Très Ordinaire!

Level 2, Nassima Royal Hotel,
Sheikh Zayed Road, 
Trade Centre Area, Dubai

14th December, 2016

Let Mother Nature be the artist. Serving it in the pan, that’s your presentation.” – Marco Pierre White

The statement above is in definite contradiction to the events that unfolded on Wednesday, the 14th of December 2016. You must be wondering “If it’s so contradictory, why put it?” My answer to this lies ahead.

It was the afternoon of 14th December 2016. I was sitting in my room, at my desk, typing the words to one of my previous articles (I can’t remember which!). I looked outside my window at the Dubai skyline and thought to myself “This is no day to be spent cooped up at home in front of a laptop!”. And so I went into my parents room, where my mom sat idly on the bed, reading a novel, and asked her if she would like to go out this evening. My dad was out of town (as he normally is most days!) and on such days the lack of transportation means becomes an excuse more so than an issue. However, the face on my mother said it all – even she didn’t want to be stuck at home all day. So while father and daughter were out travelling and studying (respectively!), mother and son decided to dine on the dime.

I had already made up my mind as to where I would like to go have dinner (I will save the name for a later story). Unfortunately, the prospect of trying a new place was immediately shot down by my mother as she preferred we try out “new things” as a family (given that we all travel a lot, the proposal seemed unlikely to succeed!). Anyway who am I to argue with my mother? And so we decided to try out Tresind – a restaurant that partially new; i.e. new to me but not to my family (who funnily enough went to the restaurant without me…so much for ‘we do new things as a family’ huh?!).

Tresind has always held top spot on my list of restaurants to visit while in Dubai. The restaurant had opened to rave reviews from critics and diners alike, an opinion that was positively and quite vehemently advocated by my parents during their visit. To describe the food served at the restaurant as luxurious, modern Indian cuisine would be doing the restaurant a disservice. Tresind has, like many other restaurants around the world, boarded the rapidly-emerging trend train of molecular gastronomy – the art of blending food with science – and is one of the few restaurants in the United Arab Emirates that actually specializes in this particular field. So it was with great expectations and an unmatched foodie eagerness that I awaited my chance to dine at the restaurant.

But first things first, I needed to buy pants! This might seem an odd turn at a story but I promised you a story and a part of the story it is nonetheless. So we departed from home by 6 p.m., giving us plenty of time to go to Dubai Mall, buy my pants, and reach Tresind as early as 7:30 p.m. (we didn’t have a reservation) to hopefully catch a table. We reached Dubai Mall by half past six, and rushed to find me a new pair of pants. We got done by 7:15 p.m. (we had to buy some stuff for my sister as well) but by the time we got a cab it was 7:30 p.m. (Dubai Mall’s got 99 problems, and a long queue for the taxi is one of them).

Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, on the 2nd floor of the Nassima Royal Hotel, Tresind occupies massive square feet, offering diners the options of sitting by the bar, or by the window, or just at a normal restaurant-style table. We arrived at the restaurant by 7:45 p.m. and when the receptionist asked us if we had a reservation, we said we didn’t. In most popular restaurants across Dubai, it would be a near impossible to enter a restaurant and find an empty table without making a prior booking or reservation. However, given that it was early and a weekday, we knew we weren’t taking too much of a risk. And we were right. The receptionist immediately sat us down at a corner table by the window. Looking around, I was surprised at how empty the restaurant was, an anomaly that didn’t remain for too long as the restaurant soon got busy. Sitting by the window, I had a direct view of the Emirates Towers, a reminder of how far Dubai has progressed (the Towers hadn’t opened yet when we first moved in!), and of Sheikh Zayed Road, where cars of all kinds zoomed past the restaurant, an indication of how fast-paced life can be in Dubai.

Once seated, we were handed the menus by the waiter, a menu that I felt was devoid of much choice. What a pity! In a slightly disappointed tone, I told my mum to choose one of the starters. One quick look at the menu, and she suggested the ‘Chaat Trolley’, a dish she had tried on her previous visit to the restaurant. So we placed the order for a ‘Chaat Trolley’ and to accompany it, the ‘Berry Blast’ and the ‘Khala Khatta’. Before we were served our starters, we were served three pre-starters (just like Aladdin’s three wishes). The first arrived as soon as we placed our order – a massive lava lamp-like device overflowing with dry ice aimed at clearing and cleansing the senses. Moments later, the second pre-starter arrived – Kadak Pav – buttered bun accompanied with freshly-made salsa (and when I mean freshly-made, I mean the chef made the salsa on our table!). It was a while until the the third pre-starter arrived – an Amuse Bouche (to know more read A Royal Christmas) of Deconstructed Paani Puri.

I’d like to talk about the last pre-starter as it was the best representation of the molecular gastronomy that Tresind supposedly specialized in. The chef, who prepared the dish in front of us, began by converting the liquid coriander chutney into a tiny globule (a process known as spherification) with the help of sodium alginate. Once sphered, the coriander chutney globule was placed on a broad spoon, then topped with a drop of sweet chutney, and surrounded by pieces of boondi. The moment we bit into it, the globule burst in our mouths, splitting into a liquid substance that delighted our senses. Clearly, the Paani Puri was the best of the pre-starters served to us.

