At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa, Dubai
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, March/April 2014
Talk about a room with a view: At.mosphere offers a panorama of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and the Persian Gulf which, on a clear day (and, in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, most of them qualify as clear), can extend to a horizon of 50 miles in all directions.
But you don’t come to At.mosphere merely for the view (though you’re undoubtedly paying for it). Instead, you’re there for the bragging rights at having eaten state-of-the-art cuisine in the world’s highest fine-dining establishment, designed by Adam Tihany.
Call it the world’s most elevated restaurant. The folks at Guinness World Records have recognized At.mosphere as the “highest restaurant from ground level,” situated as it is on the 122nd story (more than 1,400 feet above the ground) of the Burj Khalifa, in turn the world’s tallest building and its tallest man-made structure, since it opened in 2010. (You may know it from Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol; Tom Cruise skywalked on its outside in the film.)
The Burj Khalifa is part of an almost-square-mile development near downtown Dubai called the “Centre of Now,” a kind of world-record vortex, with the 1,200-store Dubai Mall, (largest shopping destination) and the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo (single-largest acrylic viewing panel). In keeping, you ride one of the world’s fastest elevators to At.mosphere—and your ears pop three or four times during the ascent to the 123rd floor. You walk down one floor on a sweeping staircase, its railing seemingly the only thing between you and a lot of air, an illusion created by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The restaurant’s prime tables, which ring the intimate restaurant, face outward, offering the illusion of sitting in the sky.
An advance inquiry brought a note saying one could expect to spend roughly 750 AED (the Emirati dirham), $200, a person for an evening at At.mosphere. The attention to detail and the gastronomic adventurousness of executive chef Stuart Sage make the meal itself compelling enough to draw your attention away from the view, which is a little like dining in outer space, except the absolute darkness is dotted only by man-made lights.
I opted for the restaurant’s signature drink, a Champagne cocktail called L’At.mosphere: rosé Champagne, fresh green apple, vanilla and cinnamon-infused vodka—and a handful of large flakes of gold leaf. It was paired with an amuse-bouche of a large chunk of lobster and a tangy, smooth sauce. The wagyu beef tartare was a generous mound, topped with tender beef carpaccio and served with tasty prawn crackers. The scallops, served with potatoes and leeks, were meaty but silky. The chef’s autumn menu had venison with root vegetables, roasted to perfection, and a 140-day New Zealand rib-eye (300 grams, roughly 10 ounces) with potato puree, both of which melted in the mouth. My guest and I finished by splitting a light and gooey banana soufflé garnished with a delicate chocolate cookie and a cleansing piña colada sorbet.
You eventually have to return to earth from a meal in a setting like this. But, for a couple of hours, you’re dining on a cloud.
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