Indian fine dining hasn’t ever counted as my idea of ‘cool’ eating out.
It doesn’t strike me as an obvious choice for a girls’ night out, a romantic candle-lit date night or an evening of casual drinking with colleagues. And I think I may be speaking for a large mass of people.
Perhaps that is where avant-garde chefs like Himanshu Saini conceptualize TresInd and carve a ‘nouvelle’ identity in the crowded space of fine dining, in a city like Dubai that knows the best of both – food and nightlife.
I walked into a buzzing TresInd on a weekday night…. The telling of a restaurant that is on to something good. My beautiful table near the bar allowed me a view of the sprawling space in all its hues of copper, diffused lighting, and some very modish music, apt for a ladies night as it happened to be!
The culinary and cocktail sojourn began with a Faux Arak, vodka muddled together with pineapple, vanilla and cardamom, finished off with apple-wood smoke and a generous dusting of cinnamon. My friend, meanwhile got Koyla – bourbon, Drambuie, cinnamon, cloves and star anise filtered on a bed of solid charcoal and finished off with a garnishing of fresh basil.
Both these beautifully balanced concoctions set the tone for a magical experience to follow. I, who otherwise will strongly avoid strong flavours of pineapple and vanilla, happily gulped down my first drink for the evening!
That was then followed by Pani Puri Shots – the tangy pani of the pani puri, jellified into globules using Sodium Alginate, topped with fresh Imli Chutney and fried boondi for crunch. The explosion of flavours in the mouth, created a clever illusion of having bitten into one of Mumbai’s signature street foods.
While we’re still on to street foods, let’s also talk about Chef Himanshu’s interpretation of the humble Chaat and Dahi Bhalla. The ‘chaat’ as it happened to be, was like watching an artist’s canvas come to life. A smattering of chutneys topped with chaat masala gel, batter fried crispy palak, pomegranate seeds and then a yellow rubble of liquid nitrogen frozen dhokla. The very theatrical and seemingly heedless assembly of ingredients created a delicate balance of flavours and textures. This cold and crispy-till- the-last- bite Modernist Chaat Trolley, is TresInd’s answer to Dubai’s approaching merciless summer evenings.
The Dahi Bhalla Sorbet, served on a bed of nitro cooked potato rosti, is yet another brilliant reinvention of a humble Indian snack. The sorbet itself is a smart allusion to the creamy tanginess of the dish from which it is inspired. The real stroke of genius though, is the camouflaged sliver of ginger – the suggestion to the urad dal ‘bhalla’ without the obvious presence of it!
The Rosemary Lamb Chops served on a bed of ghee roasted potatoes and the Gulf King Prawns that followed were delectable. I did miss the signature ghee aroma and flavour on the potatoes, and I personally also prefer my lamb to be cooked softer but that is purely a matter of personal preference. The giant prawns stood out as the hero truly, in a perfectly rounded, mellow blend of Malvani spices, tempered with curry leaves tempering and finished off with a Lahsoon (Garlic) Chutney.
Soup – an almost forgotten course in Indian cuisine, also came creatively presented. Dehydrated guchhi mushrooms that resembled dried tea leaves, truffle milk powder that could easily pass off as milk & sugar powder & a rich mushroom consommé garbed as an intense brew all came together as a flavour-intense mushroom soup deserving of its name Mushroom Chai.
The Lava Lamp – a smart infusion of passion fruit and white rum with an almost crazy semblance to an active volcano (also my favourite drink that evening) and the Burst 52 Shots – Baileys and Kahlua spheres in Cointreau proved to be yet another winner from the mixologist’s table and brought our dramatic starters course to a ‘high’ end.
Just where I thought the magic had briefly ended, Chef Himanshu pulled another rabbit out of his hat and presented the nondescript palate cleanser in the form of a Khandvi Sorbet. His tribute to a Gujarati favourite was as true to the classical flavours as it was innovative.
The mains of the neatly carved Wagyu Steaks along with the fragrant coriander chutney pounded freshly at your table is good and no surprises there. The stand out for me though, was the Tandoori Portobello Steak. The mushrooms, generously swathed in Molcajete Chimichurri Chutney, were cooked to perfection, retaining their squidgy bite and emerging as the star of the dish.
The Chilli Hoisin Duck Khurchan with Roomali Roti Pancakes – a desi interpretation of the classical Peking Duck came most inventively presented! Mini rotis hanging with pegs on a clothes line, accompanied with a fresh chutney and the duck. Making your own mini roll for the devouring is as interactive as food can get at TresInd!
Finally on to desserts, we were first presented the Dhoda Barfi Deconstructed Black Forest Cake snowed over with fresh cream treated with liquid nitrogen. Then came a bouquet of fluffy Paan Flavoured Cotton Candy adorned on an old style, miniature panwallah’s bicycle. Each one was an artistic creation, and indeed the sweet end of a ‘very India’ meal.
Chef Himanshu’s gutsy and theatrical interpretation of flavours puts Indian cuisine on the global food map in a never seen before avatar. While the food is boldly “Heston-ized’, every item on the menu ties back in flavour as much to the traditional dish from which it is inspired.
Does it capture the mind of the first time diner only or will it hold its charm for a repeat diner too? I think that as long as flavours continue to retain authenticity as they do now, TresInd might be on its way to becoming an interpretation of Indian eating that is here to stay. For the ‘desi’, a rediscovery of familiar flavours, and for the ‘videshi’ an initiation into one of the world’s most loved cuisines, this may be the thing that will break ice with both kinds of junta!
Ratings (out of 5)
Food: 4.5 | Ambiance: 4 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.5
Meal for 2: AED 600 | Wheelchair Friendly: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Alcohol: Yes | Timings: Lunch: 12.00 pm – 03.00 pm | Dinner: 06.30 pm (Lounge) 07.00 pm (Restaurant) – 11.00 pm
Address: 2nd Floor, Nassima Royal Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE
DISCLAIMER: This review was originally published for Indian Food Freak at http://www.indianfoodfreak.com/2017/03/24/fume-dubai-hits-misses/