Few venues quite suit a traditional Japanese meal, than one in which the majesty of the sea can be beheld. Tahini, a new Japanese restaurant in the Hotel Meliá Don Pepe, invites diners to enjoy all that and more. Boasting full-length crystal windows and a dreamlike terrace perched above the glistening Mediterranean, it is a uniquely elegant spot from which to listen to the waves crashing on the shore and to gaze at flocks of seagulls diving energetically into the waves to savour the bounties of the sea. Here, Nature meets nurture and joins the rich gastronomic tradition of Japan for a one-of-a-kind dining experience that cannot be missed by diners after ‘the real thing’.

The restaurant is the new baby of the Cappuccino Group, who opened the first Tahini in Mallorca over a decade ago. Eager to acquaint themselves with the culture and gastronomic trends of Japan, the team travelled every year for 11 years to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun,’ to offer diners something special: a blend of tradition and innovation, the kind savvy diners could expect to savour in a five-star restaurant in Tokyo. One of the most important lessons gleaned from the Japanese is how to marry art and cuisine; colour, symmetry and proportion are present on every plate but also in the surroundings. Tahini Marbella is marked by sophistication, with dark wood furnishings, coffee-hued floor tiling and an impressive open kitchen separated from diners which affords a view of the ultra-coordinated team of Chefs working meticulously to create dishes which are as artfully presented as they are delicious.

Diners be warned: one glance at the menu and you’ll probably be stumped. Ordering can indeed be a (pleasant) challenge, since the minimalistic yet colourful photos of the wide range of dishes makes it very difficult to favour one over the other. There is something for everyone, from those watching their waistlines to those after a hearty warm meal. Think crisp edamame, whose verdant freshness is complemented by an airy nest of alfalfa sprouts and a deep violet edible flower; or a colourful wakame salad, served with vibrant orange edible flowers and sprouts. Soup lovers after something light should try the clear Miso and fish soup, while those after a bit of fusion goodness should probably opt for the Miso soup with foie gras and truffle, a true exponent of the meeting of East and West. Tahini also serves warm, soul-soothing gyozas, fresh and tender tartares (tuna and salmon), temakis, sashimi and of course, an array of sushis that will inspire even the most sophisticated sushi fans, to discover varieties they have probably never tried before.

Tahini is, in many ways, both for adventurous and conservative Japanese food buffs, who will find traditional favourites like the assorted sushi (featuring salmon, red tuna, white fish etc.) or newer sensations, afforded by dishes such as the scallop ngiri or the halibut with Saikyo-Miso served with a crisp layer of baby Kenya beans in its interior.

On my first visit to Tahini for lunch, the day was sunny yet breezy, and my dining companion and I sat close to the sea. We commenced the meal in a very fitting way: with a cool Japanese mandarin caipirinha, made with Bombay Sapphire gin, brown sugar and Japanese mandarins. In addition to crushed ice, the drink displayed geometric slabs of ice, curiously different in texture and pleasing to the eye. The drink was sweet, refreshing and special, for the mandarins are eaten as is, skin and all, their citric yet slightly bitter flavour hitting the spot on such a warm day.

We also tried a mix of two different orders: the assorted sushi and the vegetable sushi. Both stood out for their in freshness, texture and taste. My companion, who, in daily life is not very fond of vegetables, fell in love with the crisp baby Kenya beans and the asparagus, lightly scalded so that their freshness and seasonality weren’t lost.

One dish you cannot visit Tahini without trying is the veal and vegetable roll with truffle aroma (and grated truffles), with something very surprising and immensely delicious in its interior: tempura veggies, which add a unique crunch that complemented the meat to perfection. Our friendly waitress also recommended a light-as-air prawn and veggie tempura, cooked to just the right degree to ensure juiciness in the prawns, and crispness in the veggies.
Despite the generous size of the portions, we had a little room left for dessert, and tucked into an amazing ‘cheesecake’ comprising three layers: the top layer contained cream and honey, the middle comprised a sweet red bean paste and the base was made from crushed biscuits. The light, airy dessert was served with two sauces: sticky toffee and spearmint, just right to end a meal that was perfect from start to finish.

Open every day for lunch and dinner. C/ José Meliá s/n, Marbella. Tel: 952 902 936.