Chef Akmal Anuar, founder of Goldfish Dubai, speaks about his food perception

If you’re a sushi lover, then Goldfish is the new Dubai-based restaurant you need to know about.

Founded by Chef Akmal Anuar, the brainchild behind one of the top contemporary Asian restaurants in Dubai, 3 Fils, Goldfish is a modern sushi and yakitori neighbourhood aimed to “serve the community, be small, and cater to the residents”.

With Japanese cuisine being incredibly popular, Chef Akmal explains he wanted to “simplify the meaning of it”. As he says, “Goldfish is authentic in the Dubai way.”

With rice being cooked almost hourly at this Dubai hotspot based in Al Wasl, you’ll be hard-pressed to find sushi in Dubai as fresh as what is on offer at Goldfish.

Emirates Woman sat down with Chef Akmal to find out more about his career, the inspiration behind the new hotspot and what’s next for him in Dubai.

Can you talk us through your career history?

I started my professional culinary career in 1999. The first restaurant I landed at was French called Les Amis in Singapore. For a couple of years, I stayed there working my way up before moving to the Honiara, Solomon Islands, to work for a resort. There I had no access to imports, and the only choice was the abundance of local and natural resources. I learned how to use seasonal produce and to keep things simple.

I came back to Singapore in 2005 as Sous-chef for a Belgian chef and later moved as Head Chef of Iggy’s restaurant. Iggy’s was ranked one of the best restaurants globally by the 50 best restaurants award, and in 2012 it was the world’s no 26 and Asia’s no 1. I moved to Dubai, joining Starwood at Le Royal Meridien as chef collaborator with Richard Sandoval Hospitality.

In 2016, I co-owned 3fils restaurants, where it landed as the best Asian restaurant year after year and made it into the 50 best discovery and Forbes in 2019.

I started my own hospitality consulting company, White Rice Co. in early 2020. So far, we have had businesses in KSA, Jeddah, and Riyadh, a joint venture with Sunset Hospitality Group called Goldfish, a Mediterranean restaurant in the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, and a couple more interesting new openings expected in Q4 2021.

Where does your love for food and cooking come from?

I was born into a family where the women cooked and cooked well. Both my parents are hawkers, and their mothers were great cooks. I was brought up in a humble and modest family. We often eat together, and my mother has magic hands with her dishes. I understood fresh produce and taste. This conditioned me into the fundamentals of cooking, and I got into professional cooking to hone my skills and see further how far I could go.

What do you love about what you do?

Nowadays, the challenges are different. I have become somehow a businessman also. What I do affects everything. I have a huge responsibility, and my eyes are always on me. I love to see my restaurants get busy and guest enjoying their experiences with us. I make more mistakes than ever but love every bit of it. These kinds of incidents don’t come in textbooks. I love learning.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

It was an opportunity. I’ve never been to Dubai or even heard much about it. I arrived in 2013 for a short trip, and my mind was blown away. The city is ever-growing. An outstanding leadership governs it, and it has always given chances to people to do well if they choose to. This is why I’m still here and looking for more of that.

How does the food and beverage industry here differ from other places around the world?

F&B here is excellent. I wouldn’t fault any. Big brands come in to grab opportunities, and you find terrific concepts, and most of them do well. What differentiates it from other places are the customers. Spending power here is strong, and there is an eat-out culture which I think is very lovely. There is a wide choice of concepts to choose from, and it never gets boring.

What are the hero dishes, in your opinion, at Goldfish?

Our sushi is always a killer. We only use fresh ingredients, and we cook our rice almost hourly.

What has it been like opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic?

We are lucky enough to be able to open a restaurant and be busy at this moment. We count our blessings. My team and I worked hard to make sure the business run smoothly and we can grow shortly.

What is the inspiration behind Goldfish?

Goldfish is a sushi and yakitori place. A place you come with friends and family for a meal. To grab a quick bite and relax. The inspiration was to be a Dubai restaurant. To serve the community, be small, and cater to the residents. Japanese cuisine is popular, and I wanted to simplify the meaning of it. Goldfish is authentic in the Dubai way.


What are the hurdles you’ve experienced during your career?

I have faced many challenges during my career, and one of the hardest ones was deciding to choose your path. Sometimes you get into a zone where you no longer want to do the same thing. You like doing new things, push boundaries. The decision to move up to the next race is risky and might hurt some people around you. Most decision-making is not easy, but it always balls down to what the future can hold.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what are the milestones?

I have recently developed many concepts, and most of them are successful ones. I managed to set up my own company with my accountings and back office. And the best part during the pandemic was being able to spend some time in the Maldives with the family. I have always dreamed of it for a long time.

What do you see next for Goldfish Dubai and your other restaurants here in the emirate?

Goldfish will expand into a few locations in the UAE and the region in the next three years. We are looking into it right now and franchising it. Together with Sunset Hospitality, these goals can be easily achieved. That is the focus right now.

As for Chie restaurant in Sharjah, we might take up a few more projects in Sharjah with Shurooq Investments. They have cool boutique projects coming up soon, and I can’t wait to share them soon.


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