The best thing about chef Himanshu Saini, a culinary innovator par excellence, is his unpredictability and penchant to turn around Indian cuisine around in a mindboggling manner. In the new menu at Carnival by Tresind (which launched last year with the concept of ‘post-modern Indian cuisine’), he travels into small town India, seeking inspiration from little-known (outside the region) delicacies. Ajmeri Kachori, Meerut ki Tikki and Koothu Parotta anyone?
Every dish pays tribute to Indian interiors and once again, the sheer chutzpah and idea behind each dish makes it difficult to distinguish the flavour objectively. But looking closely, not every experiment works. Take for instance, the Dragon Chicken, a Nepali delicacy that had noodle strings wrapped around spiced chicken slices. The idea is fantastic and the pieces were juicy and tender but the taste felt familiar. It was a similar case with the dahi vadas which was gorgeously presented with a bit of molecular gastronomy thrown in, but the core flavour was not new (blame it on our high expectations!).
But there is much to love in the 30-odd items that have been introduced in the menu. The Bihari Kebab was a delightful take on the traditional litti chokha, using potatoes and the flavour of mustard instead of aubergines. Full marks to ‘Into the Wild’, a unique concept where portions of beef and shrimps are cooked in front of you, on a highly heated salt slab. Once the meat is cooked in a few minutes, a generous portion of garlic chilli oil is poured over it that gives it just the right amount of zing.
But the best dishes were the simple, traditional and familiar ones, unaccompanied by drama. Like the amazing pind ka khana – a thali with sarson ka saag, achar, salad and roti, or the innovatively presented azurmendi inspired family picnic – a basket with rotis, a simple aloo sabji, salad etc reminding you of your school days outings.
Special mention must be made of the dessert – a homemade ice-cream using custard and fruits, presented and prepared in front of your – that soothes your palate as well as the paratha halwa, a throwback to the famous karanji.
Simply put, be it the regular or the special, this is a journey that takes you on a very special food memory. Go back to your childhood and your roots with it!