Carnival by Tresind: A Post-Modernist Take on Indian Favorites

The wait is over. The highly anticipated Carnival by Tresind is finally opening its doors at DIFC Dubai on Saturday 3rd September. After a long week of work, I was very excited about heading to Carnival. We received a media invite to try out a set menu, and like our undeniably favorite Indian restaurant Tresind, Carnival proved to be a magical jaw-dropping experience. The only bummer was that they haven’t obtained their liquor licence yet (this will be resolved by the time they officially open).

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Walking into Carnival by Tresind is like stepping into a fantasy world. Dimly lit yet festively spruced up with gilded trees branching out at every corner, a wall of masquerade masks and an impressively stylish bar area with a backlit feature wall of empty bottles, we were showered down with a welcoming burst of bubbles as soon as we took our seats at the table.

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Where Tresind boasts of Modernist Indian Cuisine, Carnival by Tresind is an attempt to take the magic a few steps further by delving into the Post-Modernist era. With tomato soup disguised as champagne and mains that look like dessert, Carnival is as mad as the Mad Hatter and plays witty, cleverly thought out games with the senses.

The Carnival set menu has a vegetarian and non-veg version. We had scrolls of both, and each of these were clearly marked with halogen balloons (green for vegetarians, and red for the meatier meal). Pop that green balloon I say, we love our non-veg 🙂

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We were hosted by a very enthusiastic server called Himanshu who took great pains to decipher every single dish we were presented. It is quite impressive to see how well-versed the staff is on the menu offerings, especially given they haven’t even been operational yet.

The Non Vegetarian pre-tasting menu consisted of 16 Carnival creations, and here is a rundown of what we had:

Happy Halloween: A cheerful lit-up plastic pumpkin was introduced on our table. No, it isn’t 31st October just yet, but rather a hint on what we were about to bite into. This is essentially a mini kulcha (a Punjabi flatbread) that has been stuffed with a sweet pumpkin mash. The decor on the plate is more elaborate than the dish itself.

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Makhan Phal: Translating to ‘Avocado’ in Hindi, we were asked to pop the entire serving into the mouth in one go, edible flower and all. This porous-looking cube is a deliciously creamy-sweet Cacao Butter Hive, and is topped with a blob of avocado and lime cream. The entire cube melts like butter into the mouth, and has an aftertaste that resembles White Chocolate. Delish!

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La Tomatina Beverage Soup: When I envision tomato soup, I think of a bowl of thick, creamy red goodness. Imagine my shock when we get served the below! The ‘soup’ is inside the bottle, and is a water-like pale yellow. It is iced, and you have to pour it out like a drink. Oh, and the bottle stopper is an edible bread stick coated with cheese!

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The ‘soup’ was refreshingly fresh and full of the characteristic scent and flavor of tomatoes. Sure we had the bread stick, but it wasn’t needed with this iced soup at all. Great as a garnish though!

Life is Short Eat Dessert First: Finally a dessert named after my life philosophy! But wait… this gets even better… this isn’t really a dessert, but a chaat! I love, love chaat anytime of the day. In this version, the traditional potatoes, chickpeas and yoghurt chaat gets a revamp with the use of a yoghurt mousse and is topped with a crisp, not too sweet jelebi.

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Indian Fried Chicken: The chaat that claimed to be a dessert, and now fried chicken that looks like a dessert! Am I making any sense? But that’s the beauty of Carnival. They have taken the sense out of usual expectations. Here, this deliciously spicy ball of minced chicken is coated in savory ‘boondi’ to make it resemble India’s favorite Boondi Ladoo (it is even garnished with varak!).

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Malai Baraf: This mini parfait features litchi granita, raspberry rose water and fresh cream that has been made in-house. Served in mini iced parfait glasses, this sweet treat is refreshingly fruity and acts as the perfect palate cleanser before the mains hit the table.

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Pullinji: This a serving of plump, juicy prawn that has been tempered with South Indian spices and the heat of ginger, and gently tossed in a caramelized coating of palm sugar. Forget the traditional South Indian garnish of curry leaves. Here, the prawn is topped with a delicate curry leaf crisp! Absolutely delicious.

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See Food: No typo here. This dainty scallop dish is a word-play of ‘see’ and ‘sea’. Served in a platter that resembles a shell, it features two pieces of beautifully cooked scallop topped with Japanese Ito Loga Rashi (very finely sliced Japanese red chii). For added drama, the Assam Tea Dashi is poured onto the scallops on the table itself. Pretty chuffed they used Assam tea, being an Assamese myself! But more than the scent of tea, the broth had a divinely robust hit of Dashi (Japanese seaweed). Light, flavorful and beautifully presented, the See Food was my favorite main-course from the night.

