Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Restaurant review: MasterChef, the TV Experience takes you from the couch and into the kitchen

For anyone who has ever wanted to channel Joe Bastianich or Christina Tosi, you can live out your MasterChef judging fantasies in this themed eatery in Dubai

For anyone who has ever lost hours watching one of the 95 different series of MasterChef from more than 58 countries around the world, news that MasterChef, the TV Experience restaurant was opening in Dubai would have been exciting, indeed. The first-of-its kind eatery, which is located at Millennium Place Marina, features a menu of 36 MasterChef-inspired dishes, curated by head chef Margarita Vaamonde-Beggs. The restaurant will also bring in guest chefs who have featured on the television show.

Where to sit and what to expect

MasterChef, the TV Experience is a little more casual than I expected. It’s not a low-lighting, intimate dining experience. Instead, it’s a fairly laid-back, open-plan eatery, with a visibly bustling kitchen you’d expect to see in a MasterChef-themed restaurant, where all eyes are on the chef, after all.

Warehouse-style interiors at MasterChef, the TV Experience. Courtesy MasterChef, the TV Experience
Warehouse-style interiors at MasterChef, the TV Experience restaurant in Dubai

The pared-back warehouse-­style interiors and minimalist crockery ensure it’s not a kitsch themed eatery, and that the focus is purely on the food. If you want the full MasterChef experience, request a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen, where copper pans hang overhead. It won’t make for easy conversation, but foodies will get a kick out of watching the chefs at work.

For those more interested in the plated product, a seat in one of the comfy booths is ideal. There is also a giant MasterChef logo on the wall, which makes for a great Instagram background, if you’re so inclined.

Who's eating there

If you are one of the millions to have watched MasterChef, you’re the target audience. But not watching the show will not put fusion-food lovers at a disadvantage during the meal. Not knowing who Shelina ­Permalloo is doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy your Mauritian warm octopus salad any less. For the uninitiated: Permalloo won the British variant of the show in 2012 and has gone on to release a number of cookery books since.

The menu

What the restaurant does incredibly well is make haute cuisine approachable (much like the television show it is based on). When browsing the menu, the ingredients are allowed to do all the talking, so you’re instantly drawn to what you like, not necessarily the way it is served. The fact that it’s presented with flair is just an added bonus. All of the dishes are recipes from MasterChef champions or finalists from international versions , so there’s something for everyone.

Starters include truffle pea soup with veal prosciutto, cured salmon and Waldorf yuzu salad. We opted for the beets four ways and lobster tortellini. The former were particularly well-received, served oven-roasted, pickled, chipped and as crudites, with horseradish creme fraiche, whipped feta cheese, lamb’s juice and a pomegranate vinaigrette. The tortellini was served in an Asian-style lemongrass and chilli broth, which came as a bit of a surprise, albeit a delicious one.

Mains are separated into vegetarian, seafood, and meat and poultry options. The rolled mushroom gnocchi, mud crab with cauliflower and apples, and venison loin rubbed with chilli and coffee are appealing choices in each category.

My dining partner and I opted for the Mauritian lobster curry and mushroom laksa, unable to resist a side of sweet potato fries, and the roasted curried cauliflower and warm quinoa salad between us.

The curry came topped with a whole lobster tail, making it a very generous portion of the shellfish, with a hearty potato bhaji and peas, and a coconut curry sauce that you pour yourself, ensuring it’s just as saucy as you like it. The laksa, meanwhile, was made up of a variety of mushrooms with a fragrant broth, topped with a runny boiled egg.

Make sure you leave room for desserts, because the honey chocolate mouse and chai creme brulee are both phenomenal. As someone who doesn’t usually like an overwhelming cardamom flavour in sweets, the fragrant brulee was perfectly balanced with Darjeeling tea, and orange and cinnamon flavours. A deconstructed Eton mess and mixed berry pie with a charcoal crumb are also available.

Standout experience

The Mystery Box is the dish that has got tongues wagging around the MasterChef, The TV Experience opening. Guests can go off-menu and, like the judges on the show, select five ingredients from 10 protein, vegetable and condiment options, and challenge chef Vaamonde-Beggs and her team to create a main dish to share in just 40 minutes.

Head chef Margarita Vaamonde-Beggs. Courtesy MasterChef, the TV Experience
Head chef Margarita Vaamonde-Beggs. Courtesy MasterChef, the TV Experience

“To cater to all dietary requirement, our Mystery Box challenge contains ingredients suitable for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians as well as other dietary requirements – we only ask that you let us know your needs. Also, to guarantee dish freshness and the longevity of the creative approach, our Mystery Box ingredients are updated and rotated every week and only served for dinner,” the chef explains.

It’s worth noting that only four Mystery Boxes are served per evening, and priority is given to those who book especially for it. Guests also leave with the recipe of the dish created for them.

A chat with the chef

“The venue features an entirely open kitchen allowing diners to watch their meals get prepared, as if they are in their own version of the show and they are the judges,” says Vaamonde-Beggs, who has a part working in a number of prestigious restaurants around the world, including Elena in Buenos Aires, which has been ranked in the top 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America since 2012.

Of the food culture in the UAE, she adds: “The growing food scene and food culture in Dubai blends creativity; the city is truly a fusion of different tastes, audiences and ingredients. The city caters to food lovers and is a chef’s paradise with an array of different ingredients available all year round.”

Price points and contact information

Starters are from Dh42 for the Waldorf yuzu salad and go up to Dh57 for the lobster tortellini. There is also a sharing option on the starters menu, which ranges between Dh64 for the pine nut cream and mushroom toast, and Dh76 for the duck leg confit tacos. Mains are priced from Dh68 for the rolled mushroom gnocchi to Dh172 for the tenderloin with beurre noisette with carrot puree. The Mystery Box costs Dh300 for two and Dh600 for four.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact MasterChef, The TV Experience at Millennium Marina Place, Dubai Marina, on 04 550 8111, or visitwww.masterchefdxb.com.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: June 5, 2019 07:35 PM

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