No sooner had our drinks arrived at our tables that I could see the trolley arriving around the corner. My interest suddenly piqued as I saw the vast array of devices and bowls resting on the trolley. The chef approached our table and introduced herself  and the dish (to be honest I was really hungry so I wasn’t paying attention).  The preparation process seemed like a blur to me, given how fast she moved. Every step in the process seemed to have been done simultaneously – from dropping the pakoras into liquid nitrogen and spraying the table with coriander and tamarind chutney to mixing the chaat with the chutneys and garam masalas and smashing the frozen pakoras to oblivion. The process, executed to perfection, was so mesmerising that I immediately regretted not taking out my phone to click pictures. Anyway, the preparation was done and it was time to taste the dish. My impression after the first bite was “Damn this is cold! Should I be eating this at this temperature?”. But it was tasty nonetheless and no cold nor liquid nitrogen was going to stop me from polishing off my plate (which I did!).

 ( From left to right ): The Sensory Cleanser; Kadak Pav; Chaat Trolley; Murgh Zamani Doz
(From left to right ): The Sensory Cleanser; Kadak Pav; Chaat Trolley; Murgh Zamani Doz

It was time to order the main course. After two pre-starters and a heavy plate of cold Chaat, my mum decided to skip mains and head straight to dessert. Still feeling hungry, I decided to try out one of the mains, albeit the lightest of the lot (a decision I would later come to appreciate).  A review of the menu, and none of the mains seemed the right one to me. So I decided to take a look at the starters, and once again they failed to delight me. Reading through some of the descriptions of the dishes, there was no one dish that screamed “Eat Me!”, and so we left the decision to our waiter. Based on his recommendation and description of the dish (the latter of which was still unconvincing), I ordered the Murgh Zamani Doz. When it arrived, it arrived in splendid fashion, inside a steel tandoor buried in coal or wood. The chef who brought the tandoor began plating the dish in front of us. He started by squeezing mashed potatoes onto the centre of the plate; the creaminess of the mashed potatoes helps neutralize the spiciness of the masala covered chicken. As he plated the steaming hot chicken, covered in a thick and spicy tomato gravy, I could almost hear my stomach yell out to dig right in. The chicken was immensely smooth, perfectly sliding off the bone with minimal use of the fork and knife. The gravy was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and even parts that were spicy were nullified by the rich creaminess of the mashed potatoes. Overall, the dish was delicious and sufficient to satisfy my appetite, but no more. 

 Baked Rasgulla with Raw Mango Sorbet and a Raspberry Tuile
Baked Rasgulla with Raw Mango Sorbet and a Raspberry Tuile

Looking across the table to my mum, I knew it was time to order desserts. This time, we knew exactly what we wanted and when the waiter approached our table, we didn’t hesitate to order the Baked Rasgulla with Raw Mango Sorbet and a Raspberry Sorbet. It took a while for the dessert to arrive, which left us quite restless. The presentation of the dish, when it arrived, was spectacularly beautiful. The tuile, made to look like a net, covered the baked rasgullas, while the mango sorbet, oval-shaped, was presented on the side. Eager to taste, we broke the tuile, and scooped up a large portion of the rasgullas. In all fairness, the dish could have easily served as my main course. The dish, rich with cream and milk, was so so so heavy that the two of us struggled to finish the dish (and my mum hadn’t even eaten mains!). Overall the dish didn’t live up to my expectations – the richness of the milk was too much for my liking; the dish felt more like a Rasmalai than a Rasgulla; and the raw mango sorbet was tangy to an extreme, which threw us both off and we didn’t have more than a bite.

It was time to head back home and so we asked for the cheque. Staying true to its nature, Tresind sent us our cheque along with a bus, on top of which were branches with ‘Paan-flavored’ cotton candy. Full after dessert and sick with sweetness, I refrained from trying out the cotton candy. We paid the bill, and made our way through to the exit, unsure of whether the restaurant deserved another visit.

To some, Tresind represents the best in modern cuisine, perfectly blending the art of science with food. To me, Tresind is more an art gallery than a restaurant. Personally, I do not have anything against restaurants adopting the molecular gastronomy trend or perfecting the art of presentation (I love to be amazed!). There have been restaurants in the past that I have visited which have been an ideal blend of the two and simultaneously delivers in terms of flavours. The focal point of my argument revolves around restaurants that have received numerous plaudits from critics and diners on their inventions and presentation, but ultimately fail to deliver in terms of flavour. After all, the main reason I go to restaurants in to taste flavourful and delicious food and not to take pictures. The presentation at Tresind might have been the best I have ever seen, and the invention of the dishes was unparalleled, but for all the showcasing and elegant designs, the dishes were sorely lacking flavour. For such a luxurious meal, I expected to be Wowed! after tasting each dish; rather my expression was similar to that of Ebenezer Scrooge during Christmas Eve (Bah Humbug!). And so it is with a deep and  heavy heart that I find myself placing Tresind in the latter category.

Tresind - Nassima Royal Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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