La Mer’s newly-opened hotspot Osh Dubai keeps things traditionally Uzbek with an ever-so-subtle modern touch. Chef Sergei Batukov tells us what makes this formula work
When Osh Dubai first opened its doors in La Mer, this beachfront destination was already overflowing with unique dining concepts, offering the very best from the Middle East and beyond. Naturally, it would take something truly spectacular to stand out from the crowd and it seems like Osh Dubai knew just how. We recently met up with executive chef Sergei Batukov, who helms the kitchen not just at Osh Dubai but also Chalet Berezka at The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah. And while bringing Central Asian cuisine to Dubai is at the heart of it all, Sergei tells us what makes Osh a crowd favourite. Read on as he discusses culinary inspirations, dining in Dubai and more…
What inspired your interest in the culinary arts?
“I’ve always liked food. As a child, I spent a great deal of time with my mother in the kitchen, cooking and learning from her. This inspired me to chase my passion and so I enrolled in culinary school, following which I pursued a diploma as a Food Technology Engineer.”
Tell us more about your journey as a chef.
“I made my debut in the year 2000 in my hometown of Omsk in Siberia. In 2003, I moved to Moscow to join the team behind the world-renowned Nostalgie restaurant, which is sadly closed now. The kitchens at Nostalgie have seen some amazing chefs at work including Anton Mukhin, Renat Akzamov, Kostya Ivlev and Yura Rashkov. I then spent 10 years working with restaurateur Arkadiy Novikov and his team before finally moving to Dubai.”
How was the transition from Moscow to Dubai?
“One of my lifelong dreams was to open a restaurant outside Russia to gain international exposure. The opportunity came knocking when Russian developer Anton Viner invited me to head the kitchen for two of his dining concepts in Dubai. Making the shift was a smart decision and I’m proud to head not just one, but two of the most interesting food and beverage projects – Chalet Berezka and Osh Dubai – in a city where every chef wants to make a name .”
What was it like stepping out of your comfort zone?
“It’s been a great challenge, but I have a brilliant team backing me up. When we began developing the menu, we made it our goal to create classic Uzbek dishes, which are immensely popular in Central Asia, and add our own creative spin to them for a contemporary touch. We wanted to introduce the cuisine to the world. While the dishes are not too different from what I’m accustomed to, making them adaptable to the Dubai palate has been an interesting task. Also, traditional ingredients are not easily available on this side of the world, making it a bit more challenging. Add to this the fact that around 30 percent of our diners are travellers. An ever-changing audience makes feedback slightly difficult.”
Give us a glimpse into the kitchens at Osh Dubai.
“Contemporary Uzbek dining is the primary focus. It is an attempt to bring Central Asian cuisine to the Middle East and establish a firm footing in Dubai’s dining scene which is brimming with Lebanese, Turkish, Asian and other Middle Eastern specialities which the people love. We also have a selection of international dishes to satiate all tastes, while also offering light and casual fare to guests visiting the beach at La Mer.”
What is the primary culinary philosophy followed at the restaurant?
“At Osh Dubai, we strongly believe in the pureness and simplicity of every ingredient. With fresh produce flown in exclusively from Uzbekistan on a daily basis, we make sure to treat these with maximum care and minimum interference, allowing the original flavour to shine through.”
What can diners look forward to on the menu at Osh Dubai?
“You can’t go wrong with our traditional dishes. Try the osh, a classic Uzbek rice preparation – our signature – created using lazar rice. I would also recommend the lamb cheburek, lamb manti and lamb saddle with rosemary jus. Our soup and salad selection is great for those looking to keep things light, while there’s also a spread of grilled meats including shashlik and koftas. Seafood fans will love the ceviches and tempura specialities on offer.”
Tell us more about the overall experience at Osh Dubai.
“In terms of cuisine, it is an Oriental journey that might bring to mind the familiar and comforting flavours you find in the kitchen at home. But there are also new combinations to appease even the most discerning diner. When it comes to the ambience, the interiors have a fusion feel with traditional elements in the décor while the views of La Mer in the surrounding area are magnificent. The food and setting come together to create a superior dining experience for each and every guest.”
Having spent more than a year in Dubai, what do you have to say about the emirate’s dining scene?
“Dubai loves grilled food, whether it’s barbecue by the beach or at a fine-dining venue. There’s a lot of focus on meat, especially those cooked on a charcoal flame. This past season, I’ve also noticed a growing love for Greek cuisine among Dubai’s foodie crowd with so many establishments opening up. It’s a wonderful global cuisine and it’s finally made its way to Dubai.”
So, considering the competition, how do you stay ahead of the game?
“By staying true to our Uzbek roots in everything, enhancing traditional practices in our own way and adapting them to the local way of life. We have confidence in our offerings and that helps us gain trust and loyalty.”
When you’re not behind the scenes at the restaurant, do you enjoy cooking at home? What’s your go-to dish?
“I love it, especially cooking outside, picnic style, where I can grill a variety of meats with interesting sides.”
For reservations at Osh Dubai or for more information 04 5260350.