It’s been less than a year since Carnival by Tresind threw open its doors in DIFC and left a massive imprint on the Dubai dining scene. In the months that followed Carnival’s opening, there have been imitators popping up all over Dubai, relying purely on smoke and theatrics to encourage custom. It’s frustrating to see but what these other restaurants are missing is the heart, soul and vision that it Carnival and its sister property Tresind.
Having dined at Carnival on four occasions, we can’t quite believe how the team manage to re-invent themselves time and again, upping the ante and ensuring that each menu (in terms of both food and beverage offerings) is better than the last. Ir’s a real testament to the strong foundations laid by Executive Chef Himanshu Saini and Beverage Manager Sherine John, who work tirelessly to create innovative creations that strike an exciting balance between flavour and presentation. Being good is just not enough and despite a popular menu, Carnival’s concept allows for complete re-invention every few months,
With season one focused on conjuring up feelings of nostalgia and season two taking on suburban street food, we were excited to see what season 3 would have in store. As we pass through the now familiar restaurant space, we’re impressed all over again and those bronze trees are going to have to make it into our dream house (#InteriorGoals) at some point in the future. On the table sit backpacks, a representation of this seasons theme of ‘memories’ and as we’re seated amidst a cloud of bubbles, the Carnival begins all over again…
Gone are the chefs tasting menus of previous seasons and the oversized portions that we often struggled to finish. Season three goes for smaller plates akin to tapas, with each dish served in individual portions. Before our first plate is delivered we’re happy to see a familiar face, with a smile beaming from ear to ear, as Sherine John wheels over The Hanging Sangria – a literal tree of sangria! Clear bags of red wine, cherry brandy, peach schnapps and triple sec are suspended from the trees bare branches. Appearing like low hanging fruit just waiting to be picked and devoured. We’ve covered Sherine’s creations here, but the season three beverages mark a distinct turning point as the drinks appear without the usual smoke. They’re more refined and perfectly conceptualised, an impressive feat considering we’re the first people outside of the Carnival team to sample them.
Tandoori Truffle Pao is this seasons pre-starter, a tandoori bread topped with fragrant truffle and shaved parmesan. Sat on a frail leaf, it’s a light start to the meal and works as a good pairing with the sweet sangria.
Before any more food arrives, we’re treated to a surprise. A shopping trolley full of shiny daintily wrapped gifts is wheeled around the dining room, with all a la carte diners having the oppurtunity to select one. We’re not going to reveal what’s inside (we’ll leave somethings as a surprise) but in keeping with this seasons theme, diners can expect items that will conjure up memories of childhood.
A meal at Carnival (or Tresind) wouldn’t be complete without pani puri. For a brand that has re-invented the dish on countless occasions, from spherification to a beetroot version, season three offers a Pani Puri Salad, served in a bowl made entirely of ice, It’s a dish of impeccable design and one bursting with flavours and as we bite into the puri bread, we’re greeted with the cool sensation of a tamarind sorbet. It’s a remarkable idea and one that sets the bar so high that we really don’t know if it can be bettered. We guess we’ll see when season four rolls round…
Khau Galli is the next dish to arrive and the name literally translates as ‘to eat.’ It’s a dish of many components, inspired by the street side vendors of Mumbai. Presented on dolls house furniture, there’s a fiery mango salad, rice flour snacks filled with a yoghurt mousse and best of all, a dhokla mousse that’s so light, that you’d imagine it’s what eating a cloud would be like.
As we flit between flavoursome dishes and soothing beverages, we’re enticed into trying the Passion Fruit Kamikaze. Shots of vodka mixed with passionfruit that are served within the passionfruit shell and presented like a small garden. The blend is so smooth that you can barely taste the alcohol, instead your palette is overtaken with a sweet and tropical feeling that reminded us of beaches and summer.
With each season we’ve been drawn to a firm favourite dish. Season one gave us the Life Is Short, Eat Dessert First and from season two we adored the Dragon Chicken. This season one dish surpassed everything else, The Jungle Book. Served within an actual recreation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name), we’re asked to forage through the leaves inside in search of our food. A beef skewer of unbelievable texture, marinated in dates and steamed within a bamboo leaf.
