KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — Fine dining is perhaps best enjoyed when diners are taken on an unexpected journey.
Within the confines of four walls, diners have their sense elevated “virtually”, a concept now a reality in Malaysia.
Until July 31, Nathalie Gourmet Studio is taking reservations on the country’s first of its kind multi-sensory fine dining experience.
Whimsy introduces 360-degree digital projection with the stylings of Michelin star-trained chef Nathalie Arbefeuille, whose take on French fusion has been celebrated in local culinary scene for the past decade.
The five-course set is limited to two sessions a day and 10 guests in a sitting. Guests can sit together if they choose to.
There is, however, no awkward salutations, owing to the animated golden arches that project each guest’s name onto the table as a placemat.
With every course comes a new setting that “changes” the room, much like being transported in and out of various of science fiction movies, though food remains the protagonist throughout.
A classy affair needs an equally stimulating drink pairing.
Option one is wine from Di Tullio and Sons — châteaux imported from the family-owned vineyard in southwest France to Kuala Lumpur.
Alternatively, it is Martell cognac.
The first “scene” is “The Red Planet”. The dish is layered Japanese momotaro tomatoes, mozzarella and basil pesto arranged into a globe sitting in a creamy sauce.
But before delving into the second starter, the backdrop changes to an intergalactic scene where stars have constellated into the shape of zodiac signs.
It is these quirky twists that add an extra dimension to this set-up, where technology entertains foodies who read their horoscopes while waiting for the next dish.
“A few years back, we stumbled upon the world’s most expensive restaurant in Ibiza that pioneered the concept,” said project director Phoebe Tan.
She added the multisensory idea, does not just cater to taste buds and olfactory, but sound and vision too.
“We thought, why not combine our technology with food and bring this experience to Malaysians.”
Arbefeuille was considered a charismatic choice, a chef who can fuse personality with flavour to give Whimsy its dramatic flair.
The visuals are equal-part spectacular and breathtaking, vivid in colour and detail, created by a design team who ensure the display is given a dose of the otherworldliness.
Soon enough, we were “Into the Woods”.
It is a comfort dish like sitting perched under your favourite tree branch or wrapped up in forestry.
It has crispy foie gras and wild porcini mushrooms two ways, topped with duck and truffle consomme that is poured into a glass bowl disguised as a bird’s nest.
To follow is “Under Water”, a seafood dish, naturally.
You can expect caramelised Hokkaido scallops, poached oyster and pearl cream, dieppoise sauce and mushroom mousseline.
“When Whimsy proposed to create a menu fitting their themes, I was like a child in a toy shop,” the chef told Malay Mail.
“When I started working on the different themes of the dinner, my target was to have some dishes that would blend into the surroundings.
“Blend first by just looking at them, but also by the flavours. Whimsy has a unique project and I had to select the best ingredients to go with the most beautiful staging,” added Arbefeuille.
For the main course, “Circus”, it is accompanied by walls adorned in red-and-white big top tents.
Arbefeuille flexes her imagination here, with a dish that is given the standout treatment — chicken with lobster, a paella-flavoured risotto, herbs and capsicum cut into star shapes.
Winding down, and the tablets are passed out for the final time, where messages can be drawn to appear on one of the hundreds of floating lanterns on screens around the room.
It ends with “Make-A-Wish — Perfect Apple”, seemingly taking a page from Snow White.
A delightfully sweet apple is preserved with a sugar coating.
The deceptive apple is filled with lemon mousse, fennel, green apple and dill coulant, finished with ivory cocoa crust and crumbles.
The door out is fittingly marked “exit to reality”, ending the fantastical experience that is not soon forgotten.