Followers of Time Out’s restaurant reviews may be aware of our hesitant enamour of Ossiano, the Spanish seafood restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Santi Santimaria. We’ve always loved the food and decor, but in the past have been put off by the price and the service. There’s no denying that the latter has improved considerably and now the management has started offering a deal in the form of their tapas menu. Patrons previously turned off by the Dhs625 minimum spend can now sample bite-sized creations at the bar, either individually at Dhs60 a pop, or as a 14-course meal for Dhs450. By fine dining standards, it’s a relative steal.

My date and I popped in one evening to see how the tapas compared to the dinner menu. As can be expected, the bar is a more casual, relaxed way to sample Ossiano (our fellow bar munchers were even in jeans, a sign that the venue has relaxed their ‘smart and chic’ dress code). At the same time, it was bound to be a less grand affair. The Atlantis’s majestic aquarium was at our backs, so we missed out on seeing Sammy do her rounds. Instead, we had a prime view of our tapas chef, who always seemed intensely focused on the task at hand.

The dishes that came out, as I would expect, were mostly divine. Gamba (Spanish for prawn) carpaccio was sliced thinner than pages from the Oxford English Dictionary. It seemed unbelievable that these wisps of flesh could be so potent, or the flavour so buttery. Next up was shreds of crab that were sweet while tasting of the ocean, served next to a dollop of fresh herb sorbet. As with the dinner menu the dishes built on each other, and the flavours got more intense and dynamic as the meal progressed. Still, nothing was over complicated. Rather, it was a progression of beautiful produce prepared simply. Gentle, tender stalks of sweet green and white asparagus embodied this philosophy. The vegetable didn’t need much to make it dazzle, and was accompanied by nothing more than a quail egg and romesco, a rich, Catalan salsa with grounds of almonds that added a lively crunch to an otherwise smooth dish.

Halfway through the meal, warm dishes were introduced. A juicy round of white fish on a crumbly tart base (Santimaria’s version of coca Catalana, a pastry unique to the Catalan region of Spain) was paired seductively with a sweet scoop of onion jam. All that got in the way of our enjoyment were the limits of our stomachs. Fourteen courses may sound excessive, but we figured, given how small each one was, downing the complete menu was doable. Towards the end it became difficult, which is a shame because our waning appetites were the only things affecting our enjoyment. The last savoury note was a guinea fowl pastille, triangles of game that were at once incredibly rich and floatingly light. The thin outer shell of these fried beauties was simply ethereal in texture. Often with the Dubai-based outlets run by Michelin chefs, there’s no real sense that the man whose name graces the restaurant actually has much to do with what ends up on your plate.

Not so at Ossiano, where the creations are so novel and so uniquely Catalan. Those not familiar with Catalan culinary definitions (and that’s most of us) may find interpreting the menu tricky, as the ingredients and techniques are so specific to Barcelona. But there’s a reason that Barcelona is considered one of the culinary capitals of the world: the food there is excellent. And in Dubai we are now lucky to be able to sample an incredibly faithful rendition in the form of Ossiano’s tapas menu.

The bill (for two)
1x Large Vittel water Dhs30
2x Tapas menu Dhs900
Total (including service) Dhs930