Molecule: French Flair in the Design District
Dubai Design District is known as a ‘working’ district, with little to offer in terms of nightlife. Many of the restaurants and F & B outlets there are more suited for business lunches or delivery. It doesn’t seem like the ideal setting for a modern French bistro (their style of cuisine is actually known as ‘bistronomy’), but the recently opened Molecule might just add some life to the place after sunset.
Are you looking to have dinner at an upscale but casual restaurant? Relax after work in a lounge? Maybe you’re the sort of person who wants to spend the evening admiring paintings in an art gallery. At Molecule, you can do all of the above in the same compact space. In terms of aesthetic, it’s well suited to the quirky looking Design District.
A barrier divides the dining room (which only seats 55, so it’s best to call ahead) and the lounge, which isn’t just a place to enjoy drinks. Each table has a board game sitting on it to give you some entertainment options. It’s a cool idea, though not everyone might be up for board games, especially after a long day at the office.
And if you’re looking to visit the art gallery, just have a seat. The main wall of the dining room is decorated with artwork from a local artist, with décor that ties into the theme of the art. They’re planning to showcase a new artist every three months, so you can expect a completely different experience at Molecule depending on which season you eat there!
Alright, so it’s a cool place to hang out in, but how’s the food? As it turns out, it’s pretty great. Almost all the appetizers are vegetarian, and it’s hard to pick a favourite from the selection that we try.
The Molecule Salad sounds a bit plain – every restaurant has a house salad one the menu – but what really elevates it from your standard mixed greens is the tangy tomato vinaigrette dressing. Using a tomato-based salad dressing is a rarity in itself, and when combined with the mix of lettuce, asparagus spears, tomato-oregano crisps and fennel segments, it’s a flavor party that you won’t regret attending. The Beetroot Salad is another common appetizer that hits some lovely flavor notes, complemented by some peppery rocket.
The Famous Burrata is bound to find some fame here, complementing the creamy cheese with grilled eggplant, courgettes and semi-dried tomatoes. The Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Gazpacho is refined comfort food at its best, though if there’s one dish you really should try, it’s the one quite simple named Aubergine: grilled eggplant halves topped with labneh, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds. Sound like a simple dish? Then prepare to be very pleasantly surprised.
Alas, there is only one option for the mains, which is the Morel Risotto. We back that up with a side of Potato Gratin and The Famous Mashed Potatoes. The risotto is tasty and while the serving seems small, it’s fairly dense. But as I’ve said before, mushroom risottos just aren’t all that exciting anymore. The gratin (which is, funnily enough, twice the size of the risotto) is melted cheesy goodness.
And the Famous Mashed Potatoes? Well, when it arrives at the table, it looks like a very ordinary mashed potato dish. No garnish or creative plating. But once you get a taste of the creamy, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth mash, you’ll agree that it deserves to be famous.
Molecule’s staff hype up the dessert menu, making it hard to choose one option, so we go with three! The Mille Feuille comes highly recommended, and is a good contrast of crisp pastry and decadent cream. The Chocolate Fondant is always a good go-to dessert at any restaurant, and the one at Molecule does not disappoint.
One of the main highlights, though, is the Mysterious Arabica, which certainly has us intrigued. It turns out to be a chocolate ganache disc sitting on top of a bowl. Our server then solves the mystery by pouring hot chocolate onto the disc, melting it and revealing a scoop of Arabica ice cream sitting on top of pear confit. The taste lives up to the dramatic presentation, with pear and chocolate proving to be a surprisingly strong combination.
Dubai Design District is still a work in progress, and it’s not the sort of place you might want to spend your evenings. But a visit to Molecule may just change your mind. The atmosphere is charming, the staff very friendly, and the flavours top-notch. I’d love to see some more vegetarian mains on the menu, but there’s still enough reason for me to come back with some friends for a lovely meal, and maybe even a board game or two.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Great food, cool decor, friendly service
Cons: Nothing major comes to mind
Price: $$$ (200 - 500 AED)
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