Mumbai Food: What to expect in Dubai's post-modern Indian restaurant
As Dubai's post-modern Indian restaurant, Tresind, dresses up to open in Mumbai, chef Himanshu Saini gives us a taste of what (not) to expect
After graduating from Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology College, Delhi, Himanshu Saini's first job was with Manish Mehrotra's Indian Accent in Delhi, ranked 30 in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2017. He later launched Zorawar Kalra's Masala Library in Mumbai.
In Dubai, he introduced a new facet of Indian food with Trèsind — owned by Passion Group's founder and managing director Bhupendra Nath — that went beyond the cliché of butter chicken. Only this week, he wrapped up a culinary collaboration with Ossiano's chef de cuisine Grégoire Berger, who was ranked 10 at the Best Chefs Awards last year.
Painted in a sleak black south Indian pepper sauce with black rice pancake
At 31, Saini is a chef maverick. This December, he will launch the Mumbai outpost of Trèsind, whose Middle Eastern counterpart has been frequented by celebrities including Roger Federer and Brian Lara. We visited the original Dubai hotspot to learn more about the cuisine.
Pushing the envelope
Our lift opens on the second floor of Dubai's Nassima Royal Hotel and an ocean of blue leads us into Trèsind. Walking past the lounge, we wait outside a room that reads, Studio. Here, a 16-course miracle is waiting to happen. The 20-seater space celebrates the journey of Trèsind in an experimental form.
We spot Saini using his forceps and all his focus to place shredded spinach on papdi chat. In a corner, another chef has scooped desi butter into a bulb. All chefs are working individually but in sync, with Saini keeping tabs on the flow.
The course rolls with amuse bouche, a cold chaat, in an ice bowl with fossils of coriander leaves. Next up, a papdi chaat with a dhokla sprinkled with curry leaves and spinach is a multitude of street flavours rolled into one. But the dish that makes time stop is prawns in a watermelon rasam. It has the smokiness of feta, the zing of mustard, the tartiness of tamarind and a finish of curry leaves. This, we insist, take the flight to Mumbai.
The interiors of Tresind, Dubai
It's only when you sample the food, that you realise Saini's sorcery is in recreating nostalgia and authentic flavours cloaked in modern plating and cooking techniques. Every element plays a part, making its presence felt at the right moment. But his job for now goes beyond simply presenting the cuisine. The term "progressive modern food" has become synonymous with molecular gastronomy. A term, Saini points out, is loosely assumed for theatrics.
"But there is an intense science to it. When I started Trèsind, I wondered what life after the modern era of Indian cuisine would be like. Things from our past are useful and can be revived," says the corporate chef, who changes his menu every three months and is currently dishing out a colonial-themed menu at the Group's fun-casual dining space, Carnival located in the business hub of DIFC in Dubai. "People associate molecular gastronomy with gimmicks. I am more interested in what goes on in your palate, not plate."
Chef Himanshu Saini
Mid-way into a 16-course-long menu, things can get dull. Saini knows too well, and dusts the slumber with an all-black dish on an all-black plate. A tandoor finished chop, painted in a sleak black south Indian pepper sauce. Green peas sit on a leek-treated black rice pancake. For the 11th course, he invites us to the platform where a white porcelain slab shaped like the map of India holds an ingredient cup in every state.
The dish simmering in the pan is khichdi, in which Saini adds a flavour of every state — saffron from Kashmir and green apple from Himachal Pradesh. Saini, who grew up two blocks away from Moti Mahal in Daryaganj — the birth place of butter chicken — was influenced by the aromas and tastes of his surrounding. "Till date, you get the best pav bhaji and pani puri in purani Dilli, not Mumbai," he says, breaking into a smile when we remind him about his decision to open in the financial capital. "Here's where I got my big break, I have an emotional attachment with Mumbai."
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