Festival of Delights

Carnival by Tresind
Podium Level,
Burj Daman, DIFC
United Arab Emirates

31st August, 2017

Don’t turn your back me, Scar.
Oh no, Mufasa. Perhaps you shouldn’t turn your back on me.

The timer had barely arrived at the ten minute mark in this Shakespearen-inspired Disney classic, when we were treated to this delightful (and ultimately foreboding) conversation between brothers Mufasa and Scar. Yea! That’s right! They are brothers! You wouldn’t have guessed it from the two-line exchange above, would you? Unless you’ve seen the movie, of course. What was particularly intriguing about that scene, apart from the vivid images of two alpha male lions (and a hornbill) conversing amongst themselves, was how, despite being siblings, both brothers seemed to loathe each other. I believe that’s what they call a ‘Sibling Rivalry’. 

Being/Having a sibling myself, I completely relate with that particular scene. My sister and I have had our fair share of arguments over the years, and there seems no sign of this “rivalry” slowing down, let alone coming to an end. Although (and fortunately!) our rivalry is yet to take the sharpest of turns; that is, (spoiler alert!) one of us throwing the other one off a cliff on to an onrushing stampede of wildebeests. We are yet to find a herd of wildebeests.

So, what does a sibling rivalry have to do with Carnival by Tresind?

Well, if you are an avid follower of the Bite Me blog (if not, what are you waiting for?!), then the name Tresind would seem and sound awfully familiar. It seemed like only yesterday that I had the pleasant opportunity to dine at, and eventually review, Tresind – one of the most talked about restaurants in Dubai. Turns out it was nearly eight months ago. Little did I know, back then, that Tresind was not a single child. It in fact had a younger sibling. A baby sister – Carnival by Tresind. I must admit, beforehand, that when I had initially heard about Carnival by Tresind, I believed it to be an extension of the Tresind dining space. Similar to a gluten-free section in your local supermarket. It was only when Naeem – Bite Me’s co-founder – had proposed the idea of dining at Carnival, was I made aware of the restaurant’s independence. 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This age old cliché works well in many situations, in particular, this one. My vacation in Dubai was reaching its fag end, and there was still so much more to do. One of which was to dine at a really expensive restaurant, and as I write this, I can hear the voices of parents past – “Money doesn’t grow on trees! How much more am I going to have to spend on you? Get a job!”. Shudder! We had boiled our list down to a potential few well-reviewed restaurants, but Naeem’s persistent insistence on wanting to dine at Carnival was enough to ease our minds. Now we come to the lemons and the lemonade, and how none of that mattered to us. I was sitting on the floor in my neighbour’s house, playing with their adorable little Maltese (not a person from Malta!), when a casual shift in conversation caused my ears to perk up. It so happened, that on the 30th of August, 2017 – the day before our visit – Carnival by Tresind was celebrating their first birthday. As part of their celebrations, diners were given the luxury of eating as much as they want for a self-determined price. This was life giving us one huge (add expletive) lemon. To make life’s lemonade, all we had to do was drive down to the restaurant on the 30th of August and dine like kings! But who wants to make lemonade? It’s just too basic! What we wanted to make were mojitos! And so, we took life’s lemons, and reserved it for an extra day.

It was lucky that we did save the lemons for another day. The weather was perfect for a cool and refreshing mojito. The sun beat down on us like a school bully on his latest victim, and I couldn’t wait to get inside the restaurant. We were at the entrance of the restaurant at a quarter past one in the afternoon. If Tresind was the high-class, stiff upper lipped, perfume riddled, jewellery laden teenage girl that you were scared to ask out to prom, then Carnival by Tresind was the sweet, charming, adorable, and loveable younger sister that you eventually did ask out. The interiors were in line with the theme of the restaurant and apropos to the restaurant’s name. There might not have been a juggling clown or a ringmaster present, but there certainly was a hint that a carnival might have existed inside at some point of time.

