Review: Le Petit Chef at Al Fresco, Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi
Le Petit Chef is back in Abu Dhabi after his initial visit last year at The Forge. The miniature chef, who is projected on to your table during your meal, is on a journey of discovery, and having read the stories of Marco Polo, he’s left his restaurant in Paris to travel the world and seek out new flavours. Departing from the port of Marseille, he has followed the Silk Route before passing by Arabia and then onto Asia. Now on his journey home, Le Petit Chef joins the culinary team at Al Fresco at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal to present his new menu.
Le Petit Chef is set up within the Al Fresco Italian eatery. Once inside The Ritz-Carlton, it’s a short trip down the stairs and a turn right and following a stroll down the corridor and out the door at the end, you’re there.
It’s unusually wet and miserable the night I attend, but once inside I’m cosy again. We’re given a welcome drink — a pink lemonade — before being escorted to our table in the back corner. Even though there’s seating for at least 25-30 people in this space, there are only four tables occupied out of about 10, which makes it seem a little empty and lacking of proper Friday night buzz. On the flip side, we’re not sitting on top of one another, which is always appreciated. The colourful lamps hanging from the ceiling and reflected in the mirrors add warmth and there’s a certain amount of anticipation as the projected dinner set-up cranks into gear at 7.30pm on the dot. The conversation ceases and all our attention is directed at the place-setting in front of us, that is made up of an illuminated book opened and positioned for maximum viewing pleasure.
The food experience
Food plays a significant role in any restaurant dining experience, and while that is also true of this occasion, it’s a small French chef that is Al Fresco’s main drawcard this season — he’ll be in house until the end of May.
Le Petit Chef’s Marco Polo-themed travel adventures are accompanied by a six-course menu inspired by his journey. The first course is delivered shortly after the initial three-minute “Dinner time story” projection is complete. It’s an Amuse Bouche — foi gras terrine with onion chutney and brioche stick, which is served in a small suitcase. This bite-sized starter is a great way to start our unique 90-minute culinary adventure.
Before the meal started, we were told to expect two surprises this evening. The first is revealed when the second dish of the night is brought out just after the miniature chef’s adventures have taken him to Arabia. There in front of us sits our very own Arabic treasure — a box that when opened contains three small meze dishes including hummus, vine leaves and fattoush, along with a small replica shisha pipe. Never mind the food itself, this is the stuff Instagram Live lovers will salivate over.
The third tasting plate is a bowl of dal, which again is served in a small box that we must open to get to, and you guessed it, Le Petit Chef is now in India.
The wow-factor again follow shortly after, when a palette-cleansing sorbet is brought out. I know it’s going to be good when the host tells us to get our phone ready to video it. As she pours a jug of liquid into the bottom of the bowl a smoke-like substance starts billowing out — aside from the visual delight, the sorbet is delicious.
It’s off to Asia next, where our chef whips up our main course — a choice of vegetarian (tofu don ban sauce), meat (chicken with black bean sauce) or seafood (prawns with red curry). I go for the prawn curry and am not disappointed, it’s just the right amount of spicy and the prawns are so good.
Finally, after an evening of amusement, fine food, and obviously good company, it’s time for the final dish of the evening, Le Petit’s signature sticky rice pudding with saffron and cardamom infused cream and tea or coffee. After six courses, this is the sweetest end to a dining experience like no other.
Who’s it best for?
Social media lovers and foodies who like to be entertained and want to try something new.
A cool dining experience for a special occasion or for those nights you’re not sure how the conversation is going to flow.
The National was a guest of the restaurant.
• Le Petit Chef is being hosted at Al Fresco at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal. There are two sittings, 7pm and 9.30pm daily, with prices starting from Dh375 per person (excluding taxes). Bookings can be made by calling 02 818 8282 or e-mailing email@example.com.