Chez Wam review: Pure Parisian cuisine, but with a personal touch

French chef Hadrien Villedieu leads the Dubai restaurant, which is an ode to his most treasured life experiences

Chez Wam, where French classics meet Asian favourites, is open at St Regis Gardens, Dubai. Photo: Rikas
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These days, the best restaurants are often the most personal.

Look at the Michelin Guide of Dubai, for example, and the top names are often centred on a singular vision, often with deep roots in one man or woman’s journey.

Pillars of the local food scene such as Stay by Yannick Alleno, Il Ristorante – Niko Romito and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal even put the chef’s name in top billing. At that level of quality and consistent execution, this is not mere marketing of another celebrity chef for these individuals – it’s a stamp of the soul.

Chez Wam, one of the newest ventures from Rikas Hospitality Group, is French slang for “at mine”, a nod to the restaurant’s homey, casual elegance. However, it may be more accurately referred to “at Hadrien’s”, as this globally minded modern French restaurant at St Regis Gardens, Palm Jumeirah, is a distillation of its chef’s life’s work to date.

Where to sit and what to expect

Chef Hadrien Villedieu, a Parisian who has called Dubai home for the last decade or so, started in a French kitchen in 1997. He has since ventured around the world, including stints in Morocco and St Barts, which explains why his version of elevated French home cooking has such disparate influences.

He’s co-owner of the restaurant with Rikas, famed for lively spots such as La Cantine du Faubourg and its sister beach destination Twiggy, but it’s clear from the outset that his first restaurant is his baby, and that personal devotion is found at every step of Chez Wam.

Located near Tresind Studio and Lena, Chef Wam has a more intimate feel than some of its neighbours or Rikas’s other concepts, which hews close to the homely aesthetic hinted at in its name.

Part of the anti-brutalist execution therein is the space’s dedication to woods of multiple origins – hardwood floors, lacquered wooden tables, comfortable wooden chairs built in a slight recline. There are couches with throw pillows illuminated with soft lighting, all to give things a domestic feel.

If you don’t want to sit outside to take in the starlight while the weather permits, I recommend the family-style sharing table, as the food itself is best experienced communally.

The menu

Once seated, you’ll quickly find some of Villedieu’s global experiences come to the fore.

It’s clear in the starters, full of avant-garde Parisian dishes with Asian influence, including the foie gras bao and the seabass ponzu, and others that have a more personal twist, such as the fried Camembert with black garlic and sweet Philly sauce, each priced at under Dh100.

Skip the Dubai standby buratta and opt for something more adventurous. The tuna sumac, with avocado wasabi cream, Parmesan and ginger is a delight, marrying a Japanese favourite with a Middle Eastern flavour profile, at Dh131.

The mains may look familiar at first glance, but things grow more unique in the details, with Hokkaido scallops joined by Jerusalem artichoke cream and pickle sauce – a chef's special – and mussels in coconut curry cream with crispy onions, priced at Dh152 and Dh131 respectively.

Standout dish

With so many high-end restaurants in the UAE, it’s hard to want to come back for more if there’s not one particular dish that draws me in.

At Chez Wam, it's the poulet adobo, a twist on a Filipino favourite, made of sweet soy-marinated chicken thighs and exquisitely cooked pearl couscous, a sign of Villedieu’s time in Morocco. It's the best I’ve had of the seemingly simple staple dish in recent memory.

A chat with the chef

When he began his career back in his hometown, Villedieu learnt from the best when it came to putting an individual touch on things.

“In Paris, I had the privilege of working alongside esteemed chefs such as Alain Passard and Joel Robuchon, known for their three Michelin-starred establishments,” he tells me.

Excelling at that level, he learnt, is not just about exacting standards and top-level ingredients. It’s a matter of embracing one’s personal taste, pushing oneself to the limit and finding joy.

“My style is characterised by an element of fun and innovation. Guests can look forward to unique dishes and unexpected flavour combinations that challenge traditional expectations,” he says.

Oh, and it must be stressed that you have to try the pickles.

“My favourite ingredients are pickles and chocolate. We create our own pickles, which are featured in many dishes, and we even use the pickle juice to craft a unique scallop emulsion,” he says.

“Chocolate plays a significant role too, from enriching our beef and chicken jus to being a key component in our desserts.”

Price point and contact information

Starters range from Dh58 to Dh162, and mains from Dh102 to Dh373. There are also two set menus, priced at Dh375 and Dh425.

Chez Wam is open 6pm to 2am from Monday to Friday and noon-4pm, then 6pm-2am on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations can be made by calling 052 450 4139 or via the Seven Rooms website.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: April 02, 2024, 6:25 AM