There are dishes, and there are destinations, and then there is deep knowledge a chef has of a culture that makes him create an adventure in every dish. Chef Himanshu Saini, whose restaurant Trèsind Studio in Dubai recently became the only Indian restaurant to win a Michelin star in the first-ever list by the restaurant guide for the city, is a culinary genius, committed to celebrating his culture through thought-provoking gourmet preparations.
“I believe in creating vegetable-forward dishes, where animal protein if used, supplements the vegetables on the plate. Not vice-versa” says the 34-year-old-chef, whose Dubai offerings in Trèsind and Trèsind Studio have been ranked 18 and 4 respectively, in the inaugural edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in the Middle East and North Africa this year. Saini, who cut his teeth at chef Manish Mehrotra’s iconic Indian Accent, in Delhi, before springboarding to Dubai,” he says. “My cooking mirrors the evolution of Indian cuisine. While we are picking up ingredients from all across the world, going on foraging trips yonder, I feel we need to have a balance between regionality and comfort on the menu.”
A case in point is the 14-course tasting menu at Trèsind Mumbai launched in June: arugula panipuri served with preserved pear and feta crumble; dal vada coupled with carrot kanji and black lime pickle; khandvi ice cream teamed with pickled papaya and chilli; thakkali thoku with asparagus and jaggery chutney, butternut squash dumpling on a spinach cracker; raw banana varuval, his interpretation of the Delhi chaat that arrives with a splash of coconut lassi, curry leaf and banana chips as opposed to the usual imli and mint chutneys.
His strength lies in creating comfort dishes. “Premium ingredients have no space in my kitchen. We must focus on the complexity of our spices; just our garam masala is a fragrant mix of 15 spices. The galouti celebrates 18 spices in a single kebab. We don’t need to look beyond our roots for inspiration,” says Saini, who believes that food does not need crazy equipment to be made interesting. “I work with emotion,” he says.
Shilpi Madan for The Sunday Standard