Full disclosure is required going into this review as we (apologetically) know very little about Uzbek cuisine! Having heard positive things about the London opening of Osh whilst back home in the UK last summer, we were keen to give their new opening in Dubai a try and attempt to educate ourselves on the cuisine of Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country that marks a crossroads between East and West.
While Osh’s London location can be found at Beauchamp Place, an upmarket address in Knightsbridge. In Dubai things are a little different. Taking advantage of the beachfront development of La Mer North, Osh Dubai follows the cubic design of the other retail outlets in the district, offering both a restaurant and bar specialising in Uzbek delicacies with a specific focus on grills and manti (steamed dumplings).
As has become the norm for restaurant openings in the region, the fit out is spectacular. Split between two levels separated by a rather grand golden spiral staircase. The ground floor features hand-woven rugs and an open show-kitchen where skewers of raw meat sit encased in glass waiting to be grilled. Upstairs would be our preference, with a more spacious dining room bursting with colours from the purple couches and Suzani cushions with their patterned designs. A golden light fitting stretches across the ceiling, illuminating the route to an external terrace overlooking the beach and Burj Khalifa.
These interiors serve a distinct purpose of telling the story of Osh’s culinary origins which are likely to be alien to the layman diner. For Uzbekistan was an important country due to it’s location along the ancient silk road connecting the east to the west and creating a trade hubs for the bazaar cities along the route.
This would explain why the menu is made up of a number of distinct influences, with dishes ranging from traditional Uzbek staples such as grilled meat through to Middle Eastern Mezze and Chinese elements.
Unfortunately, it feels as though liberties have been taken in leveraging the menu for the Dubai market to offer ‘something for everyone’ via the inclusion of wasabi rocket shrimp, ceviche and other trending dishes. Despite the central Asian country of Uzbekistan being a confluence of culinary influences, a quick Google search informs us that these dishes do not appear on the London menu! Perhaps Dubai is not quite as committed to a niche cuisine as we thought, either that or the vision has been somewhat compromised…
While we’d usually be against a pictorial menu, at Osh it helps us to navigate our way through some of the more obscure options via the assistance of appealing photographs. We begin with Chuchvara (AED 29) a mutton-stuffed dumpling soup which is the national dish of Uzbekistan. Our first time trying the dish and we’re delighted by a broth that’s full of depth and punctuated by the bite sized dumplings which are undeniably moreish. We shamefully succumb to the aforementioned Wasabi Rocket Shrimp (AED 52) upon the insistence of our helpful waiter and are pleased with the crisp battered shrimp pieces, lightly brushed with a wasabi sauce. The resulting dish hints at spice without being overtly hot.
Grilled Avocado with crab meat (AED 98) arrives next. Half a charred avocado, sat upon a tomato sauce and piled high with crab meat. Now it wouldn’t be Dubai without a bit of table-side theatrics, so the avocado is cut and squashed at the table to dramatic effect and thus mixes all of the ingredients together. It’s a dish that works surprisingly well, with the cool avocado and delicate crab meat complemented by the sweet tomato and nut sauce that could easily be a condiment on its own.
Usually a 35 minute wait for food would result in groans of impatience, but we’re warned when ordering the manti that it will take time as each piece is made-to-order. The wait is more than worth it and we would return to Osh for these large steamed dumplings alone! While our research had led us to glowing reviews of the pumkin manti, we instead opted for the Hamour and Shrimp (AED 42). Lightly seasoned and generously stuffed with seafood, it’s easy to see why the manti (which are heavily influenced by Chinese dim sum) have been causing such a stir in the UK.
Main courses are decidedly hit and miss with the Shaslik Chicken (AED 49) being our clear favourite. Generous chunks of juicy and tender grilled chicken are particularly well seasoned and come served upon a roti-style bread and topped with bejewelled pomegranate seeds. For a restaurant named Osh it’s a real shame the Dubai outpost has opened with the signature Uzbek Osh (AED 65) unavailable! We’d fully intended to order the rice and lamb dish similar to a Lebanese Ouzi, but will have to wait for another visit.
Unfortunately, the Sweet and Sour Red Snapper (AED 90) is neither sweet nor sour and comes with a fairly pungent aroma. Of the two fillets presented on the plate, one is nicely seasoned with an array of spices, while the other appears to have been forgotten altogether. Meanwhile the Seared Octopus With Guacamole (AED 95) offers a meaty tentacle from the mollusk which doesn’t show any signs of chewiness that so often plague the dish.
When it comes to desserts there are a number of options and aside from the honey cake we are again venturing out of the Central Asian region for inspiration. Saying that, both the Apple Tart Tatin (AED 45) and Snickers Jar (AED 45) are worthy ways to end the meal. The tart tatin is particularly memorable for it’s utilization of filo pastry as opposed to the expected shortcrust.
Dining at Osh Dubai transpires to be a far more casual experience than expected and with the exception of our keen waiter and a smiling hostess, the rest of the staff appear to be going through the motions. The service may be a reflection of how new the restaurant is but there are indications of minor issues with cutlery and tabletops already noticeably scratched (we can remember Toro & Ko having a similar issue post-opening).
With the demand for licensed premises in La Mer increasing, Osh joins the likes of Masti and Stars & Bars in offering alcohol to diners via a bar menu of eclectic cocktails. More interestingly though is the cuisine which offers something new for Dubai diners and something that should be commended. Stick to the traditional dishes and you’ll have a wonderful time, the rest you can find elsewhere.
Out & About UAE were guests of Osh. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.
The Verdict: Osh
Another London export arrives in Dubai offering a niche cuisine that should (hopefully) be embraced by Dubai diners. Interiors are striking and complemented by views of the beach and Burj but one month into opening and the service still requires some work.