We were greeted by the smiling receptionist and taken to our seats by the enthusiastic staff. Given the amount of attention we seemed to be getting from the staff, it was as if we were the only guests in the restaurant that day. A quick survey across the dining hall and it turns out that it was actually true. We were the only guests in the restaurant. Well, that surely isn’t a good sign, is it? I might have forgotten to mention that it was Eid, which would explain the absence of diners given that many people in the country were currently fasting while we were feasting. Also (and I’m guessing here) perhaps most people don’t think making lemonade is too basic. As we sat down at our table, I noticed the cutlery, or lack thereof. Before I could bring it to the staff’s notice, one of the servers arrived at our table carrying three miniature backpacks. He placed them on the table, and began to unzip the backpack. What lay inside was not only the cutlery – the forks, knives, and spoons – but also our glasses. Noticing the bewildered looks plastered on each of our faces, the server went on to explain how at Carnival, the chef believes in re-inventing the menu, with each change being labelled as a ‘season’. The backpacks were a part of their latest season. A Carnival by Tresind Original Series. Season III – Memories. Impressive, no?

When you spend a lot of time with people you not only begin to pick up some of their habits, but you also start to think alike. Having spent roughly a decade hanging out with my friends, it was only natural that we all had the same thoughts when ordering our lunch. So, when the server came to take our order, we were prepared.  For starters, we decided to sample the Dragon Chicken and the Meat-a-licious. To quench our thirst, we ordered the Lemon Mint and the Barbican Fizz. Oh! I should also probably mention that it was a dry day, which meant that this was going to be one sober lunch. The drinks soon arrived at our table and from the way they were presented, it was clearly evident that the Tresind genes ran strong at Carnival. The Barbican Fizz, turned upside down, was served in a cracked (Ostrich egg-esque) emerald bowl, while the Lemon Mint was served in an extra-large light bulk nestled inside a weaver bird’s nest. The only similarity between the two drinks was the oozing presence of dry ice.

 ( From left to right ): Barbican Fizz - Passion + Orange; Lemon Mint; Bread Pit; Meat-a-licious; Dragon Chicken; Passion Fruit Kamikaze; Kothu Parotta; Buck Off; Gajak
(From left to right): Barbican Fizz – Passion + Orange; Lemon Mint; Bread Pit; Meat-a-licious; Dragon Chicken; Passion Fruit Kamikaze; Kothu Parotta; Buck Off; Gajak

As we sipped our drinks, biding our time, the server arrived with a pre-appetizer of Tandoori bread, topped with a healthy sprinkle of shaved parmesan cheese and a slice of truffle, served on a frail leaf sat on a circular granite slab. Light, airy, and fluffy. Just enough to get our stomachs rumbling for what was to come next. So, what was up next? Well, if you thought Meat-a-licious was going to be an orgy of animal carcasses – your beef, lamb, pork, what have you – you clearly don’t understand what Carnival is trying to do. What we got instead, were two very finely sliced lamb chops doused in masala, served with a side of spiced potato mash. Given that there were three of us and only two chops on the plate (a mathematical conundrum!), it was time to decide who was going to pull out of the race. Naeem took the honours (almost immediately!), which definitely saved us from going to war. The lamb was soft and succulent, and when had with a spoonful of the potato mash, which was the perfect accompaniment to dumb down the spice levels, I couldn’t see why Naeem so willingly pulled out of the race. Oh well! Leaves more for us!

We were nearly done with the first starter, when the server propped two carved pieces of wood on to our table. The Dragon had arrived, and it smelled delicious! You know when your food smells heavenly that the taste is not going to disappoint. Growing up, Indo-Chinese cuisine was always a welcome sight (for my eyes, nose, tongue, and stomach). So, why would it be any different now? Since we ordered two portions of the same, there was plenty of food to go around. Though I would be lying if I said that I didn’t try to sneak the extra piece or two. The chicken pieces were fried and wrapped perfectly in Wai Wai noodles (hell yea!), evident by the fact that the skin did not peel off the flesh every time I tried to cut through. It certainly brought back memories of those Indo-Chinese food truck meals I used to gorge on, back when I was in University. Probably the only component that seemed off on the plate were the slices of chilled cucumbers. They were neither Chinese nor were they the perfect complement to the Dragon’s fiery spice.

