Sometimes you enter a venue and it’s just so cool it actually makes your eyes ache. Sho Cho is one of these places.
We visited the sister venue to the cult Dubai hotspot in Abu Dhabi based at Souq Qaryat Al Beri, next to the beautiful Shangri-la hotel.
As locations go in the capital, Sho Cho is leading by example with an expansive outdoor terrace overhanging the canal offering unrivalled views of the truly stunning Grand Mosque.
For those days when the sun is just a little bit too strong, you can also drink and dine inside in the chic minimalistic decor complete with ultraviolet light installations and funky furniture.
This Japanese restaurant and lounge has fast established a reputation as the go-to place for just about any occasion. With an extensive menu of modern Japanese cuisine as well as some fantastic cocktails, it’s far too easy to relax under the soothing blue glow into the white leather sofas whilst you marvel at the majestic beauty of the gulf coast and the souk’s private marina as the resident DJ adds to the chilled-out atmosphere.This is a spot for sundowners if ever we’ve seen one.
We visited over lunchtime to experience some of what we have heard is ‘authentic, modern Japanese cuisine’. The menu is vast and includes favourite dishes such as Sho Cho edamane beans coated in ginger and soy and some of the freshest sushi in town.
To start, we opted for a selection of recommended dishes. The great thing about the menu here is that you can share (or not share) as little or much as you would like. The appetizers in particular make fantastic sharing plates meaning you get to try a little of everything and portions are generous enough not to leave anyone out. Grilled vegetable gyozas with a ponzu sauce were briskly brought to the table alongside chunky chicken yakitori skewers and soft shell crab spring rolls. For seafood lovers we absolutely recommend the rock shrimp tempura with a chilli and garlic sauce, although beware when we say the portions are generous, we really mean enormous! It’s a refreshing change to get quantity as well as quality in any UAE eatery. Our entrees were washed down with delicious virgin mojitos mixed with passionfruit which makes for a fruity, refreshing twist on our lunchtime favourite tipple.
Mains were served after a welcome pause to enjoy the view and the animated atmosphere that Sho Cho offers even on a weekday lunchtime.
The beef tenderloin with yellow chilli sauce is sublime. Succulent beef strips marinated in a fierce chilli sauce make this a dish worth trying. The chicken teriyaki accompanied by steamed sticky rice is also a great, safe option for those slightly overwhelmed by Japanese cuisine. In fact, there is so much on the menu it’s rather hard to choose. Stand out dishes include the sautéed squid with light garlic sauce and the absolutely delicious marinated duck with soy sauce.
For die-hard sushi fans you simply can’t beat Sho Cho, with an abundance of sushi and sashimi to choose from. The Sho Cho rolls, particularly the futomaki ( egg, crabstick, shrimp, oshinko, kampyo, kappa, oboro and shitake) and the lobster tempura maki are standout dishes. Vegetarians can also dine in comfort for there are lots of dishes on offer, our resident veggie devoured the vegetable maki which came in a substantial 6 pieces alongside the vegetable teriyaki dish.
If you have room for desert, which we doubt, but if like us you’ll always give it a good go, then the chocolate fondant is a great option to share. It takes around 20 minutes to prepare (again a welcome respite from all the face-filling) and you’ll be sure to have more than one fork work its way through the gooey chocolate centre.
What’s more on weekdays (Sunday to Thursday) Sho Cho offers a special lunchtime menu where diners can enjoy a selection of mouth-watering Japanese dishes ranging between AED 105 and AED 125 where you can indulge yourself in salads, appetizers, tempura, sushi, sashimi and an array of main dishes between 12pm and 3pm.
For sheer quality of food you simply cannot beat Sho Cho for Japanese culinary excellence, if you through in one of the best views in Abu Dhabi and a fantastic, unpretentious vibe then you have the recipe for the perfect venue.