You are known for your unconventional approach to Far Eastern cuisine. What can you tell us about this?
My cooking embraces Japanese sensibilities, with a nod to Italian and French cuisine fundamentals. Quality, flavor, consistency, creativity and wit are all integral components, with new dishes a daily fixture. I am typically the first to introduce a new dish that sparks a trend – whether it’s the “toilet roll” yuzu and lemon cake that went viral during the pandemic, my Instagram-famous Wagyu sando or the kushi skewers that form the backbone to the Reif Japanese Kushiyaki brand. All these combined have helped raise the profile of Japanese cuisine in the UAE, and now in Egypt.
You have recently launched Reif Japanese Kushiyaki in Cairo. What is the concept and why did you choose to open a branch in Egypt?
Reif Japanese Kushiyaki is a neighborhood concept that specializes in unconventional Japanese food, a reflection of my playful personality and distinctive cooking style. Boasting a casual and fun dining experience, we bring a modern and witty flair to traditional Japanese dishes through bold flavors and textures.
Reif Japanese Kushiyaki is a franchise agreement with Baky Hospitality, marking our first international outpost. It was always our intention to expand the Reif Japanese Kushiyaki brand outside the UAE by growing our footprint regionally and internationally. In light of the pandemic, we have been able to negotiate compelling deals, allowing us to take the concept further afield in the UAE, as well as to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Why did you choose Baky Hospitality Group as your partner?
Over the last few years, I have consulted for Baky Hospitality and have built a strong and trusted relationship with the owner, Ayman Baky, who is considered the leading restaurateur in Egypt. So, when he approached me to open a franchised Reif Japanese Kushiyaki to fill a gap in the market for unconventional, well-priced Japanese food in an alcohol-licensed venue, I knew it was something worth considering.
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?
In Egypt, we have just signed a second Reif Japanese Kushiyaki location at Park Street with Baky Hospitality. In addition to our expansion into Saudi Arabia with two restaurants, I am opening a new unconventional streetwear store – Soleside by Reif – in Dubai in February. Featuring sneakers, streetwear and Bearbrik toy collectibles, it will comprise a shop and a café.