“The past six months have been very good for us,” says Chef Himanshu Saini over a phone call. In February, this year, the two restaurants that he helms in Dubai—Trèsind and Trèsind Studio—, ranked 18 and 4 respectively in the inaugural edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in the Middle East and North Africa. The laurels didn't end there. Earlier this week, Trèsind Studio became the only Indian restaurant to win a Michelin star in the first-ever list published by the restaurant guide for Dubai. “Every chef, who steps into the industry hopes to have his or her restaurant recognised by the guide,” he adds.
Saini's restaurants have become an integral part of Dubai's eclectic culinary ecosystem now. The city serves as a canvas for chefs like him to unfurl their creativity. “A lot more food-based tourism is likely to happen in Dubai. It is a melting point of so many nationalities and cultures. In some ways, it is a difficult market,” says Saini. It is not just the Indian palate that he has to cater to in Dubai, but to British, French, American ones as well. “Sadly, the West still perceives of Indian food as takeaway curry. It is a challenge to change those notions, while being able to satisfy the diverse palates, and also keep the ethos of Indian food intact. One has to find that balance,” he elaborates.
At Trèsind Studio, a tasting-menu-only concept, the offerings change every four months. One can find a blend of comfort and imagination in Saini's dishes. And yet at no point does the menu become gimmicky. Within two-and-a-half hours, Saini and his team take the guest on a journey through Indian food.
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One of his signature dishes is a savoury khandvi ice-cream—a playful take on the snack available in streetside sweet shops. “An Indian diner would appreciate the complexity of the dish and the challenge of achieving flavours of a khandvi in an ice cream. However, for those, who have no knowledge of a khandvi, it requires a different kind of conversation to show how innovation has been achieved in a dish,” says the 35-year-old chef. However, Indian or foreign, each guest now comes to Trèsind Studio expecting they will see something new and imaginative.
Saini likes to highlight the complexity of spices in his food, and to take away from this misconception that Indian food is all about heat. Rather, he wants to celebrate the mix of aromas and flavours that spices can infuse in a dish. “For anyone, who is not Indian, it is difficult to comprehend how a galouti kebab can have a blend of 16-17 spices. But that complexity is so beautiful,” he adds.
For his new menu, the young chef is going to create four mini menus within one larger menu, dividing it into north, south, east and west. It will be like a culinary exploration, with the team taking guests to different parts of India. From the aesthetics of the table to the feel of the menu, everything will add to this experience. “We will start with an experience of the north with five dishes, ending with a dessert. The menu will then progress to the next part of the country,” elaborates Saini. “How is a pani puri in Kolkata different from the one in Mumbai? How diverse do dishes get when one moves from the east to west, or north to south? I find such aspects interesting and try to showcase these in my menus.”