Dubai is a city of realized hyperbole. It has the tallest building in the world, man-made islands shaped like the world’s continents, and a restaurant high high above the towering skyscrapers below. At.mosphere, a restaurant in Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, provides a dining experience with a view reminiscent of glancing out the window of a plane. It is preposterously thrilling to savor a plate of foie gras 122 floors above what appears to be the world’s largest game of Sim City developing below, spreading out into open desert.
Reaching At.mosphere involves a few steps absent from most dining arrangements. First, one must enter the tallest building in the world, approach a sleek metal elevator, and make a very important choice that is really no choice at all. Only one option exists in the elevator – floor 123. With no stops to make on the way up, the elevator travels with a speedy transcendence that feels just a few technological steps removed from teleportation – 33 feet per second. In the time it takes a middle school graduate to read this paragraph, the doors swing open to reveal a spiral staircase leading to the restaurant one floor below.
At.mosphere is not a large restaurant, but floor to ceiling windows exaggerate its humble boundaries. It feels as though the entire sky is yours. Designed by Adam Tihany, the space strikes a fine balance between opulence and simplicity, allowing the view and the food to inspire diners unobstructed by unnecessary appointments. The lacquered mahogany walls and white tablecloth tables combine to create an elegantly modern aesthetic without being too pushy or over-extravagant – an issue that seems to surface frequently in Dubai.
Holding diners’ attention with such a world class view is a challenging proposition. Chef Dwayne Cheer is up to the task and delivers inspired dishes with ingredients as globally sourced as Dubai. Vegetables from Provence, bush lamb from Australia, and lobsters from Maine round out an unlikely cast of characters to be found in the Middle-east. Due to a safety issue of cooking at such a lofty height in a confined space, using gas in the kitchen is not possible. The Chef and his team side-step this issue by employing the “Mighty Josper” – a BBQ oven that utilizes Binchōtan charcoal to grill tender vessels of deliciousness. The Josper Oven is a Spanish invention and has enjoyed tremendous success throughout Europe.
The food is worthy of superlative, and the occasional joy-filled expletive. While the a la carte menu boasts many intriguing selections, the set menu provides a tantalizing flight around the world. From first to last, each dish inspired. Like a man with no issues regarding his expanding waistline, I took to each plate with a reckless abandon, devouring seven in a row while putting back no less than three mocktails. I felt like an imperial Epicurean, conquering all foods into the empire of my stomach. At the end of the feast, as sugar coursed through my body and the taste of wagyū lingered on my palette, I was ever thankful for Chef Cheer and his mighty Josper oven. Here is how I reached this point of culinary nirvana:
Course One: Asparagus soup with king crab, pea shoots, and gold
Course Two: Seared diver scallops with cauliflower puree and grapefruit grenobloise
Course Three: Pan fried fois gras with espresso reduction and amaretto foam
Course Four: Pan fried whitefish with lemon balm in mangosteen broth
Course Five: Wagyu Beef with baby veggies, potato puree, and smoky pepper jus
Course Six: Fromage frais with raspberry sorbet and fresh apple
Course Seven: The Gianduja – gianduja mousse with bitter chocolate sorbet and caramelized hazelnut, topped with gold
Every dish stole my heart. The fois gras tasted delicate and extremely sweet, challenging my taste buds with its complex dichotomy of flavors. The wagyu beef fell apart with each bite, its tenderness lending an ephemeral quality to the storied Japanese beef. The Gianduja almost changed my religion. I contemplated worshiping only food after the third bite.
In the end, I felt like an upmarket Adam Richman, exhausted from this crippling conquest of food and drink. Without a doubt, when in Dubai, visit At.mosphere. The view is unparalleled, the food is exquisitely concocted, and while the name is a bit on the contrived side, it is the one thing that is undoubtedly forgivable in a restaurant. At.mosphere is a special restaurant, and as the highest in the world, it will remain one of Dubai’s most popular establishments.
Eating there: At.mospere is located in downtown Dubai in the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Reservations are a must and can be made by emailing a reservation request to email@example.com. The restaurant side of At.mospere, known as the Grill, is open for lunch from 12:30pm – 3:00pm and for dinner from 7:00pm – 11:30pm. The lounge portion of At.mosphere is open from 12:00pm – 2:00am. An a la carte menu can be viewed here. Offerings range from 110 AED ($30) to 590 AED ($160).
On a budget, but want to take in the view and atmosphere? Stop by the At.mosphere lounge for an adult beverage or mocktail.
All photography by Justin Delaney
Support for this program was partially provided by DTCM, with no limits on editorial or photographic content.