If you’re looking for Michelin-starred restaurants in India, you can stop your search now. The Michelin guide isn’t available in India, and I am not sure if this is by design or intention or we deem it entirely unnecessary. You could do a Google search and the results claim that the restaurants on their list offer the kind of experience you might have at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but this remains unvetted by anyone actually involved with the guide. Perhaps we are choosing to be blissfully ignorant of the potential of the Michelin or we don’t see the merit in it, I am not sure. It is then interesting to note that chefs with Indian restaurants outside of the country are getting the coveted star (or two) for their fare, further cementing their position as stars of the culinary world.
The Indian Win
Case in point, chef Himanshu Saini of Trèsind Studio, Dubai. The menu decidedly spotlights Indian fare, but this is your elevated, opulent version of it, served with painterly perfection and garnished with personal tales of the chef. At the 2023 Michelin Guide ceremony in Dubai, Trèsind Studio added another star to its cap. The coveted two stars puts both Himanshu and Trèsind Studio in august company; in Dubai, there are only three other restaurants who can stake claim to this distinction.
The Michelin Guide, Dubai chapter also awarded a star to the relative newcomer in the space- Avatāra. What is perhaps most interesting about this Indian restaurant (possibly a huge surprise for the Michelin inspectors) is that the menu is fully vegetarian and get this, prepared without the use of onions or garlic. Besides enthusiastic Jain patrons, I imagine this would be a vampire’s favourite haunt. At the helm at Avatāra is chef Rahul Rana, who aims to change the narrative around vegetarian food, often seen as the only resort for those with diet restrictions. I haven’t been to Avatāra but if the food tastes as good as it looks, consider me a convert (if for a few hours.)
The Star Of The Show
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One of my biggest takeaways from the Michelin Guide 2023 ceremony of Dubai was the spotlighting of stories and cuisines; food isn’t just meant to please your palate, it’s meant to transport you. So every establishment on the list has chefs and servers regaling diners of the stories behind the dish. Orfali Brothers, was a Bib Gourmand restaurant we went to, and the chef’s disdain for fattoush led him to create something called ‘Guess What’ which has everything the generally well-loved Fattoush salad would have but the flavours are slightly tweaked so it’s familiar but also not, so you can’t quite place it. The guessing game added to the fun of eating at this restaurant.
At Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant, the local Emirati cuisine is highlighted. In a country that is a confluence of cultures, representation becomes paramount and this Bib Gourmand establishment brings to the fore local delicacies, underlining cooking techniques passed down generations- it’s the kind of food that brings together people across all walks of life.
The Michelin Guide has been around for several decades now, setting standards for the culinary industry and now Dubai has a guide dedicated to the flavours of city. The ceremony took place at the newly opened Royal Atlantis and was everything you’d expect from a Michelin Guide ceremony.
When the cuisines are plenty and the stories abound, you can’t go wrong. Dubai has now become a city for the gastronomical adventures, one that we are taking our next flight to.