How genuine is Bistro des Arts in Dubai?
I happen upon a new Dubai restaurant on Instagram with many raving about its French authenticity. For once a restaurant opens here so quietly, without any of the usual PR onslaught and hype. These kind of low-key restaurants are the ones I like reviewing, but they are as rare as discovering a pearl in an oyster.
A locally developed concept, Bistro des Arts, transports you back in time to a quintessential Parisian bistro. Even though it sits on Dubai Marina Mall’s promenade, because it is linked to the Address hotel above, alcohol is served including on the terrace. Tourists are stopping by to take a look at the menu on display, and on a Saturday night, the intimate bistro is pretty busy – with what looks like mostly holidaymakers – not typically a good sign. A short delay and we are escorted to our al fresco table with views of the marina and its skyline. The wine list is presented on a giant chalkboard with mostly French wines, but it’s unbalanced with a larger selection of more expensive than mid-priced wines.
The menu, which spans breakfast, lunch and dinner, is hugely traditional focusing on rustic, ‘home-cooked’ French dishes, with a few daily specials – the latter is what I try. My appetiser is a trio of oysters – fine de claire, size no 3 – which are harvested now in the French winter season. Served with a mignonette sauce and a slice of lemon, they are soft with a not-so-fleshy consistency and boast a very distinct sea flavour. Given the choice, personally I prefer Gillardeau oysters for their ‘meatier’ taste, but I would happily eat these again. My main course is a half-butterflied and filleted grilled sea bass. The centre is beautifully succulent, but the rest verges on the dry side and would benefit from a little marination. A side dish of Vichy carrots is excellent – al dente and oozing butter.
My friend orders a starter from the ‘a grignoter’ aka ‘for nibbling’ section – a baked round of Saint-Marcellin cow’s milk cheese which is incredibly gooey and silky smooth – perfect for smothering the melba toast. Her main course of a simple steak tartare has its beef hand-cut and well flavoured. Thankfully, unlike some other bizarre French restaurants here, it’s not been doused in truffle oil. There’s no airs and graces at Bistro des Arts – fuss-free, no-frills fare that lets the ingredients do the work – and that’s the way it should remain.
The dessert selection is mammoth with a staggering choice of 13 dishes – salted caramel appears to be the dominant ingredient – but with food babies in the making, we are too full to order anything else. As you would expect from a traditional French menu, ‘fromage’ is also available – something I wish more restaurants would serve.
The manager and waiting staff appear to be French, or if not, French-speaking, and the bistro has the feel of a cosy and ‘charmant’ family-run affair, where pride and knowledge of ingredients play a key role. Apart from a short delay on arrival with no hostess to greet us, service is swift and discrete throughout. Above all though, the restaurant boasts bundles of atmosphere reminiscent of a street-side Parisian bistro with tables spilling onto the pavement. Expect to pay AED225 for three courses per person, sans alcohol, making Bistro des Arts a well-priced destination for authentic, traditional French fare in Dubai. Just watch the wine list.
It really is super rare to discover such genuine licensed gems here that are so un-Dubai, and one that overall ticks the food, service, location, decor, atmosphere and value-for-money boxes. At risk of shining too much light on Bistro des Arts, you really must dine there rapidement. This is a restaurant that should be frequented by residents and visitors alike. Here’s to a high 4 out of 5 FooDiva knifes.
Do you have any other licensed gems to share with us?