Nowadays dining is about much more than just the food; it’s a whole sensory experience. Oman Magazine’s contributor, Christine Karan of HearMyShoeStory, details her rather unique dining experience at Noire Restaurant, Fairmont Dubai Hotel.
Let me get straight to the point; I love to eat. I love to explore and experience different cuisines of the world, no matter how quirky or how costly they may seem. From baked Sea Urchins in Madrid to fried Sea Horse on Shanghai streets, Reindeer steak in Norway or Caviar upon Salmon at St. Regis Dubai, the list is long and varied. I have been lucky to savour such sue generis delicacies.
All of these dishes were devoured first with my eyes. I had a visual perception of texture and an expected palate brewing. So happens when you don’t see the food you are about to eat? Where is the first impression, the visual assessment? Now, that’s truly a different experience and one that I couldn’t wait to explore.
The Fairmont Dubai is known for many things, but most popularly known for their exclusive Noire Restaurant. Noire, meaning ‘black’ in French has been applied to the fine-dining experience, served in the pitch black dark (hence the name) at Fairmont Dubai Hotel. The Noire Restaurant is self-described as a culinary adventure that blocks out ones eyes and brings alive the sensory neurons of both the nostrils and palate of the diner. In simple terms, it is eating without seeing the food. Just you and your other senses to guide the way through aromas and flavour.
With prior reservation I went to Noire, raring to encounter the blind date with my dish. Accompanying me was my mother, who has a natural ability to taste and identify even the smallest amount of spice in the food; we have often joked she could have been ‘the nose’ in a Parisian perfumerie.
Located at the pool deck, the foyer of The Noire was already buzzing with excitable. Our waiter, who went by the name ‘TP’ welcomed us with a fruity cocktail and asked us to guess the ingredients. Trying my best, I listed a few fruits at random. My mother guessed 5/8 correctly, whereas I identified only 1. He repeated this with all of the other tables, with guests avidly enjoying the challenge.
TP had forewarned us that there is absolutely no light inside – not even a speckle or a streak. Taking no chances we were politely informed that mobile phones were not a part of the experience. After adorning our night goggles (which looked something right out of a Steven Spielberg movie) TP led us, two-at-a-time, into the cavernous expanse of Noire.
Once seated at our pre-assigned table, we instinctually started ‘feeling’ the place by running our fingers over the immediate surroundings. I could touch and feel cutleries, a glass notably full and a starter already placed.
Our blind culinary adventure journeyed through drinks, starters, main course, dessert and a dessert shot. Throughout the surreal experience we continually guessed and questioned what it was we were ingesting. We take for granted how our sight impacts are perspective. Perhaps we would eat better if it were solely based on taste; or perhaps not. Using both nostrils and palate, as articulated by our host, we did our best to feel the flavours entirely and re-train our brain to identity ingredients.
Upon finishing our delightful supper, we were escorted to the welcome area once more, but advised to open our eyes slowly; to adjust to the brighter lights overhead.
It was here we were greeted by the Head Chef, who would carefully explain to the party the dishes devoured and all of the components. We shared our experiences as a collective and laughed at some of the misconceptions of what had been eaten.
For our evening, we were enlightened with the menu narrative after the experience. It turns out we had eaten the Cool Pear Salad to start with, followed by a well-spiced Lamb Steak with green vegetables and an unusual sorbet (I must admit I was able to identify the steak as lamb but not the Sorbet!).
In light of the above (or indeed in the darkness) Noire is a place where you experience fine dining with a difference. It is also a place that is impactful. Whether the creator was intending to challenge the diner, or remind us of those without the use of their sight, it was rather an emotional and eye-opening experience.
In the words of Mr. Ammar Hilal, General Manager of the hotel, “The philosophy of Noire is, if you are in the dark you develop a much higher sense of taste, smell and texture.”