x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Delicacy is in the details

Chef Ben Wyatt has been cooking up some pretty unusual dishes at Quest, in Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, these days.

Ben Wyatt at Quest restaurant has launched a new cuisine concept called Inspirational Asian Fine Dining. His unique creations include a foie gras book. Sammy Dallal / The National
Ben Wyatt at Quest restaurant has launched a new cuisine concept called Inspirational Asian Fine Dining. His unique creations include a foie gras book. Sammy Dallal / The National

The story

One woman loved a dish on the new menu created by Quest chef Ben Wyatt so much she proposed marriage. And no wonder. Since August, high atop the capital on Level 63 of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, the 35-year-old Wyatt and his team of 10 food scientists have been turning out an incredibly detailed range of fanciful items, many of them in disguise. A recent tasting reveals the result packs a serious culinary wallop for diners, while also tapping into their childlike sense of play. Wyatt promises an experience guests will remember when they wake up the next morning.

“When you go to a fine dining restaurant, you don’t always go to fill up your belly,” he says. “It has to be a show, it has to have flair.”

The creations

While chefs from Tokyo to New York have been paying homage to soil for several years now in various forms, Wyatt has created a dish that embodies it: his Vegetable Ash Salad looks exactly like a slightly weedy garden. The mixture includes finely chopped green beans, French snow peas, apple and pineapple, bound by a dressing of tamarind, palm sugar and fried shallots. Freshly chopped herbs including dill, coriander, mint, the Japanese shiso leaf and kinome peek out from all corners, covered in a fine layer of vegetable ash. Other wonders include a foie gras notebook, a firm but yielding cover made from puréed soya beans, a tiny breadstick quill resting in a small jar of ume sauce. A thin envelope of rice paper hides all the flavour of a full-sized California roll. The yuzu crumble dessert? It just looks like a lemon. The result prompts a true sense of wonder, and Wyatt shrugs off attempts at a deeper explanation. “I think a lot of it here is, why not? Just go for it.”

It’s important to note, though, in going for it, that Wyatt has created an array that is delicious as well as curious.

“Nothing is made without considering the flavour or the reason behind it,” explains Wyatt. “At the end of the day, the food has to be good, it has to be intuitive, it has to be responsible.”

The concept

Wyatt, who comes to Quest via the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

and previously worked at Burj Al Arab in Dubai, began experimenting with flavours and textures back in 2005. He’d been inspired after hearing about the French chef Michel Bras, who runs a Michelin-starred eatery in Laguiole. Bras had created a dish inspired by the mountain and sun – one that did not resemble it slightly – and Wyatt sought out a video. Then, through great trial and error, he got to work.

“I was mixing everything up,” he explains. “And sometimes it went wrong. Like really, really wrong sometimes. It evolved from there.” Eight years later, when creating the Quest menu earlier this year, Wyatt’s team stepped in whenever he got too ambitious and began veering toward dishes that just could not be practically produced on a regular basis.

“Sometimes I get out of hand,” he says. “They tone me down.” It takes special tools and a lot of patience to produce the 16-item menu, one that is as fun and quirky as the jokester Wyatt is. They include a home-use, not industrial, blender, a dehydrator and a distiller for sauces.

The details

The menu is best enjoyed as a tasting experience for Dh550, but those who are curious can sample items à la carte as well. Quest is located on Level 63 of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Call 02 811 5666 or email jadrestaurants@jumeirah.com for more information and to book the Inspirational Asian Fine Dining experience.