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Utterly Butterly: Named after the tagline of an iconic Indian brand, this main-course features a spicy cheese toast that uses the ‘utterly butterly delicious’ Amul butter. On the same platter sits slices of succulently juicy Wagyu beef cooked a perfect medium-rare.

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Oranjee: Reminiscent of the ice-cream sellers of India, this refreshingly icy orange and saffron popsicle comes in a mini paper bag. Yet another palate cleanser to whet our appetites for the next round of mains!

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Mutton Dressed as Lamb: How witty are the names?! Yet this dish is even wittier than it sounds. This main-course combines elements of three very popular North Indian Mughlai dishes. It is essentially a mutton hop (disguised as lamb with the bone at the end!), is brushed in a Galaouti coating, and served with a downpour of divinely rich, meaty Nihari gravy. In true Nawabi style, this meaty treat is served with a basket of Khamiri flatbread to swipe away all that moreishly divine Nihari gravy.

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Dal Phulka: The quintessential Indian dal (yellow lentil soup) gets an Italian makeover. Served to resemble a cappuccino, it is tempered with truffle ghee and finished off with sprinkles of cumin cacao. Forget the biscotti, this ‘cappuccino’ goes Desi-style with a crisp phulka ‘cookie’ on the side.

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Before long, it was time for dessert! The first sweet treat to hit our table was Go Bananas. Banoffee pie gets a South Indian makeover at Carnival. Served on banana leaves, this dessert platter includes an Ilaichi Banana (a native of South India), a toffee flavored papacotta and a scoop of banoffe ice-cream. We were advised to scoop all three together into one mouthful. From the three, I went especially bananas for the toffee panacotta. Can I please have a second serving?!

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The Betels: Betel-nut and paan is a common after-dinner mouth freshener eaten in the Indian subcontinent. These may be banned in the UAE, but we get to relish in their characteristic flavors in the form of macaroons!

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When these hit the table, my daughter gobbled up all three! Our host was kind enough to send us another serving.

Kappi: We usually end a gastronomic meal with hot cups of coffee, but this isn’t your ordinary cuppa. The pretty silver mug holds a mix of chocolate chips and coffee beans (which I accidentally spooned in to thinking it was a part of the dish!). The real treat is this white pebble sitting on the top. This white chocolate casing is filling with liquid coffee espresso that oozes out as soon as you pop it into the mouth! If the coffee is too strong for you, reach out for the caramelized lotus seeds served on the side.

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Just when we thought we were winding up, an entire house makes its way to our table!

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The staff tell me Mumbai dwellers will get the reference. This doll-house has been built to resemble the traditional Parsi houses of Mumbai, and in it we find cute little ice-cream sandwich miniatures. These treats have been inspired by Bombay’s famous K Rustom ice-cream sandwiches, and this dessert is therefore named Rustom.

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We met the very talented Sherine John at Carnival. Despite the liquor licence delay, John had us spellbound with his amazing mocktail creations.

Passionfruit and Kala Khatta Sips: Served in vintage-style glass bottles, these first sips were the precursors to our Carnival meal.

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Bar Tender’s Choice: A piece of art customized by order, Sherine John served us these refreshingly frothy mocktails that take inspiration from the sea and are enhanced with a hint of smoked rosemary.

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Crazy Frog: Remember that super annoying yet absolutely catchy song that went by the same name?! I could have sworn this porcelain blue frog grinned wider when I mentioned it!

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Scary Friend: Yet another fruity, bubbly concoction served in a skeletal glass and a ‘scary’ bouncy lit-up friend.

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Overall, Carnival proved to be a riot of surprises. The invitingly spunky ambiance, the culinary brilliance and the highly attentive staff all tick the boxes at assuring this newbie will be a roaring success (especially when the bar gets active!).

Carnival by Tresind is Tresind’s brand new baby sister. Tresind is suave and sophisticated; worldly wise with an adventurous take on her Indian culinary roots. She has magic up her sleeves, and ensures her guests get the warm and generously filling hospitality of the subcontinent.

And then there’s Carnival… young, unabashedly frivolous and fun. She serves you nibbles of Indian memories, cleverly disguised in ways unimagined. At Carnival its a party every day, a place you can catch up for drinks (and let the bartender surprise you every time).

The dishes here are beautifully thought out and has the immaculate presentation we have come to expect from the ‘Tresind’ brand. Carnival is an ideal stop for a light (unconventionally cool) meal over drinks. For the Full Monty, there’s always Tresind.

Carnival by Tresind is set to open to the public on 3rd September 2016. The restaurant is located in Burj Daman DIFC Dubai. Call 052 242 4262 for details.