Is this gimmick built to last or set to fail?

When the news of a restaurant opening themed around the popular TV show Masterchef hit our desks, there were with three distinct reactions: intrigue, excitement and pessimism. With almost 12,000 Dubai restaurants to choose from, can this one really stand out? We head to the new Millennium Place Marina hotel to find out.

Masterchef is housed in an industrial space filled with an accumulation of mixed-material furniture. There’s chrome and leather seats and wooden classroom-style chairs sitting incongruously together at one table.

You might think from the name that this restaurant expects its guests to cook their own dinner, but all cooking is done by professionals in the kitchen. The part the guest does play is in the choosing, which can be just as difficult as the culinary preparation. The menu is a nine-page novel of dish after dish, all created by the finalists and champions of the famous show.

If you’re not in the mood to leaf through the options and fancy a surprise for your main, you can opt for the Mystery Box. It’s a little bit pricey, coming in at Dhs300 for two people and Dhs600 for four people as a main course.

The large wooden box is displayed to the table and guests are asked to pick five mystery ingredients that the chef will use ti create an exclusive meal for you. You’ll be given the recipe as a momento of your Mystery Box experience.

We opted for the a la carte menu and started with the Mauritian warm octopus salad (Dhs55). The meat is delicious – firm but tender, with just the right amount of crisp to the edges, and its poised on top of a bed of colourful crunchy salad.

We also try the lobster tortellini (Dhs57), which arrives as six small pasta balls in a spicy brown soup. The dish certainly has strong flavours but the lobster taste gets lost.

For mains, the tenderloin with beurre noisette carrot puree (Dhs172) is a fantastic choice. The meat is juicy and slices easily, perfectly complimented by the sweet puree. We’re recommended to try the fried chicken waffles (Dhs96) and oblige. The dish is a pleasant surprise, as the two main ingredients are harmoniously fused by the accompanying Southeast Asian salad.

To round off a meal of polar opposite cuisines and flavours, we share a deconstructed Eton mess (Dhs38). It arrives as a fairly small portion, which is a shame as it was the highlight of the meal. The meringue is infused with lemon and Japanese Sansho pepper and the pieces are thin and light as air. The sweetness is accompanied by fresh strawberries, raspberry coulis and cubes of an unusual but delicious mint jelly.

As with any restaurant in its early stages, the menu could do with a bit of fine-tuning (and reducing) but the concept is interesting enough for people to try at least once. Let’s see if it has what it takes to go the distance.

Masterchef, the TV Experience, Millennium Place Marina, Al Marsa St, lunch 12pm to 3pm, dinner 7pm to 11pm, daily. Tel: (04) 550 8111.

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Images: Provided