Chef Himanshu Saini of Trèsind, Dubai, is telling stories of India through his menu at Dubai Restaurant Week
Nostalgia on a plate
As a young Delhi boy, Chef Himanshu Saini was always intrigued with the different types of smoky aromas that would whift out of his mother’s kitchen. Soon, curiosity got the better of him and his mother became his first instructor; and her kitchen, his gateway into the culinary world. After training under the legendary chef Manish Mehrotra, he set out to create a unique mélange of global ingredients and cooking styles at the Trésind, Carnival by Trésind and A Cappella in Dubai.
1. What was your vision for Trèsind, Dubai?
For the longest time, Indian food has been considered as comfort food—something that you order in. It became synonymous with butter chicken and biryani to the global audience. I really wanted to break this perception that people have about the limitations of Indian cuisine and showcase its potential to the world. Dubai, being such a metropolitan city, with people from around the world, was a perfect start to this journey.
2. Since Trèsind is all about modern fusion cuisine. What is your interpretation of it?
Fusion cuisine is generally assumed to be an amalgamation of two different cuisines, which is not what we do at Trèsind. We wanted the dining experience to be both engaging and interactive while retaining the soul of Indian cuisine. So we revived the art of gueridon service, where the chef comes to your table with a trolley and prepares your dish while explaining it. We also use Indian ingredients to prepare international dishes and vice-versa to maintain a fluidity between both worlds.
3. How difficult is it to strike a balance between being innovative and traditional?
I believe that there is a story to tell with each dish that we create, and the story starts with the source of its flavours. Fresher ingredients give out better flavours. Over the years, I have learnt to get these flavours right first and then use it in an engaging interpretation.
4. Modern food is also heavily dependent on presentation. How do you visualise your dishes?
Working on a dish is an evolutionary process. The final presentation of a dish is a medium of communicating our thought process to the guests. One of the dishes that does this is called Honey Moon, served at Trèsind Studio. It’s a sweet and sticky honeycomb served with tea that depends on multiple factors like temperature, lights, music and the mood.
5. Do you feel food-gimmicks sometimes take away from the true flavour of a dish?
I am very fascinated by the stories that a dish tells. A few months ago, I was at a restaurant in the Far East where they served me a dish with a cook-book written by the chef’s grandmother. It made the dish so real, relatable, emotional and inspiring. I will always remember the dish for the heart-warming story behind it.
6. Tell us what you have in mind for the Dubai Restaurant Week.
Carnival by Trésind operates in seasons, much like a soap opera. Every season comes with a new theme and our latest, Season 7 is all about the ‘International Indian’. The menu for Dubai Restaurant week highlights some of the key dishes of this season like the Karaage with crumb-fried oyster mushrooms, Pullinji or South Indian ginger prawns.
7. What about Dubai’s culture do you keep in mind while curating your menus?
Although the people of Dubai love social media, if the food they are served is just gimmicky, they will call it out. Most people here are well-traveled and aware of culinary trends across the world, which makes it more challenging for chefs, but also pushes us to think out- of-the-box.
Chef Himanshu Saini
8. What is Trèsind’s signature dish?
The Modernist Chaat Trolley.It is one of the first few dishes on the menu and it has become a part of the identity of the restaurant since. Although we have introduced a lot of interesting concepts, the Chaat Trolley remains a classic. Like any street food, Indian chaat is also supposed to be made live and we introduced it to make the dining experience as interactive as possible.
9. Who is your biggest inspiration?
My mother and my mentor chef Manish Mehrotra are my role-models. There are so many chefs curating fantastic menus, but I really admire the work of Chef Gregoire Berger from Ossiano.
10. What is your recipe for a great meal?
To aim for an explosion of flavours in the first bite and progress towards a balance from the second bite onwards.
Photographs: Trèsind, Dubai