There are two types of foodies – one, who love the comfort of the familiar, is wary of experimenting and prefers to stick to the tried and tested. The other, predictably, is the opposite – who has a penchant to traverse the culinary path less taken, appreciates the creativity in a dish and enjoys the combination of flavours and ingredients. Not surprisingly, we belong to the second category. Perhaps that’s why the Tresind Studio is always such a delightful place to visit – you can never anticipate what Chef Himanshu Saini will come up with next.
For those who are unaware, Tresind Studio is the 20-seater dining area tucked behind the main restaurant and its USP is serving an elevated dining experience that takes the modernist approach to Indian food in an altogether new direction. It launched sometime last year and well, in a nutshell, the concept is this – a set menu where each dish is treated like a work of art and presented like one too. Does it always work? Well, when it first launched, we honestly felt that there were some hits and some misses. That the soul of the food was overtaken by the packaging! That some parts reminded you of the regular menu at Tresind that is anyway, modern and progressive.
But welcome to Season 2. An entire new menu has been crafted and to put it mildly, we were blown away. The theme, we were told, was French classical with Indian twist. So the 18 dishes of the menu were divided into Hors d’ouvere, Potage, Poisson, Entrée, Roast, Sorbet, Releve, legumes, Savoury and Entremets and Petit Fours. Each one was given special treatment, every single item was a mélange of spices, the Indian touch was more pronounced than ever before with inspiration taken from every corner of the country yet each had a definitive taste. And all of it was presented with a refined French flair!
Himanshu’s passion for creating drama out of even a simple dish continues unabated. Take for instance the pani puri balloon (part of the Hors D’Ouvere) – pani puri served on a vinyl record with popping candies inside! So gulp it and along with the paani, you can also relish the crackle of the candies! The (mini) missi roti in the same segment came with the most delicious chilli pickle butter. Spread it over the tiny roti and you can actually feel the spice of the chilli mingle beautifully with the blob of butter. How is it done? It really doesn't matter, you just want to soak in the taste!
As mentioned before, every single dish is treated like a special work of art and it’s astounding to imagine the experimentation that must have gone in creating them because the mix and match of flavours is like none other. Who can conjure up a dish like Pandra Rassa – lamb stock to which potato shavings have been added, with a slight coconut-ty flavor and tempered with curry leaf oil! Delicious and invigorating. My personal favourite was the Mustard scallop – Scallop, a French cuisine favourite has been Bengali-fied using the famous Kasundi mustard sauce (a Bong favourite) and mustard emulsion, giving it a strong, stinging flavor. The mild taste of scallop absorbs the sharpness of the mustard in this Indo-french marriage!
The list thus went on, each one designed to elicit an ‘Oh wow’ or a ‘what is this’ reaction. Anticipation, surprise and finally, satisfaction being the three-part emotions of this journey! The pièce de résistance has been retained from the past season – the Khichdi. The most simple and common Indian dish gets a theatrical presentation at the Studio. Diners are called to the demo counter and given a small culinary geography lesson. Into the lentil-rice mix, in front of you, goes nearly 30 ingredients from different states of India. Each ingredient is placed on the state where it hails from, on a map-shaped marble platform. So you watch in amusement as the ghee from Punjab, pepper from Kerala, spice from Karnataka and so on, are added and mixed into the bland Khichdi transforming it. Quite like the idea of India where diverse cultures merge into a beautiful whole, this is its gastronomic representation.
The soul-satisfying meal nears its end with a unique payasam (by now if the template sticks to anything predictable, we’d be surprised). The pineapple payasam had each ingredient being brought to the table – condensed milk, pineapple carpacccio with coconut filling, a bit of mango chutney on top and sprinkled with mango powder. It tasted something like a pacchadi meets payasam but the sheer creativity was what made it special.And just when we thought it couldn’t get better, came the desserts to finish the dinner with a flourish – Cherry Blossom was black forest cake served in a shoe polish box (remember the polish brand of yore?) and there was the crème brulee.
An all-out sensory experience, this is not a meal – it’s a journey like none other. Indeed, Chapter 2 (as it’s being called) hits it out of the park.