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Carnival by Tresind, DIFC, restaurant review

Restaurant Review: Carnival by Tresind

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  • Avg. Cost per Person:

    250 Dhs
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    Carnival by Tresind, DIFC , Dubai
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Tasting menus are available from Dh250+ for an eight-course vegetarian degustation option, and Dh275+ for the non-vegetarian option.

Opening hours:
Daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm

Phone number:
052 242 4262

A new Indian restaurant opened in Dubai last week. Only, Carnival by Tresind is hardly your average backstreet Karama curry house. Rather, as the name suggests, a meal at this Dubai International Financial Centre venue is a rollicking rollercoaster ride across the subcontinent, juxtaposing lip-smacking street fare with fine recipes from erstwhile colonial tables and royal kitchens, with the occasional nod to our globalised lives.

Carnival opened to the public on Saturday, and tabloid!’s sibling brand GN Focus sneaked a quick taste before the hungry hordes beat down the front door. It’s booked solid this week, and that isn’t entirely due to the enviable reputation of its Shaikh Zayed Road big sister, Tresind.

Also helmed by Himanshu Saini, perhaps Dubai’s most innovative home-grown chef, the food at Carnival delights, entertains and pretty much sets your taste buds singing and dancing. The 16-course tasting menu repackages nostalgia for the 21st century jetsetter, using humble ingredients such as gherkins and lotus seeds, and employing techniques from Indian and international kitchens alike — sous vide is notable in this context. Better yet, it’s almost all entirely without any irritating molecular gastronomy, although a rock or two of dry ice shows up on the beverage list.

The interiors, done in tones of brown and cream, attempt to recreate a sort of magical wonderland. Gilded trees with tiny kites caught in them set off the seating area, which is purposefully dark so only the food is spot-lit on each table.

But that’s as it should be. For example, you shouldn’t expect bread to start. You’ll be served two courses instead — a bread course and a butter course that double up as amuse bouche. The former is a tiny pumpkin kulcha, a soft flatbread stuffed with a spicy chutney, while the latter is a chilled hive of white cocoa butter topped with avocado and lime cream (the dry ice here ensures the butter remains cold on the plate). The sharp taste of the former is assuaged by the chocolatey fats in the latter, while the third course serves as palate cleanser and soup. La Tomatina is a gazpacho that cleverly spices labour-intensive tomato water with cumin and coriander. Served in a bottle with a crunchy breadstick, it’s light, summery and perfect for Dubai’s oppressive heat. It’s also very moreish. We wanted seconds, but sanity prevailed.

The courses that followed were almost all innovative, nostalgic and drawn from every corner of India — although, be warned, chaat features heavily.

A particular highlight was the quirkily named Life is Short, Eat Dessert First. Sweet, spicy, savoury and creamy all at the same time, it comprises a jalebi, a deep-fried pretzel, served on a bed of yoghurt mousse and masala chickpeas. Equally intriguing was Mutton Dressed as Lamb, a lamb chop coated in meat minced to melt-in-the-mouth galouti kebab standard, and topped with thin slices of ivy gourd and served with nihari, a rich bone marrow gravy. The meat was fork tender, its twin textures were neatly set off by the pungent, savoury gravy and ending on a festive note of cloves.

There is the occasional, I’d hesitate to say, failure, because at any other restaurant those dishes would be stars in their own right. But artists must constantly better themselves, so when something doesn’t live up to the rest, it’s a discordant note in what’s otherwise an elegant, passionate symphony. One of these is the Vada Pav Service, presented tableside in an old-style toolbox. The deep-fried potato patty is served crushed in its bun and then topped, dhabeli-style, with everything but the kitchen sink including mint and tamarind chutneys, chopped salad and sev or gramflour noodles. Instead of a reboot as with Saini’s own brilliant vada pav pizza, which we first saw at Taste of Dubai this year, the result is a street orphan crying to be loved.

By the end of the night, after three hours and 16 courses, we felt we’d been on a three-month-long sensory journey across India. Saini has clearly come into his own and Carnival has dethroned Tresind as the city’s best Indian restaurant.

One final word. Surprisingly for a tasting menu we weren’t too stuffed for dessert — and were able to do justice to Kappi, Carnival’s version of South Indian filter coffee. Little pebbles of coffee-infused chocolate are served in a cup of chocolate chips, with crunchy, caramelised lotus seeds on the side. Imagine that if you will. Some things are better eaten than put into words — even by food journalists.

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