Follow the lanterns if you want to get to Wokyo in JLT. Tucked on the side of a building, it’s easy to mistake it as part of the crowd of eateries that populate the area. But if you spy Japanese lanterns waving in the wind, they’ll lead you to the home of the noodle house.
Zakarya Alaalam, Operations Manager, Wokyo, says the restaurant’s mission is to explore and help others experience “the great noodle tradition of the Far East”.
“The idea is to bring the exotic flavours of street food stalls, the show and the freshness in a simple way to our customers,” he says.
On a recent cool day, as the lamps fluttered in the wind and the chur-chur-chur of folding origami paper greeted us, we headed to Wokyo — whose name is “inspired from the vibrant city of Tokyo and the Asian cooking pot, [the] Wok”.
On display were a number of sauces -nine, to be exact — and an array of different types of noodle, from soba to egg to rice to udon.
“We created nine flavours that will transport you to the urban cities they are named after,” explains Zakarya, who founded the eatery along with his wife, Nazli. “Together with a Swedish Malaysian and Japanese chefs, we recreated the flavours that we experienced in the different cities. These flavours are a translation of the vibes and authentic flavours these vibrant cities represent … Tokyo Oyster sauce, Osaka Tamari Teriyaki, Hong Kong Black Pepper sauce, Seoul Flaming Chili, Singapore Crunchy Peanuts sauce, Bangkok Coconut Curry, Shanghai Smokey Sichuan, Jakarta Sambal Goreng and Kyoto Light Soy.
All these signature flavours are freshly made in-house on daily basis.”
The one-bowl meal is a have-it-your-own-way deal. You pick your meat, noodle, sauce and then wait for a steaming bowl.
I choose udon, steak and Tokyo Oyster sauce, which resembles upon first look comfort food. The next few bites only add to this feeling thanks to a great blend of sweet and tang. The Seaoul Flaming Chili sauce with salmon and rice is a lovely firecracker — sizzling on our tongues.
It’s a family-friendly joint, this, with children nipping past adults to play in the sun, or lakeside, while old couples hold hands and a group conducts a class of origami.
The brunch is named after Ikigai, “a Japanese concept meaning a reason for being or a sense of happiness that gives our lives meaning,” explains Zakarya. And the sense of community is strong at its launch.
But don’t just head here for the food or the people. There are activities this entire month, between 11am and 4pm, that will introduce you to various Japanese arts including Taiko drumming, origami and calligraphy.
The AUD-JIC (American University Dubai Japanese Interest Club) and exchange student group Kharsha Drums are passionate about the project, and have left behind an origami crane on my table.
The chur-chur-chur of paper folding continues as we exit Wokyo. The lanterns wave us goodbye.
Cuisine: Chinese, Japanese
Good for: The entire family
Credit card: Yes
Average cost per person: Dh70