Pierre’s Bistro: A brand new take on classic fare from a celebrated French chef

The white pizza — a cheesy, fresh-from-the-oven eight-incher topped with pecorino, mozzarella and crème fraiche, with rocket garnish — is moreish. (Photo supplied)
Updated 07 May 2018
0

Pierre’s Bistro: A brand new take on classic fare from a celebrated French chef

DUBAI: When a highly lauded restaurant shuts down, it’s usually a sad occasion. But in the case of Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, the multi-award-winning French fine dining venue at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City by the celebrated French chef, the fact that a younger, more vibrant replacement has taken its place helps mitigate the loss.

Pierre’s Bistro seems determined to wipe out any traces of its predecessor. The space has been transformed — right down to its own private lift access — with a separate lounge area housing tropical-style foliage (possibly real) and flamingoes (definitely fake), and the intimate dining area now appearing much brighter and more open with streamlined, elegant décor and an extended terrace offering views of the creek. With live entertainment slated for weekend evenings, it is clearly catering to the region’s ever-growing appetite for relaxed lounge dining experiences.

The biggest difference, however, lies in the food. In fairness, Reflets was completely different concept and shouldn’t be compared, but the menu has shifted from intricate degustation to a modern take on classic bistro fare.
So the compact, well-curated menu features dishes like Arancini croquettes, lobster tortellini, and — shock, horror! — even a burger, albeit a gourmet one featuring some authentic ingredients and sauces that reflect that French chef’s touch. And many of the portion sizes are quite large, better suited to one-course meals.

Our starter choice of pan-fried squid with kale, mushroom and black garlic is packed with flavor, and is served as a hearty warm salad. It is designed to be shared. Similarly, the white pizza — a cheesy, fresh-from-the-oven eight-incher topped with pecorino, mozzarella and crème fraiche, with rocket garnish — is moreish (we opted out of the prawn topping it is meant to be served with, but that didn’t seem to hurt the dish at all).

The quality of the baking is outstanding. Not only was the crisp thin pizza base near perfect, the complimentary bread basket containing freshly baked rolls and paper-thin flavored crispbreads, served with real French butter, is worth the trip alone.

For mains, the head chef recommended I try the Japanese Amadei fish, unavailable in any other Dubai restaurant, which is pan-fried with its scales crisping up to provide a unique textural element. Served on a bed of quinoa flavored with Cremona mustard and avocado and with quinoa tuile for garnish — this is what we mean by contemporary bistro fare — it is an inspired dish.

The roasted farm chicken breast with Comté cheese macaroni served with a creamy tomato sauce a comforting, tasty main, although the chicken skin lacked that essential crispiness.

While that was just a small niggle in what was, to that point, a thoroughly satisfying meal, we were left slightly underwhelmed with the desserts.

The tiramisu came highly recommended. It certainly wasn’t bad, and the portion size was generous, but we’ve had better elsewhere. The burnt almond panna cotta appeared as a soft pillow of vanilla custard atop cut fruit with the almond making an appearance as a tuile garnish. While the dish lacked the unmistakable wobbliness that makes a panna cotta truly special, it was still a treat.

In hindsight, we should probably have ordered a French dessert such as the chocolate biscuit soufflé or apple tart, considering it is a French restaurant, but that just gives us something to go back for.

And go back we definitely will. Because even though this ‘sensorial dining experience’ left us wondering if Gagnaire’s considerable talents as a chef are being adequately utilized, Pierre’s Bistro is nonetheless a very good addition to the French restaurant scene in the Middle East.


Family favorites: Toto’s famous spaghetti and meatballs soup

Updated 21 May 2018
0

Family favorites: Toto’s famous spaghetti and meatballs soup

This hearty dish is the middle point between spaghetti and meatballs and soup. It is a family favorite in my household, my kids love it and ask for seconds — and thirds sometimes! As any mother of picky eaters knows, this is a dream come true and I promise you, this soup will have your kids slurping from the bowl.

I was first introduced to this delicious meal by my mother-in-law, whom we affectionately call Toto, and ever since then, it’s become known as Toto’s famous spaghetti and meatballs soup in our home.

It is perfect for a satisfying iftar dish, so why not try it today?

 

Ingredients:

Store bought spaghetti (Toto makes hers from scratch. If you can do that, kudos to you, if not just use store bought spaghetti).

Two peeled potatoes cut into large cubes.

Half-a-pound of minced meat.

One onion, chopped finely.

Six ripe tomatoes and two  tablespoons of tomato paste.

Five garlic cloves, crushed.

A handful of chopped coriander leaves.

 

 Method:

Combine the tomatoes and tomato paste with one liter of water in a blender, with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture into a big pot on the stovetop and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to let it simmer.  

In a separate bowl, add the minced meat, onions and garlic, with a dash of salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated and roll into small meatballs.

Cook the meatballs through in a sizzling, oiled pan. Transfer the meatballs into the pot with the simmering tomato soup.

Add the peeled potatoes that have been cut into chunks into the soup.

Let it cook for 10 minutes and add the spaghetti. Continue to cook the dish until the spaghetti is al dente and serve with a garnish of freshly chopped coriander leaves.