A meal invitation created by someone who leads the team at a Michelin-starred restaurant is always both intimidating and exciting. At Tresind Mumbai, chef Himanshu Saini surprises with modern simplicity.
No frills or foie gras at Tresind, Mumbai. For corporate chef Himanshu Saini, it’s all about creating tasty, well-presented Indian cuisine.
Tasting or degustation menus are relatively new in India, with perhaps Masque, Ekaa, etc. opting for this in addition to the à la carte offers. Either way, Tresind is happy to skip the traditional. It should not, however, be confused with the Michelin-starred Tresind Studio in Dubai. Run by chef Sarfaraz, the Mumbai outlet recently graced the BKC business district.
While the 14-course promise may seem daunting and promising in equal measure, Chef Himanshu is quick to clarify.
“If you ask me, it’s just 10 classes. Not all dishes can be dishes, as a single pani-puri is not a dish. The first bites you have are not dishes, nor is the last. It’s just for people to understand because they count each dish as a dish. I think over time people will adapt to it, given that there aren’t too many restaurants that focus on creating tasting menus,” he says.
With that in mind, we began the meal theatrically smoky rose-scented. The servers inform the table of the breakdown, the first four courses being the equivalent of an amuse-bouche.
The menu is designed to showcase the intricacies of Indian cuisine and champion its regional diversity. And it starts on a decent note, with Arugula Pani-puri (served with candied pear and feta cheese), Dal-vada (with carrot kanji and lime pickle), and raw banana Varuval to name a few. name a few. It’s important to note here that I’m using the shorthand for what was a complex harmony of multiple elements.
For example, with the raw banana varuval, pairing with coconut lassi and curry leaf chutney resulted in a very visual and deliciously tangy yet balanced plate.
From here we enter the area of the aperitif proper. One of my favorites here was the Khari with stewed lamb, placed on nihari curry. It’s delicious and warm, and the spices brilliantly dress the tender meat without overpowering it. A few bites like this would have left me more than satisfied, until, of course, the remaining dishes arrived. While a little liquid nitrogen does come to our table from time to time in the form of cocktails and the like, it’s unnecessary theatrics that simply interferes with an otherwise serious meal.
Surprises along the way
What came as a pleasant refreshing flavor surprise was the Khandvi ice cream. Served with marinated papaya and chilli, this palate cleanser was a must have and so effective. Sweet and savory has always been a personal bias, and this “course” ties in nicely, leaving behind a clean plate.
Along with being satisfying, each Tresind course highlights the use of simple ingredients. Chef Himanshu adds, “It’s simple cooking using modest ingredients. Over the years the ethos has changed from being modernist to just serving modern Indian food. While it might be simple for those who grew up here, people abroad might eat something like a curry and roti/bread separately rather than together. Indian cuisine is very complex, so the idea here is not to elevate it but to simplify it. It’s not about making it cool, but about making it approachable and not being too full after eating it.
This is another unusual observation we make at the table. In nine courses, we’ve eaten a healthy amount, but we’re still excited for what’s to come. Luckily the main courses are more than accommodating, with one winning the tasting for me.
Tasty but light Indian food
The Kachori meat dish easily has the most elements of all the dishes. It also perhaps demonstrates the skilful techniques of Chef Himanshu’s team and their careful control over the use of spices. Accompanied by mutton rassa, Brussels sprouts masala, missi roti, popcorn butter and chimichurri chutney, it is a delight. You can create endless permutations and combinations of bites in search of the perfect one. Although I can save you some trouble and recommend roti, rassa and popcorn butter. That popcorn butter alone, I sure could have had a great time.
Despite this spectacular career, it is India’s Khichdi that stood out. Where most “fine dining” shy away from serving the humble dish, Tresind’s has stepped it up and offered an inspired take.
Using spices that represent all the states of India, the khichdi also embraces the return of the head of the table service. The chef or the waiter informs you about the origin of each ingredient before throwing it into an ever more fragrant pot. Finally, everything is stirred and left for your indulgence. I’m not kidding, this is the fanciest and most comforting plate of khichdi I’ve ever had.
As for how inspiration struck, Chef Himanshu says, “I think we started with the dish in Dubai with around 17 ingredients. Of course, that was a bit of a stretch. We used to cook it in a mirror with so many columns, and that’s where the dish evolved from.
Three times the pleasure of dessert
Rounding out a consistently impressive meal are three dessert courses. The first being Textures of Milk, a curious pristine white mound with malai burrata, fermented milk ice cream, and more. It’s simple, easy and not too sweet. Then comes the filter coffee cornetto, served with a chocolate ganache and a delicious salted caramel ice cream. The enemy of the great is good, and it was a good dessert. The paan stone was explosive in our mouths, and definitely a great way to end the meal.
So, with a series of increasing accolades, how much has Chief Himanshu’s philosophy at Tresind changed?
He laughed a little and said, “With expectations come responsibilities. A few years ago we did things for fun or just to be cool. I’m talking about 5-6 years ago, I didn’t care what I was doing. As we grow, we become more responsible and understanding. There are a lot of young chefs and people watching me, talking to me, etc. So I can’t really make bad decisions.
What’s striking about Tresind’s food is its successful attempt at reinvention. The flavors aren’t always surprising, but the perspective certainly is. And it is the victory of the Himanshu leader.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
A dish we loved: Khichdi from India
A dish that didn’t work for us: Dal Vada
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