Q: What was the inspiration behind Moonrise?
Solemann: The inspiration, not only behind Moonrise but everything I do, is Dubai. Despite the fact that I’m Syrian-French, I was born and raised in Dubai so Moonrise is a reflection of my memories and my experiences growing up. That, to a degree, also explains the cuisine at Moonrise. While we call it Middle Eastern Japanese, essentially, it is Dubai cuisine, because every single dish has a strong relationship to anyone who has grown up in Dubai.
Q: Tell me about your creative process.
Solemann: When it comes to making and presenting dishes, it's hard to start without having a story. Most of the time, I think about the emotion behind each dish. For me, food is a form of art. So, as an artist, I like to draw from something I know really well.
Q: Your dishes look like art. How important is presentation for you?
Solemann: For me, presentation is about creativity. It’s the creative process that tells the story behind the dish. The visuals, the grandness of the plates, the smokes, the smells, it all adds to the story, the soul of the dish. It’s the difference between something that is objectively good and something that is amazing.
When I look at some of the dishes on my older menus, I always think “how did people find that pretty?” I guess that attitude always makes me push myself and get better. There have been times I’ve made a dish that tastes amazing but looks like street food, and times I’ve made something that looks amazing but tastes so bad. It has to be a synthesis of being pleasant to the eyes and taste buds. That’s important.
For me, presentation is about creativity. It's the creative process that tells the story behind the dish. The visuals, the grandness of the plates, the smokes, the smells, it all adds to the story, the soul of the dish.
Q: At Moonrise, the guests are seated facing the kitchen and you explain each dish. How does that add to the dining experience?
There’s definitely a performance art or show element to it and because of that, there’s no room for error. Even if someone makes a big mistake you have to remain calm and not show raw emotion. But over time, the experience has evolved like a seamless machine. Everyone knows what to do – we won’t talk to each other during the dinner. There’s no rehearsal required; everyone just does their job.
Q: What made you pick the rather unusual location for Moonrise?
Moonrise is on the rooftop of a residential building in a gentrified part of Satwa and, as a Dubai kid, I could not think of a better place for it. It’s also in a tower in a place that doesn’t have any other towers, which guarantees unobstructed views for guests. And that adds to the overall story because it’s like you are observing Dubai from a distance, kind of like how you do through our menus. You’re away from the noise, and seeing it from a third person’s perspective. You really get a chance to reflect on Dubai.
Super Fluffy Arabic Bread (makes 8)
Prep time: 20 minutes + 4-hour rise
Cook time: 4-5 minutes
450g white bread flour
50g whole wheat flour
3.5g (1 tsp) yeast
40g (3 tbsp, or 45ml) olive oil
310g water (room temp)
Add the water to the yeast and mix thoroughly, let sit for 2-4 minutes.
Add all other ingredients into a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and mix on the lowest setting for 3 minutes. Once combined, increase to a medium-high speed setting for 3-4 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and slaps off the side of the bowl. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and bounces back when poked.
Cover and let rise at room temperature for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in size. Portion into 8 pieces. Shape into tight balls – making sure you maintain as much of the gases as possible. Refrigerate and use within three days. If you want use immediately, leave at room temperature for 30-60 minutes after shaping. - To bake, preheat your Dutch oven at 250C for 45 min. Roll out your dough balls gently into ½ cm thick flat rounds (or any shape really). Place in the Dutch oven uncovered and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Alternatively, cook on griddle for 2-3 minutes on each side on medium-high heat.
Eat right away.
All images courtesy Moonrise.