My Favourite Restaurant: At.Mosphere

30 Nov 2011

Radio presenter Simone Heng talks food and explains why she loved being at the top

What do you love about atmosphere?
I love the atmosphere! Pun totally intended. There is something so magical about being that high up. Maybe it’s because I am so little (5’1”) that I just love being high up. It’s like, finally I get to see everything around me! I love eating too, so it combines two loves when I’m dining here. I particularly love the way the whole of Dubai looks at night from At.mosphere. It’s just magical and there is a glitzy, New York feel to the view.

Which dish from the restaurant is your favourite and why?
I adore the foie gras plate which is served with figs and crisp, buttery bread. The presentation is also divine with the sauces dripped artfully on the side of the plate and the salt and spices laid in a tiny trio.

What is so great about the Dubai culinary scene?
Variety! I love that I can go to Ravi’s in Satwa for a cheap-as-chips meal then on to a mid-priced eatery like Kisaku in Al Khaleej Palace Hotel and then fine dining like here at At.mosphere. I think there are few countries that can offer such diversity, not only in cuisine but also in culinary experiences. In Dubai, we have the chance to eat at the top of the world or in a room surrounded by a fish tank!

What is your favourite dish ever?
Even though I was raised in Australia, I was reared on Asian food so rice is 100 per cent my must-have. My father would cook a traditional Singaporean fish congee for when we were sick or had exams. He surmised that the protein from the fish and the carbs from the rice made it the perfect brain food for his daughters to do well in their school work. To this day, when I feel sad I’ll boil rice for myself and try to recreate that dish. Hilarious that a dish traditionally intended for peasants is my fave thing to eat in the midst of lavish Dubai!

Do you have any special food memories?
I just came back from Greece with my girlfriends and we fell in love with how Greek salad is prepared there… the cucumbers are small, smooth and with almost no seeds and the olives are almost always Kalamata, which reminds me of growing up in Australia. They always used fresh feta and both red and white onion.So by the end of our Myconian adventure, we were all debating the Greek salad and the all-important mix of olive oil and herbs, so now whenever we get together we recreate the taste of that holiday with a bowl of Greek salad.

What do you like to cook at home?
I am a very bad cook but a great eater. I have a very high metabolism and love eating but cooking is not my best talent. Most of the time I’ll grill or steam vegetables with some noodles or risotto. Very simple, clean, elementary stuff which my mum would have fed us on a school night.

Who is your food inspiration?
I interviewed Pierre Gagnaire on the first season of my TV show and I was just so inspired by the way he had built his empire within the culinary industry. Reflets at InterContinental Festival City has stunning details all branded with his name.

What would you never ever eat?
Growing up in a Chinese house, let’s face it – us Chinese will eat anything that walked! I eat almost anything. But I think some of the Japanese puffer fish sashimi [fugu] that can be poisonous would be where I draw the line.

Who taught you how to cook?
Mrs McGrath, my home economics teacher. I could not even turn on an oven until last year as I think my father spoilt us as he was a phenomenal cook. He could make the most tasty restaurant-standard Singaporean dishes without measuring a thing. He knew the recipes from memory. So he loved cooking and we just let him take over the kitchen. I learned to cook only at high school and I’m not bad at baking. I just am terrible at preparing Asian food.

Your top chef trick or shortcut?
Shamefully, it’s buying boxed instant risotto and grilling asparagus and meat for on top… then telling everyone I slaved to get the consistency perfect!

Your kitchen cupboard must-haves?
Soy sauce, chilli sambal and olive oil.