I’m a sucker for good, viral content. When around two years ago, “Le Petit Chef” gifs were going round Facebook, I was captivated by this unique “3D” dining experience and was mega-excited to see it was touring Dubai – I HAD to see it! So I brought the wife along to check it out.
The night started off in the Executive Lounge in the World Trade Center, the staff gave us an iPad menu (fancypants or what?) and we selected a couple of glasses of wine. Please note, that at this moment in time there were two couples in the bar and two members of staff. We waited 15 minutes for our wine to be finally told they didn’t have it in stock – frustrating. So we selected another wine and yet again, five minutes later were told there wasn’t any. WHAT ARE YOU DOING! We asked them to go back again and tell us what they HAD got in stock and the wife finally found a wine that was available. I selected a vodka, lime and soda and it came with lemon juice and tonic water. Dismal.
After the unpleasant start, we finally got to enter the dining room. It’s a very intimate experience – I think we counted around 10 tables altogether with about 20 covers max and it was fully booked. We were introduced to the show by a jolly gentleman and things kicked off.
If you’re unsure how it all works, basically, projectors are set up above the tables and 3D visuals are beamed across the tables – check it out on Youtube, it looks very cool!
The theme of the show was our miniature cook experiencing the voyages of Marco Polo and enjoying the traditional cuisines of the places he visited. I think the first thing that struck me about the hero of the night was how irritating he was – on a harmless gif, you just see the cool, visual effects but with sound he really grates on you; a smarmy, bordering-on-racistly-stereotypical portrayal of a Frenchman complete with “sacre bleu”s and “oui oui oui”s throughout. I don’t know why, but I was expecting something quite classy, marketed to adults but it did feel like a kids’ show – exacerbated by the chef sounding like a chimpmunk on helium.
Visually though, the show got off to a stunning start, the whole table lit up with an impressive backdrop and dishes came to life on the plate. The first scene was water-themed and as the waves rippled over our table, we were brought two delicate looking amuse bouches in a treasure chest.
One was crunchy, mushroom polenta cubes. Now, when growing up in the UK, I went through a lot of fish fingers. They have a certain smell when they first come out of the packet, it’s that unappetizing, freezer-scorched bready aroma that only dissipates once the fish finger is cooked, if you slightly undercook them so the breadcrumbs aren’t fully crispy, then you’ll experience the nasty taste too – well, these polenta cubes tasted like that. Absolutely abysmal.
I can’t pass judgement on the second dish as it was a Nicoise tart and I hate olives, but the wife wasn’t impressed either.
For the second course, we traveled to the Arab world and were presented with three beautiful dishes of eggplant with labneh, quail kibbeh and walnut mohammara. Kibbeh is not my favourite as I usually find it a bit dry and boring, but this one was delicious – the inside was really juicy and the shell crispy. The eggplant dish was also very appetizing, with refreshing pops of pomegranate giving tartness to cut through the creaminess of the labneh. Finally, the mohammara (a syrian, hot pepper dip) was plated interestingly inside a large, pearl-like walnut shell and all came together really well.
India was next on the adventure and this was the course I was looking forward to the most. UAE is excellent for Indian food with some hugely talented chefs, but unfortunately this was the most disappointing dish of the night. I was hoping for a delicious curry or some fresh samosas/bhajis but instead, we had some soggy, stuffed puri with these hard-to-eat jackfruit chips – just give us some poppadoms!
After the starters we were given a refreshing palate-cleanser to prepare us for the main courses. This was one of the highlights, a hugely-refreshing lychee, pineapple and ginger sorbet with a hint of lemongrass. I could happily sit and eat a whole tub of it in the sunshine.
The main course was set in China, our protagonist assisted in his journey by a friendly bird. This was the only dish of the night where we chose our protein; I went with beef and a hearty-looking stir fried dish followed with rice. Sadly, it didn’t hit the mark at all – extremely bland, devoid of any spice, it was a real let down. I’d have been hugely disappointed to receive it from my local takeaway – never mind in a restaurant.
Finally, the chef completed his journey and headed back to France to create a dessert that was an amalgamation of the skills he’d learnt throughout the voyage. A beautiful pattern was projected across the table and an interesting looking dessert was brought over – rice pudding with saffron, cardamom and pistachio served with hibiscus and raspberry sorbet, rose petals and crunchy kunafa. I felt like the dish was more Arabic than a mix of everything, but it was intelligently put together and was rather tasty – the raspberry sorbet a highlight.
After the dessert the lights were switched on and we were herded out of the room to finish our drinks back in the bar, so they could set up for the late show. Due to our bad experience before, we paid and left – both feeling a little flat about the whole night.
FOOD: 6/15 – Some real shockers, but some great dishes!
SERVICE: 12/15 – Fine, nothing special, shocking service in the bar but in the restaurant it was all smooth.
DRINKS SELECTION: 2/5 – Half the drinks were not even available.
AMBIANCE: 4/5 – All of the group was engrossed in the “show” and conversation was flowing afterwards.
DESIGN: 2/5 – It was set in a conference room so wasn’t inspiring – although the venue isn’t the point of the show.
VALUE: 2/5 – At 450 AED a head with no drinks it was ludicrously overpriced, the visual effects didn’t make up for the poor culinary affair.
CONCLUSION: The visual effects were at times breathtaking and the odd bit of magic was produced in the kitchen, but for the price, the poorness of the audio and the downright terribleness of a few of the dishes, made it pretty unrecommendable. I’d advise just sticking to watching the videos online and saving your money.