As a chef with style, influence and popularity across the Middle East and North Africa, it’s little wonder that Reif Othman has been awarded the region’s inaugural peer-voted Chefs’ Choice Award. His career, which spans over a decade, has seen him establish himself as one of the UAE’s few entirely self-funded restaurateurs, as well as a renowned chef with an unconventional approach to Japanese dining.
Othman’s passion for the gastronomic arts began at a young age, as he learnt the ropes from his mother in her Asian cafeteria. After attending culinary school in Singapore, he secured a job at the prestigious Burj al Arab and relocated to Dubai in 2009. Othman forged his reputation in the emirate in kitchens such as Play, Billionaire Mansion and Zuma, where he worked his way up the ladder to become regional executive chef.
His first restaurant, Reif Kushiyaki, debuted in 2019 in Dubai’s Jumeriah Dar Wasl mall and plays host to an auspicious omakase multi-course tasting menu, TERO (The Experience by Reif Othman). The chef’s carefully planned dishes revolve around a different culinary theme each month, such as Japan’s cherry blossom season, and the venue books up the four-seater kitchen bar for months at a time.
Although he specialises in Japanese dishes, Othman does not confine himself to traditional cuisine. Many of his unusual creations have already taken the world by storm: the ‘toilet roll’ dessert, layered with lemon butter sponge and yuzu curd, swept social media platforms, while his Wagyu Sando is now a staple sandwich across the UAE.
Reif Kushiyaki, which also makes its debut on the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list at No.16, is a project close to Othman’s heart. In a relaxed and intimate setting, the chef has licence to experiment with flavours and textures, putting a spotlight on snack-like street food and skewers. The menu features familiar favourites with signature twists, such as angus beef and truffle mayonnaise kushi and yasai dashi ramen.
At the helm of a restaurant whose popularity has already caused it to expand into the adjoining unit in the Dubai mall, Othman is poised to take his cuisine further. Reif Kushiyaki has recently opened in Cairo and another launch is imminent in Riyadh. It’s clear that this Chefs’ Choice Award winner has his eyes on the horizon – and his peers are looking up to him.
Learn more about Reif Othman by reading the interview on 50 Best Stories
The Chefs’ Choice Award is the only peer-voted accolade in the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants programme. It honours a chef who has made a positive contribution to the region’s culinary scene over the last year, as chosen by the teams behind the restaurants in this year’s list.