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Do you have any idea what it’s like to eat while skimming the clouds? Imagine being 100 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower, four times higher than the duomo of Milan, and even higher than the Empire State Building. It means eating at 442 metres above the ground, at the At.mosphere restaurant on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, the world’s highest construction, and UAE's Leading Lifestyle Restaurant at theWorld Travel Award 2011.
It means giving yourself a few moments to recuperate after getting enduring the heart-pounding, vertiginous elevator ride that lasts 57 seconds, but feels like a lifetime: the view may make you dizzy and make your ears pop. «Coming up here is a voyage into the sky,» says Adam Tihany, the guru of interiors who has designed the restaurant. And even though he should be used to it by now, he admits: «I came up yesterday five times and after five times, you feel a bit dizzy. You only want to come up twice.»
Dubai – a place where everything is overdone, excessive, amazing, ostentatious and also terribly, terribly alluring. When you get to restaurant and look down, you truly realize what it means for mankind to have tamed the desert, you understand how fast and how drastically the landscape has changed: just one hundred years ago, Dubai was a tiny village whose survival was based on the fishing industry and the pearl trade. But of course you’re here to indulge in the present, not the past.
You’re here for the payoff – after all, getting a reservation at At.mosphere could mean a weeks-long wait. But once you get here you have two choices: The Grill, which is less formal, or else the Lounge. Oh, and be prepared to be rejected by the two hulking doormen who will stop you if you’re attire is not deemed suitable. And they’ll also warn you that entering the Lounge requires that you spend a minimum of 40 euros.
As previously mentioned, Adam Tihany is the man behind the restaurant's design, who specializes in haute-cuisine restaurants and whose evocative atmospheres are the secret ingredients of some of the world’s greatest chefs. It’s a luxury enjoyed by the likes of Heston Blumenthal, the chef of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel in London, or by some of New York’s most renowned names like chefs Thomas Keller (Tihany designed the newPer Se), Jean Georges (of Jean-Georges Vongerichten), and Sirio Maccioni (of Le Cirque 2000). These are all places any fine dining lover should visit at least once.
For At.mosphere, Tihany chose mahogany wood for the walls and ceilings and hard stone floors. The colour theme is based around the shades of amethyst and cacao, with luxury materials like velvet and leather.
Originally from New Zealand, chef Dwayne Cheer chose the risky option of simplicity, a cuisine based around exquisite ingredients, whose quality he exalts by favouring grilling over an open fire – the most luxurious, elevated and expensive bar-b-queue in the world. Cheer aims to let the flavour of the ingredients speak for themselves – like scallop carpaccio, fatty liver terrine or Wagyu beef tartar topped with a dollop of Osetria caviar.
The meat selection is the dream of every gourmand carnivore: not only does the menu feature Kobe and Wagyu Sir, but also Rangers Valley Tenderloin from Australia, whose livestock is tended to 24 hours a day by the 47 handlers. The result? 200 grams of sweet sirloin with the perfect proportion between lean and fat. A mouthful of heaven, eaten among the clouds.
Of course it’s not only the view and the menu that will take your breath away: the prices are dizzying. Paying 108 euros for a Maine lobster eaten the middle of the desert may give you pause, but after all, you’re in Dubai. And at almost 450 metres above ground, anything seems possible.