.
- Happy birthday music paying in the background! LOL. I felt like I was having dinner at Roadster.
- The ice cream's presentation is close to pathetic.
- Service needs a bit more finesse.
Good food, very good food indeed, but lots of details need work to give Jap its gourmet standard.