It’s become one of the most talked-about venues in town, with gastronomes craving for reservations. FACT sent Out & About UAE’s David Tapley to The Experience by Reif Othman, one of Dubai’s most discerning dining spots and it was nothing short of amazing.
When it comes to unique dining experiences, Dubai has its fair share of options. Dining in an aquarium, in the dark or on a traditional wooden abra are just some of the choices readily available in this desert metropolis. For those in search of something a little more refined, acclaimed Chef Reif Othman has 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 the city. Following on from his success as regional Executive Chef at Zuma, Chef Reif opened award-winning Mediterranean venture Play (also at the H), before retreating upstairs to run this experimental chef’s table cum supper club. A meal at The Experience begins with a simple telephone call to discern each diner’s food preferences, dietary requirements and allergies. For this is not just any restaurant, with each sitting limited to just 12 lucky diners for whom Chef Reif will improvise a menu, based on the availability of fresh ingredients and whatever creative tangent he 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 bubbly and the most professional staff, you’re invited to relax on the lowslung sofas and once everyone is assembled, it’s time to slip behind the panelled doors and enter into Chef Reif’s world. The private dining room isn’t what you 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 the chef’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 familiarity.
As we gather at the table, Chef Reif appears, emitting a vivacious enthusiasm for his craft. Whenever you meet a chef, you’re never quite sure what to expect, but Chef Reif 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 comes from cooking for people who appreciate food. With the evening’s dishes scrawled simply on a handwritten menu, Chef Reif’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, he 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 rib-eye 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, Chef Reif 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 Chef Reif, 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 pretense, and despite the popularity of the restaurant, no dress code is imposed and children are welcome to dine as well.
The Experience by Reif Othman is neither a chef’s table nor supper club. He 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 Chef Reif’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 TRUE foodies!
GO: THE EXPERIENCE BY REIF OTHMAN IS PRICED AT AED750++ PER PERSON. CALL +971 4336 4444 FOR RESERVATIONS AND MORE INFORMATION.