Kei

Kei has been serving sushi for three decades. But is it endearing, or merely enduring?

Time Out Says

There’s nothing more reassuring than walking into a Japanese restaurant and realising that the table next to yours is playing host to a group of Japanese. ‘Ohhh,’ you utter to your dinner guests, ‘it must be good,’ all the while peering over to see what those native to the cuisine have ordered.

The theory, almost universally applied, states that citizenship qualifies you as a food critic of your country’s cuisine. That the French would ever be caught in a bad French restaurant is patently absurd. Whilst it is common knowledge that all Italians would rather die than eat a lasagne that was not as good as Nonna’s.

But the longer I thought about this, the less certain I was that this theory held any weight. In England, for example, popularity tends to imply that everything on the menu is served with chips, not that it is necessarily any good. And when I was travelling in northern Spain recently, the epicentre of modern European cuisine, I asked a Spanish family to point me in the direction of the city’s best restaurant and they directed me to a McDonald’s.

Nevertheless, the clipped chatter of the Japanese at the next table wafted over us like a riff of reassurance, and if someone had told me there was fugu on the menu, I would without hesitation have ordered it.

Kei, located in the Golden Tulip Hotel, is something of a dark horse in Bahrain’s dining scene. Open for over three decades, it’s older than most of the buildings in Bahrain. And yet it has a profile so low that it’s practically submerged beneath the cement of the reclamation projects that have proceeded it. Which is not to say it wasn’t busy when we turned up for lunch, though if it wants to attract diners from outside the hotel, one imagines a bit of marketing might not go amiss.

Following the rule that the best Japanese restaurants occupy the tiniest of spaces, Kei is divided into a private dining room, a sushi bar, a teppanyaki room and a couple of regular dining rooms, each not much bigger than a walk-in wardrobe. Indeed, in the absence of windows and with the addition of Japanese diners it was not all that hard to feel transported to Tokyo.

It being midday, we ordered from the lunch menu a sushi and sashimi set, a sashimi santenmo, a teriyaki combination lunch set and some yakisoba, which pretty well covered the options available. The sushi and sashimi came on a wooden block and was not at all bad. The teriyaki consisted of chicken, beef, and fish and was served covered in a thick gravy on a plate that was rather annoyingly cold.

Yakisoba is a Chinese import to Japan and is made with noodles similar to ramen. It is not supposed to come loaded with noodles that have come out of a packet of maggi as the yakisoba that we ordered did. I briefly wondered what the Japanese diners would have made of this pile of pot noodles, but by this time they had beat a hasty retreat.

We finished the meal with fried ice cream, which I was rather hoping would be a battered scoop, something I have never tried but have always been intrigued by. Instead it was a very pleasant combination of ice cream and crepes with a wonderfully kitsch flower made out of an orange, the appearance of which almost made up for the noodles.

Kei goes for authentic, and in terms of the decor, the menu and even the other diners, it is pretty close to the mark. The conclusion: great value sushi and sashimi, pass on anything noodle.

The bill (for three)
Sashimi santenmo BD4.000
Sushi sashimi set BD8.800
Teriyaki combination lunch BD7.500
Yakisoba BD4.300
Fried ice cream BD3.000
Large water BD1.000
Total (incl. tax/service) BD34.540

By Time Out Bahrain staff  | 29 Jun 2010

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12:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Sunday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMMonday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMTuesday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMWednesday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMThursday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMFriday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PMSaturday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Show number 17 535 000
Manama, Adliya, Golden Tulip Hotel,، Manama, Bahrain، Manama, Bahrain
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