Viva La Goa is our next beverage choice. A large sea shell brought from the shores of Goa and onto the table top in Dubai, stands amongst palm trees and sand. The blend within is tequila, elderflower and fresh lemon, topped with a pineapple foam. There’s no way you can’f feel as if you’re on the beaches of Palolem, Arambol or Anjuna as you sip on a straw inserted into the glistening shell.
For those not drinking alcohol, the Bartender’s Choice is served in a glass bottle, cut lengthways and hovering on a free-standing chain. As the cork is removed, the fruity drink trickles out of the bottle and into the awaiting glass, filled with edible flowers and an artisan ice cube.
We’re pleased to see Chef Vinu Raveendran table-side as he prepares the Cream Chicken. The Tresind brand has always put interaction at the forefront of dish preparation and season three is no different. A smoked tandoori chicken kebab mixed with green chilli and rosemary is placed into the heart of a parmesan wheel, hot cream is added and the meat is mixed, taking in the flavours of the cheese in the process. Served with asparagus shards, courgette and peppers, it comes a close second to the Jungle Book. The Bone On kebab also impresses for its tender nature and vinegar and mint based accompaniment.
The Toddy Shop is the pinnacle of the cocktail offerings. Toddy is a fermented spirit extracted from palm trees and popular all over the globe. Travel to India and the agricultural states in the South, such as Kerala, and you’ll find toddy shops amongst the rice plantations. Little more than wooden shacks, the idea has been replicated at Carnival with a replica rice field (complete with fish swimming in the waters) and an ice chilled clay mug waiting to accept the strong toddy spirit. To those who say mixology is not an art form, we beg you to pop into Carnival for drinks and see the artistry in progress.
Main courses include the famous Ram Babu Paratha and the cleverly named Rice & Shine, a Hyderabadi biryani served with garlic raita, cucumber salad, tomato chutney and egg plant gravy. We just about manage the Gatta Curry before slipping into a mild food coma.
The drinks return in time for dessert and we’re treated to the Irish Bar, Carnival’s interpretation of an Irish Coffee. Served cold from a wooden bar (that even lights up) the glass is smoked with a cigar and crafted from espresso, flame torched sugar and lashings of whipped cream. It’s a fun drink and the smoked nature is subtle rather than overpowering.
Pastry Chef Rahul Rana takes charge and leads the way into our finale. We’re treated to the Mango Gem which is housed in a white chocolate sphere (similar to season two’s Gajak), but rather than containing chocolate, mango oozes out into a mix of saffron, cardamom and cottage cheese balls. For those in search of something heavier, the Palang Tod is a dessert named after an Indian proverb about a broken bed. It’s a dessert that has one intention, to make you lethargic (which isn’t so difficult considering what has come before) and the saffron based dessert is adorned with gold leaf on top of… a broken wooden bed.
The meal is rounded out with a palette cleanser of lychee jelly that has undergone the spherification process. Dig deep with the spoon and let the textures wash over you, as the lychee combines with a rose granita and popping candy (there’s those childhood memories again). Just as we begin to think it’s all over, Chef Vinu returns on a bike and pours us masala chai, as if we were on the streets of Mumbai.
Having dined at Carnival on so many occasions, we truly feel like part of the family now. We know the majority of the team by name and it’s like dining with old friends. Having sampled all three seasons and a whole host of beverages, we’re confident that we could return to Carnival and order a meal of utter perfection that would impress even the most jaded of diners.
Carnival remains a kinetic environment and there’s a real sense of companionship between the team as they rush between tables. Each person you enocunter is integral to the Carnival experience and with so many restaurant stagnating, Carnival feels truly alive.
Carnival season three may be the best yet and once again we’re dazzled by the post-modern take on Indian Cuisine. Though we may say this at the end of every review of Carnival, we just can’t seem to get enough! We’ll be back and probably sooner than we think…
We were invited to dine at Carnival by Tresind. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE