Claiming to fill a specific gap in Dubai’s culinary scene for authentic, regional French specialties, Bistro Des Arts has taken on a tall order in taking on French Cuisine.
French cuisine is intimidating, unforgiving and unnecessarily complicated. It requires you to spend 128 years in a kitchen learning how to perfect a garlic confit. The head chef thenspits your fish stock into your face, flamboyantly screaming “Yuck!” whilst rinsing his mouth out with red wine.
BDA is “conveniently” located at Marina Mall – well not really. Let’s just say, you park at Marina Mall. After that, it gets a little complicated.
Bistro Des Arts claims it is a quintessential Paris bistro, and as I sat on the terrace overlooking the marina and watched a maid getting repeatedly hit by a child in her careand a teenaged boy almost crash into a mega yacht as he lost control of his hover board, I was whisked away to the Rue de Bretagne, circa 1970 and was sure I heard a faintaccordion player in the distance.
The tables are very Parisian – small, wobbly and heavy topped. The set up is simple, tea towel napkin, side plate and silverware. The whole space is rather intimate and hidden;with a low canopy and small side entrance, one felt rather special, and I congratulated myself for finding this place. Although I didn’t really find it – my friend suggested it. However,because he is French, he is incapable of arriving anywhere on time, so I arrived first, and in true British fashion, felt I could claim ownership.
The interior is quaint and thoughtful – they haven’t reinvented French interior design, but then again, they don’t have to. I can see this being a wonderful little spot for a casual andintimate dinner.
At this point, I am beginning to see a trend – the menu is also very French – focusing on “Terroir” French home-style food. The menu is two pages, stuck inappropriately on twosides of a piece of wood, which is large and cumbersome, especially on the small tables. I genuinely think I got a splinter.
We ordered the pissaladiere; an onion tart with anchovy, black olives and an unpronounceable name. We also ordered the home-made duck terrine with onion marmalade andbaked St Marcellin cheese. Two of the three starters were enjoyable. However, for me, the pissaladiere is always going to be compared to the La Petite Maison version, and it cameup short, in my opinion. It was over oily, and the onions were overcooked; almost to a puree. On a positive note, my one-year-old nephew would have enjoyed it. The duckterrine was smoky and well textured, but the baked cheese was left under the grill a little too long, and it became a mini fondue, unfortunately.
We both had the Bœuf Bourguignon, or beef burgundy, for the uncultured and the Americans. Beef bourguignon is one of the many peasant or farm dishes making it onto main-stream menus. Julia Child once described the dish, as “one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” Had she not died over a decade ago, she might have been talkingabout Bistro des Art’s Bœuf Bourguignon.
It was an outstanding every man’s dish. Nowhere near as subtle as Japanese flavours, or as simple as Italian cooking, or as punchy as Asian cooking, but this was an outstandingdish and simple French cooking at its best. A base sauce, with complex, layered aromas and flavours that only the French are arrogant enough to try, with a slow-cooked beef sosucculent that could be eaten with a fork alone.
Bistro Des Arts has certainly found a little corner of the Marina that they can call home. I would tell you where it is and how to get there, but I don’t want too many people to findit.