Tanabata Festival at Toko Dubai

After ushering us to our table, she handed us 2 thin purple strips of paper called tanzaku and a pen. Apparently, we have to write our heartfelt wishes and hang it at the bonsai tree anytime during our dinner.

Tanabata festival is happening at Toko - the hip and posh restaurant at the heart of the premier dining precinct at the luxurious Vida Downtown. Its picturesque Japanese-style garden, complete with flamboyant water falls and fountains, floating umbrellas and bonsai trees, and stylish lighting accents create a vibrant atmosphere that sets a mood for an extravagant dining experience.
Tanabata, which means "evening of the seventh", also known as the Star Festival, is a Japanese festival originating from the Chinese Qixi festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar.- Wikipedia
The restaurant prepared a special set menu called Tsuchi to commemorate the festival. It consists of 3 starters, 8 other assortment of Japanese mains and delicacies plus a chef's selection of desserts. That set costs AED 420 per person.

The dishes quickly came one after the other as they finish preparation in Izakaya - the contemporary Japanese-styled bar counter where food and beverages are delicately prepared.

Izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit on the premises to drink - a type of informal Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks.

Let's roll with more tongue-twisting gastronomic vocabulary now, shall we?

A bowl of Edamame is ahead of the pack. These soy beans are so tasty and perfect with just the Maldon sea salt in it. I could munch 'em longer but the next serving came in no time.

Okaki Maguro
Okaki Maguro, a tuna portion with truffle oil in a crispy rice served in a swish Japanese small plate. The soft tuna nigiri pairs well with the crunchy glazed bite-sized rice piece.

Sake No Miso Tarutaru
Sake No Miso Tarutaru is salmon tartare in wasabi miso and sweet potato chips.  It comes with a tobiko (flying fish roe) on top. A heavenly teaspoon portion of the tartare is a very good match to the crackers.

Omakase Osashimi and Toko Signature Maki
Omakase Osashimi and Toko Signature Maki are the chef's selection of maki rolls and sashimi. The selection for the day includes Red Snapper, Yellow Fin Tuna and Salmon. California Maki and Spicy Maguro Maki complete the rolls. Look at the very elegant presentation where the fresh sashimi slices sit in the bed of ice, with a sea shell mounted in it giving it the shimmer.

Hone Nashi Tebasaki No Miso Butter Zoe
Hone Nashi Tebasaki No Miso Butter Zoe is not the typical boneless chicken wings I was expecting. It comes in 2 bite-size portions dipped in smoked miso butter and has a slice of red radish on top.  It's not easy to feel the chicken taste at the first bite but you'll know it when it's gone.

Hotate No Jalapeno Amazu Zoe
Hotate No Jalapeno Amazu Zoe, pan-fried scallops with sweet pickled apple and jalapeno garlic on top.  We like it. The pickled sauce complements the tender seafood taste of a clam.

Ebi No Chii Sai Tempura
Ebi No Chii Sai Tempura is a rock shrimp tempura with a not-so-spicy mayonnaise dip. Almost all Asian restaurants have versions of this dish but this one is exceptional. The prawns are mildly breaded yet remains tender inside and crisp outside. One of my favorites.

At this point, we almost got no room in the tummy.

Avocado No Am Jyouju Lime Zoe
Avocado No Am Jyouju Lime Zoe is a grilled avocado with a subtle teriyaki sauce (sweet soy lime). It comes with rock salt and lime. The thought of teriyaki over a fruit is weird, and it was served in the middle of main courses too. But surprisingly, it's so good I almost finished it 'til its peel. They have perfectly selected good avocados, not stringy and not too hard to scrape. As an avocado lover, this one's a winner.

Sake No Aburi Yaki
Sake No Aburi Yaki is a medium-rare smoked miso salmon with house pickled ginger. I like that it wasn't dried from being grilled. I'm a sucker for salmon especially this one where its skin remains a little crispy even if it's the last part I eat of it.

Angus Grainge Rib-Eye
Last on the mains comes the stocky Angus Grainge Rib-Eye, a 180 grams serving of a 150-day grain-fed beef. It comes with a parsley vinaigrette dip and a salad with wasabi.

At this point we're really full. I had to call for a tea, green tea, while waiting for the dessert.

It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the Toko Dessert Bento Box chef's selection. Yes. Desserts on 3-layered bento boxes. I had the luck of seeing how they serve this in another table. So "a note to self" I must take a video when it gets to our table. (Video below)

The dry ice effect makes it more dramatic.

First box has assorted fruits - dragon fruit, pomegranate, pineapple, grapes and variety of berries, and 3 scoops of sorbet in coconut, mango and raspberry flavors.

The second box has a familiar lava cake with a warm fudge choco filling and a vanilla ice cream scoop by the side - proven a perfect match at all times.

Yuzu Cheesecake and Strawberry Coconut Panna Cotta made up the third bento box. Yuzi resembles lemon or lime. You know we're already full so these were really too heavy to take in, but the flavorful cheesecake was just so hard to resist. Panna Cotta was foamy on top but very berry deep into it.

Here's the video. Warning, this is really tempting:

No doubt, the dining experience is at the top. In addition to the excellent food and ambiance, the service is remarkable.

Our polite  servers, Alex and Zyra, know by heart every item they bring to our table. They also keep us informed the whole night about Toko - that it is indeed a frequented spot by international celebrities, with special mention of Kim Kardashian.

Oh, and to cap the night, we hanged our wishes at the bonsai trees as we leave the room. They say they'll pick one on the 7th (tonight) and reward the person with a dinner for four. How about that?

Great place. Amazing food. Very engaging experience.
“It is the first time we are hosting Star Festival at Toko and we are excited to give guests the opportunity to partake in the festival by hanging up their wishes while enjoying their favourite Toko dishes,” Tony Lina, General Manager
Thank you for inviting us to your first sumptuous Tanabata festival.

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