Invert your senses – Noire at Fairmont Dubai

In Behind the Scenes , Dining to Tell 

Noire at The Fairmont Dubai will take you on an olfactory and taste journey of the likes you have never been on.

Multi-sensory dining is a major trend that continues to grow and capsize what we think we know about food. Chefs from around the world are experimenting with taste and flavor sensations, redefining what we perceive; re-categorizing how we experience flavour. It is an exciting trend largely driven by neurogastromy with modernist chefs becoming taste (or more accurately flavor) cavaliers, trying to figure out why, when we sit and drink a 20-year-old aged whiskey next to an open log fire, it tastes smokier. Or, why we are able to fool our brains into believing a brown-coloured cake is chocolate when it is actually vanilla.

One of the first multi-sensory restaurants in the world, Ultraviolet in Shanghai, playfully extends our perceptions about how our tastes are influenced by smell and sight and sound. An artist in evocation, Ultraviolet’s Chef Pairet even coined the term “psycho-taste” to describe this interaction. I’m sure most of us have heard a song come on the radio or suddenly smelled a perfume in the elevator that has transported us back to a specific memory or emotion. This is the basic premise behind “psycho-taste” yet it is even more influential; as it uses of a combination of stories and all the five senses to develop or evoke an emotion or memory. Powerful stuff indeed.

But where can you experience something similar in Dubai?

Now, if you are curious about this contemporary trend but new to the whole multi-sensory dining experience, a great way to go about it is to eliminate one of the five senses. Namely, sight. In Dubai, we highly recommend you visit Noire at Fairmont Dubai on Sheik Zayed Road. Similar to Dans le Noir in Paris, this restaurant is the only one of its kind in the Middle East; the original concept having started in Germany. Recently awarded the Best Experimental Restaurant Award during the BBC Good Food Middle Eastern Awards in 2015, you shall participate in an intriguing dining experience; one that will provoke your mind and intensify your senses.

I was definitely charmed with the idea and didn’t hesitate to accept when I was offered the chance to try Noire out for myself. For to scoff culinary delights in the dark surely has to rank right up there with a novel dining experience.

To start with, we had drinks on the pool terrace (in the light). With the weather cooling down, it was sublime. All guests were served the same mocktail, with our servers asking us to guess which five ingredients were included. It was a little bit of a teaser of what was to come and a great way to kick off the evening. Most of us could guess a couple but almond seemed to be the elusive one that nobody could really pinpoint.

Once all the guests were assembled, we were briefed on what to expect and some dos and don’ts. Led in by our servers who were wearing night vision goggles, we were then given a brief explanation of the layout of our table which was quite crucial!

Just how dark is it?

And when I mentioned dark earlier, I really meant pitch black. I even had to take off my watch as the one of the hands is glow-in-the-dark. I had no idea it was even glow-in-the-dark as we are rarely in pitch black surroundings these days. But these small things interrupt the experience, so in the purse it went. So yes, you will be unable to even see your hand in front of your face; which is fun if not mildly scary. On the plus side, it does however add loads of mystery and thrill. So, we must be on the right track.

Our wine was poured for the first course and off we went. Our olfactory senses kicking into high gear. Tuna? Some type of fish. There is a crunch. It’s crisp. What is the that smokiness? Oddly familiar but you can’t really place it. You question yourself non-stop. By dessert you thinking you getting the hang of this. Is that kulfi ice-cream…no. Wait. No rose-water. But you are getting cardamom. Your brain whirring through your rolodex of flavour profiles. Sorting, re-assessing what you know. What you don’t.

Even the wine is up for grabs. It’s anybody’s guess. Am a drinking red or white wine? I was told that even bona fide wine buffs were astounded at the reveal afterwards where you finally find out what you have for dinner. One diner would’ve lost a huge sum of money if he had taken a bet that his white wine was actually a red.

The big reveal

At the reveal after, Chef Rakitha Anuradha Wijesiriwardana, kindly explained all the dishes and wine pairings. It was delightful to see everyone gasp at the ingenuity and use of the ingredients. The charcoal dusted seared tuna with coffee foie gras really astonished. It was inventive and unusual. Unquestionably memorable!

However, we don’t want to give away too many details. It is a meal that you have to experience for yourself. The menu is changed weekly and the service is spectacular which adds up to a notable evening that you undoubtedly are not going to forget in a hurry.

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