Restaurant review: Row on 45, by Jason Atherton
A 17-course Rowwed map to the stars…
When you’re looking at the recipe for what makes a successful restaurant, there are a couple of key ingredients that have to be organic. Cheffing talent is essential of course, location too, the provenance of produce, concept, framing and execution, decor, theme and voice, the quality of kitchen and serving staff, liberal sprinklings of luck, pizazz, finesse – but the whole dish can be ruined, with an under or over seasoning of ambition.
With a worldwide spread of lauded and applauded Michelin-recognised restaurants, British chef Jason Atherton knows a thing or two about putting culinary experiences together, so there are high expectations for his new project, Row on 45 which sits on top of his existing restaurant in Grosvenor House, City Social. It means that this consolidation of concepts now extends to a restaurant and bar, piano lounge, panoramic terrace space, samurai-themed speakeasy, and the extraordinarily ambitious Row.
It’s a calculated ambition though, one that’s spread across 17 courses, in a modular, multi-setting, sensorial safari. A broadly European menu enhanced by masterful Asian side steps, along the way we’re invited to ruminate on evoked palate snapshots from Chef Jason’s exotic kitchen expeditions, absorb the theatre of precision detail presentation, and the operatic choreography of service par excellence.
I’m not going to dissect each course, I have neither the column inches nor the inclination to reveal the spoilers that would entail, but I would like to offer you an amuse-bouche of what you should expect. And it is epic in both the conventional and more modern readings of the word.
The courses at Row on 45 are split into three acts, a trio of phases each staged in their own complementary venue-within-a-venue, designed to simulate the experience of a dinner party in an old friend’s home. Though presumably the sort of friends that are palace-owning Sultans. The opening scene plays out in the Champagne lounge, with three fantastical seafood single-bite bombshells. Elements include Hokkaido scallops, oyster and caviar, and brown crab. It’s a predator missile silo posing as a starting pistol.
The next room is trimmed with an open kitchen, and a platoon of kitchen personnel going through military-level drills. This is my knife, there are many like it, but this one is mine. Here you’ll be introduced to gallery-rendered, red hot, haute cuisine sparks in the form of uni, brioche, A5 saroma wagyu, and deep-sea carabinero. There’s an hommage to cheese and onion crisps that uses a century-old balsamic vinegar. Every calorie deliberate, every flavour pixel sparkles in the composite Atherton cosmos.
It all ends with Act III, The Grand Finale, and we retire to the gloriously aristocratic eccentricity of the ‘Chef’s Library’. It’s sweet courses, followed by cheese, followed by more sweets and petit fours, surrounded by faux furs, cognac-laden trolleys, deliberately besmirched portraits and inherited London wealth vibes.
The 17 courses may be an overreach for some (we strongly advise you to nil-by-mouth for the day of your meal). And the sheer number and talent quotient of staff required to maintain the level of experience must put astronomical pressure on the accounting, even with the food-only ticket price of Dhs1,145. Does this in Jason seem ambitious?
Yes, but ambition that delivers on its promise is a worthy call, and fortunately for Dubai’s dining public, Chef Jason and his resident Executive Chef Daniel Birk hath answered it. Row on 45 does not indulge in populist gimmickry, there are no edible hamster cages or buckets of self-immolating soil on show here. And that means that what you’re left with is just mind-blowing food and service. The level of detail is phenomenal – the chefs walk you through each course, to preclude any possibility of you missing a single angle of joy; the waiter plate exchange ritual is a borderline crockery ballet; and nothing arrives at your table without the explicit intent of looking and tasting like it was the final iteration of a laboured search for perfection.
Verdict: An immediate entry into Dubai’s all-time fine dining hall of fame.
Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tower Two, Level 45, Dubai Marina, open Wed to Sat 7pm to 1am. Tel: (0)4 402 2222 rowon45dubai.com