When every other restaurant in the city is serving burrata, you can rely on Pierre Gagnaire to elevate this heavenly cheese. His approach is to turn it into ice-cream, a technique that should be familiar to regular diners at his former Dubai eatery Reflets, where he introduced the concept in 2013, years before New York chef Dominique Ansel grabbed headlines for his soft serve version.
At Pierre’s Bistro & Bar, the approachable new venue that has taken the place of Reflets, Gagnaire infuses the buttery Italian cheese in a herby red beverage often associated with obscure retro cocktails to serve up a luxurious, elegant burst of summery flavours. It’s served with gorgonzola and a spicy tomato soup, a nod to a classic Italian pairing that is tangy, spicy, creamy and leaves me wanting another 10 portions.
As we discovered when invited down last week, the dish is only one of several big attractions at the new restaurant, which is doing its best to improve on the disadvantages of its location in a jaded, more crowded market than when the superstar chef first came to the city in 2007. The new venue is lighter and airier, with a lounge, a romantic outdoor terrace on Dubai Creek and a dining room that’s perfect for dinner with business friends or casual acquaintances. A flexible menu offers both sharing and individual portions, and a wallet-friendly price list compensates for the traffic. Outlet chef Mathieu Balbino says he wants people to come by thrice a month instead of three times a year — and Pierre’s looks set to achieve this. If you skip the Wagyu (what’s a menu without Wagyu in Dubai?), it’s possible to eat a three-course meal for Dh225.
Among the most spectacular dishes we’ve eaten recently was the foie gras Ringo, an airy confection of Chantilly-style liver layered with chopped bell peppers, a disk of dark chocolate and served on toast. The richness of the foie gras is nicely balanced out by the fresh peppers, and the chocolate gives the dish a superb finish. The difference from more pedestrian versions of duck liver couldn’t be starker — it’s like the first time your country cousin returns from the big city, all grown up and sophisticated and suddenly even more irresistible. As with other items on the menu, these might be dishes you think you know, but in Gagnaire’s hands they become very different creatures indeed.
A tuna tataki is hearty but sweet, thanks to a pairing with fresh mango, and the frogs legs, served with parsley and Panko, are juicy, tender and come with just a hint of lemon, a gentle introduction to this French staple.
Then there’s the chicken. Cooked sous vide to concentrate the taste and soften the meat, it falls apart the minute my fork touches it. It’s served with a sharp, gentle mustard sauce that is Gagnaire’s tribute to his mentor Jean Vignard, and a mac ‘n’ cheese made with Comte. My mum, who’s dining with me, normally abhors chicken; she can’t get enough of this dish!
The one odd note comes from the tarte tatin, which although sweet and flaky, doesn’t quite benefit from the elevated treatment. Although the crunchy pastry and almond base is fantastic, the apples are too thinly sliced and not sour enough to be memorable — rather odd given the intellectual exactitude of Gagnaire’s menus. The caramelised pears are much better. Stewed to baby-food softness and sitting alongside a mousse-soft cassata, which comes wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate, they’re a contrast of temperatures, textures and tastes all in one mouthful.
Pierre’s may not have the best location in town, but from price to food to excellent service, there are enough reasons to make this your new hangout.
Pierre’s Bistro & Bar at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City is open for dinner from 6.30pm everyday. Expect to pay Dh500 for two.