November 24, 2022
Alchemist was 18th on the list in 2022 and is a Michelin 2-star restaurant.
There are meals and then there are experiences.
In the true French meaning of the word, Alchemist knows how to make an entrance. Upon arriving, the massive 20ft tall doors look as if cast by giants, adorned by metal nature.
As we walk in, they take our coats and walk us into the first of dozens of impressions—an impression of food, drink, or interactive art. The room is approximately 20ft by 30ft and adorned in mirrors from floor to ceiling. There’s a woman in a black leotard miming in front of a set of mirrors in the middle of the room. She then brings each of us to the mirror to experience our reflection.
After a few moments of this, we are escorted into the lounge to enjoy some amuse bouches and cocktails. The Smokey Ball was a fried ball filled with smoke and topped with caviar. The Butterfly was an actual butterfly sitting atop cheese and a candy leaf. The butterfly didn’t add much flavour-wise but was interesting to experience. The Dumpling was made of cotton candy and filled with mint. The Omelette was cooked so well, you could pick it up with your fingers.
I tried the rabbit ear fermented cocktail. They really try to use the entire animal and found a purpose for the ears. The cocktail itself was okay but lacked complexity.
The Main Course
From there, we are moved into the dome, which is the main dining area sitting in what feels like a planetarium, with various scenes being projected onto the ceiling. The scenes at times line up with the courses that are being enjoyed. (It is likely that they all lined up but I wasn’t nearly that observant.)
The dining setup has a bar-style seating that zig zags around the outside and the servers prep and serve from the middle. Our server happened to be from Toronto. My mentioning I was from Ottawa elicited a nonplussed response, perhaps unsurprisingly given the mild disdain the two cities have for each other. Thankfully, that didn’t affect the service.
Much of the meal was a societal reflection on various issues, like sustainability and the environment. The dish, 1984, was an eyeball where the pupil was caviar. The Plastic Fantastic was an edible “plastic” representing sea pollution. The Lifeline was made of blood and highlighting the need for blood donation.
On top of that were some very interesting food presentations. Food for Thought was brain served inside a (rubber) skull. Tongue Kiss was a cream served on the tip of a (rubber) tongue. Breathless was a pate served between lung-shaped crackers. Hunger was a thinly sliced meat (rabbit, if I recall correctly) draped over a metal ribcage. The meal was definitely for all of the senses.
The alcohol pairings were decent but the highlight was a bit of a personal splurge: a pour of 125 year old port. It came in a test tube in a wooden box that I have kept as a memento. It was incredibly delicious with flavours of rich figs and raisins and thick sweetness that was just divine.
After the main part of the meal, we were told to empty our pockets of anything as they may very get lost in the next impression. Confusingly, we empty our pockets and are led into a small room maybe 15 feet by 15 feet filled about two feet high with white balls. That’s right, we were led into a ball pit. The woman from the mirror room was back, this time in white, throwing balls in the air, pulling people up and pushing them back into the balls.
The movement and amusement was a fun transition into the final part of the evening. From the ball bit, we received a quick tour of the kitchen. We noticed that they use Trello to track the different tables, courses, and food restrictions on a large screen embedded into the counter. From there, we’re taken up a level and can now see the upper side of the dome.
We’re served up a few more small bites, including an ant embedded in “amber” candy.
Alchemist was by far the best restaurant experience I have had. I still think DiverXO holds the title of best meal but Alchemist is an experience. It engaged the senses throughout, all the while serving up incredible food. I highly recommend flying around the world to take in this experience.