It was with some trepidation that I noted the arugula water jelly, olive air, herb bubbles and a perfumed panna cotta, inspired by Estée Lauder no less, on the set menus available at Sense on the Edge. Often when a kitchen becomes immersed in culinary alchemy (new-fangled gels and espuma foams etc), the basic fundamentals of their cooking suffers. Was this to be another disappointing victory of style over sustenance?
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Sense on the Edge prides itself on offering a unique dining experience and the journey to the restaurant is certainly unforgettable. Nestled in the rocks some 293 metres up at the top of Zighy Mountain, a visit here is not your normal hop-in-a-taxi-and-arrive-10-minutes-later affair. Accessible only by 4x4, the mountain road climbs steeply and while the bends may not be what you would call hairpin, they feel like it. When the driveway is as arduous to scale as this, the restaurant needs to deliver.
The flaming torches lining the path were charming, the view from the candlelit terrace looking out over the Omani coast was staggeringly beautiful, yet it took an outstanding amuse bouche for my fear to be forgotten. Quite an achievement for a pre-starter, but the crispy wonton (with pastry so thin it was almost transparent) which oozed creamy labneh and a ring of squid encased in fresh, golden batter was something really special.
The "enhanced salty cod with pomme mousseline" that followed was not quite as out of this world, but was still very good. Meaty pieces of cod were alternated with cubes of orange jelly, arranged across a line of silky potato purée and drizzled with Arabic black olive dressing. The restaurant has a garden at the bottom of the mountain and sources from it, while also using local produce to good effect: oranges from Dibba, Arabic dates, olives and herbs.
A pretty little dish of fresh tuna arrived. Slithers of the escabeche marinated fish had been just briefly seared (the pinky hue becoming deep red in the centre) and piled high with a delicate tomato salsa. The only slight disappointment was the accompanying quenelle of avocado pudding, which, as its name suggests, was rather heavy and a touch under-seasoned. The intriguingly titled Green Island (served with citrus-flavoured scallops) turned out to be a fricassee of peas, broad beans and baby asparagus cooked al dente and bursting with freshness. The scallops resting on top were tasty and in a region where the large, hand-dived variety are hard to get hold of, they were as good as any currently being served in the UAE.
The words "tender", "flavourful" and "melt in the mouth" are tossed about too frequently in the food world; they really ought to be reserved for the likes of our meat course. The wagyu beef was exceptional and everything that you imagine the fabled meat to be: succulent, juicy, delicious. Presented with braised shallots and a potato fondant, it was the most classic dish on this particular menu and one of the best.
Dessert was an assiette of chocolate, featuring a mousse, ice cream, tuille and soufflé. Each element was perfectly nice and it may well have been a chocoholic's dream, but we struggled to finish it. When coffee was finished and petit fours devoured, it was time to drag ourselves away from what must be one of the most staggering views in the region, and head back down the mountain. Sense on the Edge manages to offer both exquisite style and sustenance and, even with the hairpins, it's more than worth the trip.
Sense on the Edge, Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, Oman (00968 2673 5555). Our reviewer's meal for two, excluding drinks and service, cost Dh878.75. Restaurants are reviewed incognito and the meals are paid for by The National. David Evans is a nom de plume.