We knew what we wanted for our main course, the moment we set our eyes on the menu cards. Surprise, surprise! However, before we could place our order, we were treated to a freebie – the Passion Fruit Kamikaze – a palate cleanser. Served on a sea of dry ice, with no sight of the bottom of the bowl, the passion fruit kamikaze was the kind of shot I wouldn’t mind having on a daily basis. I’m not entirely sure what palate was supposed to be cleansed, given that the starters were so delicious, I wouldn’t have minded the taste still lingering in my mouth. The main courses arrived at the same time. Let’s start of with the dish I was most excited to sample – The Kothu Parotta. A South Indian roadside delicacy that comprises of fried parotta blended with a mixture of tomatoes, onions, chicken, egg and a sprinkle of coriander. The excitement levels were at an all time high, as were treated to the ‘Making Of’ (a CbyT original documentary). The aroma coming off the pan was enough to make us salivate uncontrollably. We were all ready to stop the process and ask the chef to just throw the entire mixture down our throats. Thankfully, our senses prevailed and we were patient enough for the final product to make it on to our plates. As I said earlier, if the smell is good then there’s a high probability that the taste would not disappoint. With a dish like this, it is always easy for the spice blend to be too overpowering, but when done right, dish is like a symphony. Each component played its part in providing the palate with some much needed classical music. On the other hand, the Buck Off (a playful name!), was served on the back of a steel reindeer. The 8 hour cooked lamb loin slices sat on a pearl white plate, topped with a few strands of saffron. This beauty was soon disrupted by the pouring of the red chilli ‘Laal Maas’ curry on top of the lamb. While the Kothu Parotta was a delightful symphony composed by Mozart or Beethoven, the Buck Off was my poor attempt to recreate a classical piece of art. The red chilli curry seemed to distort the flavours of the lamb loins that had been cooked for a full working day. While the lamb was soft, and the meat fell apart on the fork itself, there was something that didn’t quite add up to what I had been hoping would have been the perfect meal. Where’s that palate cleanser??

You would think that after all that food that I had just described that we would be full to our stomachs, but that’s the beauty of perfect portioning. We still had some space in our tummies, and we weren’t going to miss out on dessert. Choosing a dessert proved to be the longest procedure of the lot, but it was all made easier when we were told that the Gajak would involve a live demonstration. Surely, if there is one thing that the Tresind family can be proud of, it is its ability to dazzle the eyes of its diners with culinary entertainment. If you were to read the description of the Gajak, you would come across a term you would not be too familiar with – Alinea. Alinea is a three Michelin (not the tyre!) star restaurant in Chicago that seems to have inspired Carnival’s Gajak. The Alinea way! First came the dessert sheet that the server spread across the entire table. Next came the white chocolate sphere (the Gajak!), filled with dulche de leche, caramel infused peanuts, and Snickers chocolate, served on a small black plate. Soon, the sheet transformed itself into a canvas on which the artist (chef!) began his latest work of art. A spread of caramel sauce, followed by a smear of white chocolate sauce, followed by droplets of peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate gel. As the painting was being painted, the canvas resembled a White Walker scene from the epic fantasy TV show, Game of Thrones. The next components to hit the table were the miniature chocolate balls, chocolate soil, and caramel peanuts. The Gajak was then filled with liquid nitrogen, dropped from a decent height, and splattered all over the table, like a glass vase hitting the floor. The final act was the dousing of the Gajak filling with hot chocolate sauce. I’m not sure what memory the Gajak was supposed to revoke – perhaps my frequent trips to the gym or reading diabetes awareness posters on the metro on my way to work – but then was not the time to dwell on the negatives of feasting on a sugar factory. You can’t really complain about the dessert when it has everything you ever wished for – especially if you are a caramel and chocolate lover.

With our stomachs finally filled to the brim, and our wallets feeling lighter by quite a significant amount, we decided to take a stroll around the beautifully decorated restaurant. The umbrellas on the wall, the almost candlelight holder table – perhaps kept for special occasions – and the crimson trees lining up the partitions. We were about to say our goodbyes to the staff who had given us their undivided attention, when one of the staff approached us, holding a polaroid camera. I knew what was coming. Photo time! And so we posed, our stomachs bloated, and our smiles as wide as the Dubai roads. 

In my review of Tresind, the elder sister, I had concluded by saying that presentation was key but not everything. My opinion on the matter continues to remain firm. However, Carnival by Tresind is not its sister. Hey! That can be its new tagline – “I am not my sister!”. Where Carnival exceeds its elder sister, is delighting its diners not only visually but also through the palate. It’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s evolving, it’s ambitious, and it’s not pretentious. How often can you say that about a restaurant?

Carnival By Tresind Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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