A Roller Coaster Lunch at Carnival by Tresind
“We like to welcome our guests with a floating bubble bath,” the manager informs us, as he produces a colorful toy bubble machine. Such an eccentric introduction sets the tone for lunch at Carnival, the new restaurant from the minds behind Tresind. The core concept is the same: to provide a modern and unique take on Indian cuisine. More specifically, head chef Himanshu Saini wants to take diners on a trip down memory lane, putting a playful spin on dishes that they might have grown up on.
Carnival’s decor is striking, with multicolored chairs, two circus tent-like booths and walls adorned with carnival masks. A row of copper colored trees (some with little kites hanging from their branches) spans the center of a section of the dining room, leading up to a backlit bar. Dark accents provide a nice contrast to the more colorful elements.
We begin with an amuse-bouche of lime and avocado mousse sitting atop a white cacao honeycomb, and served with a touch of dry ice. The combination, while unique, doesn’t quite come together for me in terms of flavor. The second amuse-bouche of spiced sweet potato mash in a pumpkin sourdough pancake (with a similar flavor to pav bhaji) is much better.
Here’s a rundown of the rest of the meal:
Life Is Short, Eat Dessert First – A savory chaat sandwiched between two jalebis (a deep fried pretzel shaped Indian dessert), and a very creative way to contrast sweet and tangy flavors!
Vegan Carpaccio – Watermelon strips have been cured to resemble beef carpaccio, topped with spiced nuts and tamarind soy. The watermelon has an interesting chewy texture, though the flavor is bland and the accompaniments don’t add much to it.
Dal Phulka – Dal and phulka (puffy Indian bread) are a well known Indian comfort food combination. Carnival’s reinvention transforms the dal into a foamy ‘cappuccino’ topped with truffle ghee and served alongside a mildly spiced savory cookie. I’d happily order another cup.
Morel Science – Morel mushrooms cooked Manchurian style and covered with a tempura tuile. The morel has a deeply satisfying flavor with a nice crispy coating.
Game of Corns – An upside down aluminum can on a plate. Lift it and you’re treated to a corn curd cutlet sitting on a bed of creamed corn and topped with goji berry chutney, which adds a nice tangy punch.
Vada Pao Service – The last of the appetizers and the most elaborate and one of my favorites. One of the chefs shows up at our table with a large tool box that he opens up to reveal a vada pao station, echoing the street food roots of the dish. It’s prepared to order, but served on a hot dog bun instead of the usual pav bread.
Gol Hatti – Chickpeas in spinach sauce (apparently a specialty of the Chandni Chowk market in Delhi) served in a clay pot. It’s nice, but quite straightforward compared to the inventive appetizers.
Obsessive Chicken Disorder – Butter ‘chicken’ made with soy protein. I’m not too fond of mock meat to begin with, and this dish doesn’t do much to change my opinion.
Not Just Paratha – Potato parathas are another North Indian staple. Carnival’s version reinterprets the paratha as a pao stuffed with a potato mixture and served alongside yogurt mousse, Indian pickle and green chutney. It’s presented on a traditional wooden board used for rolling out Indian breads, complete with a small rolling pin and a blob of dough on the side for you to play with!
Gajak – A nut based dessert common to North India. If we had known about Carnival’s take on it earlier, we would have taken a cue from their menu and had dessert first! Prepared live at the table, it combines peanuts, chocolate, caramel and ice cream in a creative performance that’s a fitting end to this carnival ride. Save plenty of room for this one!
Carnival has a great concept behind it and an enjoyable ride, with an inventive spin on what you might normally expect from Indian food. As with Tresind, I would recommend going heavy on the appetizers, which are a lot more exciting than the mains.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Fun concept, great presentation, good flavors
Cons: Appetizers are much better than the mains.
Price: $$$ (200 - 500 AED)
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