When it comes to unique dining experiences, Dubai has its fair share of options. Dining in an aquarium, in the dark or upon a traditional wooden abra are just some of the choices readily available in our desert metropolis.
For those in search of something a little more refined, acclaimed Chef Reif Othman had developed a one of a kind dining concept on the 37th floor of the H Hotel. Known simply as ‘The Experience by Reif Othman’ this intimate dining room has become one of the most in-demand reservations in Dubai. Following on from his success as regional Executive Chef at Zuma, Othman opened award-winning Mediterrasian venture Play (also at the H), before segueing upstairs to run this experimental chefs table come supper club.
A meal at The Experience begins with a simple telephone call to discern each diners food preferences, dietary requirements and allergies. For this is not just any restaurant, with each sitting limited to just twelve lucky diners for whom Othman will improvise a menu, based upon the availability of fresh ingredients and whatever creative tangent the Chef is currently pursuing.
Guests enter The Experience via a private elevator from the hotel lobby, opening out into a small lounge area. Greeted with a glass of bubbles and the most professional of staff, you’re invited to relax upon the low-slung sofas and once everyone is assembled, it’s time to slip behind the panelled doors and enter into Othman’s world.
The private dining room is not what one may necessarily expect. A wooden table forms a u-shape in front of a preparation counter and open show-kitchen. The feeling less fine dining and more Manhattan loft-style apartment, and this is Othman’s intention. Inspired by his time in New York as part of the Zuma opening there, the restaurant space feels more like stepping into someone’s house. Promoting a sense of community that encourages you to relax and engage with the other guests, as if dining at the dinner party of a close friend. The Experience is a restaurant of simple and appealing decor and one that the Chef designed himself, many of the furnishings and light fittings were purchased right here in Dubai from stores such as Marina Home and The One, adding a feeling of relatability. Two velvet upholstered couches look out over the landscape of Old Dubai through floor-to-ceiling windows and make for the perfect place for a post-dinner drink.
As we gather at the table, Othman appears, emitting a vivacious enthusiasm for his craft. Whenever you meet a Chef, you’re never quite sure what to expect, but Othman makes his guests feel immediately comfortable via a mixture of effortless charm, infectious charisma and outright passion for this project. He introduces himself not as a Chef, but as a cook, and explains that his drive and passion comes from cooking for people who appreciate food.
With the evening’s dishes scrawled simply on a hand-written menu, Othman’s avant-garde cuisine allows him complete creative freedom over his food and marks a refreshing change from the norm. When not engaging his guests in witty banter, Othman works with tireless precision. An artist perfecting his craft in the assemblage of selected ingredients into immaculate plates of sheer beauty. Call it experimental, but the dishes have a certain refinement to them, mixing bold flavours that you may not always expect. Take for example, the slow-cooked Japanese ribeye we were served, topped with a sauce made of tuna and anchovies. The meat is slow-cooked at 65 Degrees and resembles a sashimi more than the expected steak.
Competing textures frequently come into play and another beef dish, the confit Wagyu, is plated with a squid ink meringue that can only be described as a textural marvel. Yet with the menu changing each day, Othman has the ability to conjure up anything and showcase some lesser-known ingredients in the process, meaning we try a quail ravioli and abalone (marine sea snails) for the first time, lightly seared and served with a Japanese quinoa.
While The Experience is certainly representative of fine dining, there are none of the conventional trappings. Boasting service that’s both proficient and amiable, there’s plenty of interaction and a fluidity to dining with Othman, meaning you can take a break from the food at any time, and don’t have to keep pace with your fellow diners. Going against the grain, there’s no pretension, and despite the popularity of the restaurant, no dress code is imposed and children are welcome to dine.
The Experience by Reif Othman is neither a chef’s table nor supper club. Othman has taken the idea one step further and turned the concept into a fully functioning restaurant, inviting diners into his world. Offering a distinct homeliness, and unique culinary concept, there’s nothing else like this in the Emirates and no two meals will ever be the same. Entering as a guest, you leave feeling like one of Othman’s friends. Perfect for a birthday celebration or just to experience (see what we did there) food that is both innovative and exemplary, our suggestion is to get your bookings in fast. Definitely one for the foodies.
The Experience costs AED 750++ per person. For reservations +971 4336 4444
This post originally appeared in the first issue of FACT Dubai..
Location: 37th floor, The H Dubai, Trade Centre Area, Dubai
Phone: +971 4336 4444