The Abu Dhabi F1 is a gathering of sporting and culinary excellence.
In addition to superstar drivers lining the starting grid at Yas Marina Circuit over the weekend, some of the UAE's finest dining establishments are revving their engines for the occasion — with menus to match.
Located in the exclusive rooftop Luna Lounge inside the circuit, the pop-up aims to recreate the chic vibes of its original setting at Address Sky View hotel.
Where the Downtown Dubai location offers panoramic views of the city skyline, including up-close vistas of Burj Khalifa, the F1 outpost provides a similarly expansive look of the circuit.
It's also a perfect location to witness the Etihad Airways flyover minutes before Sunday’s big race.
"Opening a restaurant is always a challenge and reopening Ce La Vi again for three days will be difficult,” says executive chef Howard Ko.
"But I do think it will be a rewarding experience to showcase what we do. I feel what we offer is unique with our style of food being contemporary Asian, but at the same time being rooted in French techniques.
“It could be something that many people in F1 have never tried before, and that is exciting."
From Friday to Sunday, diners will enjoy servings — through a la carte and live stations — of Ce La Vi’s signature dishes while watching the race from a spectacular vantage point.
A greatest hits menu
More than 30 dishes are on offer in Abu Dhabi, which will be served as part of a daily changing menu.
"To create something different for F1 didn't feel like it was the right way to go," Ko says. "Because the whole point of why we are there is to tell our story and the best way to do that is through signature dishes."
Dishes are modern and rustic, yet delivered with the kind of technique that had Michelin inspectors applauding.
For starters, there is The Opening, a spread of soft seaweed parker rolls with a variety of innovative dips, such as sweet potato hummus paprika, chicken liver mousse and butter with date honey.
The yuzu labneh is a wondrous combination of the Far East and the Middle East, with the cream of the labneh offset by the citrusy notes of the Japanese fruit.
The beetroot salad is a tangy treat of various textures through the expert layering of dark berries, red quinoa, beetroot and avocado.
"The whole concept is to have dishes that you can share," Ko says. "By having the rolls, dips and salads, we want people to try as many different dishes as possible."
Make sure to save space for the main dishes.
The black truffle "sushi rice" risotto is a dish rendered golden by the luxurious Parmesan mousse, shimeji mushrooms and butternut squash. It's as impactful as it sounds.
“I would say that it is decadent and we found that women absolutely love it,” Ko says. “It is a dish that stayed with us since day one.”
The braised lamb neck navarin is a brilliant representation of culinary adventure and tradition.
"I love showcasing parts of the animal not really served a lot," Ko says. "In Dubai, you will find a lamb shank or lamb chop but rarely the neck, which is the most flavoursome part of the lamb. When you braise it, it becomes absolutely wonderful."
Ce La Vi presents this on top of a bed of flageolet beans, baby turnips, petite carrots, green beans and a thick gravy, such that it resembles a Sunday roast.
"It does have the warmth like your grandma made it," Ko says. "But at the same time, we still want to show refinement and absolute detail to the flavours and ingredients.”
The attention to produce is found in the grilled Spanish octopus, a dish you can imagine served on a summer's day on the French Riviera.
Recently introduced to Ce La Vie's Dubai menu, it is accompanied by an earthy smoked potato mousse, sweet semi-dried tomatoes, pimenton (a Spanish smoked paprika) and burnt spring onion oil.
"At a fundamental level, you have to treat every product with respect and if you stray from that, the dish begins to suffer," Ko says. "With octopus, you have to really make sure that your cooking liquid is flavoured perfectly, and you take it out before overcooking and it becomes mushy."
The competitive spirit
Ce La Vi’s exquisite fine dining offering in such a raucous and fully charged Grand Prix atmosphere is part of a wider embrace between the sporting and culinary worlds, according to Ko.
"Food and sports have always been forms that people used to express themselves," he says.
"Competition breeds creativity and that's when you can push the boundaries. It is no surprise that chefs are also massive sports fans and we are competitive with each other.
“That’s why it is so great that Michelin came to Dubai and Abu Dhabi; it will only push all of us to raise the bar.”
Friday to Sunday, access to Ce La Vi with weekend packages, which include access to all the fan zones and after-race concerts at Etihad Park, begin from Dh7,000. More information and tickets are available from yasmarinacircuit.com