There’s talk that the Michelin Guide may be coming to Dubai, and although we hear this every six months without any actual confirmation from the people at Michelin, it continually raises the question of which restaurants might get awarded stars if they do.
The one restaurant that gets mentioned by pretty much all the food writers, bloggers and high-end diners in that conversation is Ossiano at The Atlantis Hotel. So is it the most-likely contender?
You can dine on a set menu of four, five or seven, with matched wines if desired, or you can choose a la carte. We went for the four-courses. The menu is presented really well, making it clear what your choices are depending on how many courses you have opted for. (See bottom of post for menu)
Four courses for Dhs670 is heavy on the wallet but in comparatively in keeping with prices at other places locally and once you start it’s clear that this is the real deal.
The Burratini Pugliese is a nod to the Mediterranean, and presented like a miniature garden with heirloom tomatoes, coriander, ponzu and delicate Italian Burrata. Light and fresh it opens proceedings nicely. As does the Alaskan King Crab salad, also presented in a clear bowl reminiscent of an Arno Enno ball chair.
The second course of Rainbow Trout “Floating Island” was one of those dishes you eat with a smile. The sea of foam was dense enough to be more than just bubbles-for-show and carried a light flavour, while the cauliflower royale was a denser texture, rich in flavour, while the island’s base was made of Sturia caviar and fresh, flavoursome trout. It was the type of dish that makes restaurants famous.
Meanwhile the Hokkaido scallops is one of those dishes that show how things simple ingredients can be elevated by other things on the plate – in this case a surprisingly brilliant mustard ice cream (really), fine pieces of chorizo and a thick vichyssoise soup.
The caramelised black cod was sensational. It had been left in the miso for 12 hours and presented on a bed of homemade linguine and with almond foam and zucchini. Elsewhere in this hotel is Nobu, the restaurant that made the caramelised black cod famous, and pretty much every Japanese place in town now makes caramelised black cod, but Ossiano makes it better than any of them. France 1 Japan 0.
My dining partner’s poached Blue Lobster came with a with a shot of bisque, a side of soufflé artichoke textures and that crispy, lattice-work you see on top in the picture below is made from squid ink. It’s incredible. The work that goes into the dishes is considerable and the flavours and textures all complement each other exceptionally well.
After a zesty palette cleanser, my panna cotta dessert was a light and classic version with assorted berries. It was lovely, but simple, while my dining partner’s “Ossiano” Apple Tart was something incredible. The green apple sorbet, salted liquorice caramel opaline with mini-apple on top was visually up there with best desserts in the city, and a blast of excellent flavours all working together. It’s what desserts in top restaurants should be.
Compared to Michelin stared restaurants we’ve eaten at, the food here is – in our opinion – about the level of a two-star restaurant in Europe. Which means it’s exceptionally good.
There’s nowhere else really doing this type of food in Dubai, at least not to this standard. While we love places like Coya and OKKU and Rang Mahal the food they are serving – while brilliant – doesn’t feel like something that make the annual Top 50 Restaurants in the World list. At Ossiano it really does.
The only things that let the place down are small and non-food related. When we tried to order an Old Fashioned at the bar pre-dinner the barman told us that here they make it with Jack Daniel’s. Sacrilege! The fact he had to warn us suggests he probably knows it’s not right or has had complaints in the past. A&E and MMI both sell Woodford Reserve which is ideal for an Old Fashioned.
The table was not flat, it was raised higher on the opposite half, perhaps because it’s a folding table that wasn’t set right. The music being played in the first half of the night was quite loud saxophone music that seemed out of place here.
Then the pianist who played for the latter part was wonderfully talented and had she just played the piano, rather than singing as well, it would have been a classy addition. She wasn’t bad by any means, but at one point she was singing a cover of a Michael Jackson song and… well it just didn’t seem to fit with the food and tone of the restaurant. And that food was visually stunning, so a bit more light on the table would let people see clearer.
And at this point if you’re thinking, “Well so what? First-world problems. The food was great, right?” then I’m with you. I had a lovely Martini instead, the table was flat on the bit where our plates were and I’m fine with gratuitous sax and violins, and not wildly adverse to a bit of MJ bashed out on the ivories, but it’s tiny things like this that the Michelin people will look for. It’s things like this that are the difference between really good and perfect. And it would be a crying shame if slight notes like that – and they are little, easily correctable things – prevented the incredible, wonderful food at this restaurant from getting it’s deserved recognition.
Some may say that Dubai doesn’t need a seal of approval from a French food guide. But should teams of fussy Frenchmen descent on the city it would do wonders for the restaurant scene. It would be an objective, outside view of the restaurants that are here, for good or for ill, and separate those that are genuinely really great from those that are just really expensive.
Chef Gregoire Berger is one of the best in the whole of the GCC and has created a menu here that is surprising, frequently astonishing and consistently brilliant. Yes, it’s expensive, but I’d rather eat here once than spend the same money on meals at two other top restaurants in Dubai that each deliver less. Because right now, nowhere in the country is doing this type of high-end food as well as Ossiano, and since Pierre Gagnaire closed his signature restaurant it’s really the only place in town to get it done properly.
And here we are, over 1,000 words later. Some restaurants make you want to write and write about them because they really are that good. And if they can make a few minor tweaks then it will be Michelin-visit ready or simply just that bit better for anyone who visits – but right now I couldn’t care less about a French food guide because the food here at Ossiano is incredible and I don’t need a guide to confirm that.