We don’t often stop and think about food on a molecular level but science is the foundation of everything we taste – every burst of flavour, every pinch of salt and every flowery note is the result of scientific combustion. And while we may not acknowledge it, there is a restaurant that does.
The Gourmet LAB is a casual, yet upscale establishment that serves up great food inspired by science and its flare for molecular gastronomy is evident throughout the restaurant design too. Wooden tables and chairs fill the centre of the space while booths line the back wall displaying a super sized periodic table of elements. ‘THE LAB’ glows above it in neon lights giving the dimly lit environment a punch of electricity.
Keeping with the scientific theme, there’s a display showcasing desserts along with Erlenmeyer flasks and graduated cylinders filled with colourful elixirs. To my surprise there’s a generous outdoor space for al fresco dining so I settle into a seat overlooking the pool in Al Rayyana to enjoy both the meal and the nice weather.
The international menu is an amalgamation of flavours from breakfast dishes like shakshouka to hearty mains like grilled wild salmon, country fried chicken, burgers, pasta, pizza and funky desserts like the Whack Attack Stack, pistachio cake layered with a white chocolate brick designed for smashing. So while there’s no particular theme, there’s plenty of creativity, whether it’s combining unlikely pairings or plating food using chem lab apparatus.
I ease into the meal with a refreshing smoothie shot made with coconut, pineapple and lime. It’s mildly sweet, crisp and cool to cleanse the palate without sullying the meal.
The quinoa salad is a classic mix of feta cheese, watermelon, black olives, cucumber and pomegranate seeds but where this dish really shines is in its presentation. The ingredients are perfectly sandwiched between two round layers of quinoa making this staple an instant hit.
Derived from molecular gastronomy, the menu contains quirky concoctions and unusual fusions of flavour like the combination of prawns, mashed potatoes and special sauce served in a red capsicum. This odd mash-up of ingredients becomes even more interesting when one bite reveals a layer of melted cheese at the bottom.
The classic lab ribs is a popular main and for good reason. This signature dish includes two slow cooked beef ribs, which I pair with mashed potatoes and house sauce. The meat is cooked to perfection and exceptionally tender. With the sauce served on the side, the flavour of the beef and its smokey chargrilled ends shines through.
The meal is so filling that dessert is not an option but the ibrik mule, a signature lab mocktail, hits the sweet spot. Again, presentation takes centre stage as a mixture of strawberry, ginger and rosemary is dispensed into a beaker from a funnel affixed to a ring stand thereby delivering a truly scientific culinary experience.
WORDS Tamara Clarke