Review: Ossiano, an unforgettable underwater dining experience

Is chef Gregoire Berger’s next chapter a story worth telling?

Like many, chef Gregoire Berger used the Covid pandemic to reset, departing Atlantis The Palm after six years as Chef de Cuisine of Ossiano last year. But after a short stint back home in his beloved Brittany, France, the acclaimed chef is back. But chef Gregoire has brought more than just memories back to Dubai from his home town, using France’s most northwestern region as the inspiration for his next chapter at Ossiano, an 11-waves tasting menu.

Almost nothing has changed in the restaurant, because simply it didn’t need to. Ossiano has always felt like an underwater kingdom, with its sparkling chandeliers, royal blue carpet and white marble tables that look like shimmering pearls against the backdrop of The Lagoon, Atlantis The Palm’s aquarium. Tables are carefully arranged to ensure every table gets a front row seat to the 65,000 marine life swimming by.

While the standout setting remains untouched, the menu is an entirely new experience. But not to chef Berger, who laces his childhood and travels across the globe into his Metanoia, the 11-waves tasting menu that pays homage to the ocean.

To begin, our ‘Snacks of the Sea’ include a crisp Nori tartlet filled with neat cubes of unagi and three types of Chicharon, shaped into seaweed-like branches. Our favourite is the squid and anchovy, although the king prawn is delicious when dunked in a lobster aioli. Not long after they’ve been cleared, a bowl bubbling with dry ice signals the arrival of our next ‘wave’, a dish of creamy cauliflower, cubes of fresh trout and an airy seawater foam that adds a welcome salty taste.

We’ve been following the menu thus far, but chef Gregoire surprises us next with a surprise dish, which he says reflects his ethos that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Suffice to say, we weren’t expecting a plate of fine slivers of jellyfish, ebi shrimp and oyster seaweed, but it’s a taste sensation.

Returning back to the menu for a course fondly called ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay’. Delicious Brittany brown crab is fused with fragrant kari gosse, a combination of popular Moroccan spices that are an ode to Berger’s wife’s heritage and the three years the spent there; and a bouillabaisse essence.

Each ‘wave’ provides further insight into chef Berger and his passion for ingredients, but it’s when we’re invited into the kitchen mid-way through the meal that we get a real insight into the life of the culinary mastermind. Here, he presents a spoonful of sorbet in a conch-shaped bowl, made from leaves that grew at his grandmothers home in Brittany that he’s since exported to Dubai. It’s got a hint of lemongrass, punch of green chili and a sweet white chocolate coating. We lick the spoon clean.

Moving swiftly through the next round of courses, each is presented on a plate that further plays into the narrative. A plate designed to look like it’s rippled with crashing waves is the crockery of choice for a lightly seared langoustine with sea lettuce pesto; the burnt leak and clams comes from the ‘hands’ of the chef, and a piping hot Dashi, one of the few ingredients not to come from a 50km radius of Brittany, is served in a whelk shell. Even the scallop, sourced from Rade de Brest and served on a soft Morel, features a potent truffle and artichoke topping designed to look like a light scattering of snow over the Burgundy countryside.

The concluding courses are some of chef Gregoire’s finest work. The Patagonian toothfish, a challenge to source but with the effort, is one of the standouts, served with a flavour-packed seaweed and garlic emulsion.

The divisive truffle, chef Gregoire’s own creation, is an amalgam of indulgent truffle and sweet cream that mixes sweet and savoury that we can’t tell if we like or not. But we’re willing to give it another go. Then to finish, a return to the chef’s more personal side for a spin on his daughter’s favourite dessert, a neat tart of thin slices of apple with a crumble and biscuit base and white chocolate ganache.

Everything about the design of the dishes, to the symbolic plates they’re presented on, to the way the staff recite chef Gregoire’s story with impeccable finesse, is expertly curated, and with each course it gets better and better.

There’s a lot of buzz around which restaurants will be bestowed with a coveted Michelin star when the announcement is made in June. But if it were up to us, we’d be sending at least one Ossiano’s way.

Ossiano, Atlantis The Palm, daily 6pm to 12am, 9-waves tasting menu, Dhs1,095, wine-pairing Dhs845. Tel: (0)4 426 2626, atlantis.com/dubai

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