Imagine being immersed in an environment where all five senses are put to the test – a dining experience that hits your sight, sound, scent, taste and touch.
This is what you can expect with Sensorium (sponsored by Stella Artois), an event described as an “immersive multi-course, multi-sensory journey”. So, it isn’t any surprise that the two and a half week event was sold out within barely days of being announced (trust us Torontonian foodies for always having an ear to the ground).
Upon entering the dome, the beer reception awaits, and experienced bar staff conduct the famed 9-step ritual for the perfect Stella Artois pour. Clearly, I’m here for the experience and the education.
The interior of the dome, lit up with starlight projections, is as surreal as it is whimsical, and my iPhone pics fail to do it justice.
As we’re ushered to our seats, the dinner service commences and Chef Richie Farina, a Michelin Star awarded chef, introduces us to the first unusual concoction off the evening – flavoured edible clouds served in a Stella Artois chalice – claiming each glass provides a unique taste and smell for every diner.
While the other diners and I share a confused look, unsure whether we’re supposed to sniff or inhale or slowly suck it in, the trapped clouds slowly dissipate leaving a sweetened scent in the air.
The molecular gastronomic adventure continues with the actual first course, featuring a selection of raw petite vegetables planted in mushroom soil and roasted garlic aioli, complemented with a liquid Greek salad served in a test tube.
Yes, you read that right.
If only I could treat all my salads like drinking shooters at a club, my life would be a lot more healthier.
This course was followed by perhaps one of the most unusual place settings I’ve ever seen – a service plate loaded with a mound of salt encircling a poem. The accompanying course was “delivered” via a roller conveyor belt, as a cloud of dry ice seeped through the table for that added dramatic effect.
This seafood course was on a giant oyster shell, which then took its rightful place atop of the mound of salt. You really can’t make this stuff up.
As our plates were cleared, the remaining courses followed in an equally dramatic fashion. My vegetable broth danced to a live drummer’s beat, but sadly, lacked the bounce in flavour. I almost yearned for that mound of salt to return. In comparison, the braised beef cheek’s bird’s nest, encased under a giant cloche and infused with applewood smoke, was very flavourful and a visual delight thanks to its surprising presentation. It amused us that what we thought was a tiny egg was in fact cauliflower puree shaped into an egg.
Very clever, chef, very clever.
The final dessert course was the real treat – marshmallows and skewers served on wood blocks. Between diners, a mini “campfire” was set up to…what else…roast those marshmallows!
Sensorium came close to what it promised and, for the price paid, was definitely a unique culinary experience. The service was top notch, the Stella kept flowing, and the courses were one visual treat after another.
Unfortunately, it was the food that fell short, both on taste and quantity. It would have also been ideal to raise the lighting just as each course was served to help diners visually experience what they were eating and, ofcourse, capture those social media moments the organisers were fervently hoping for.
By the end of the evening, there was a shared sentiment amongst our dining partners at the table – where was the closest place for a quick bite?