November 30, 2016 / 1 Comment
As if Chef Himanshu Saini didn’t have enough on his plate with his award winning Modern Indian restaurant on SZR, Tresind, he’s decided to add another crazily creative Indian inspired venue to his stable, and Dubai’s dining scene is all the richer for it.
Accompanying a space on the 1st floor of the Burj Daman in DIFC just down from the fabulous The Artisan, Carnival is in an area with lots of stiff competition. DIFC (and Dubai in general) is a competitive scene, but Carnival is forging ahead all guns blazing. Much like big brother Tresind, Carnival is about reinventing Indian classics – but it’s role as the younger sibling allows it to have much more fun.
The first big difference between the two is the fit-out. My apologies Tresind, I love you, but I’ve never really felt your decor vibe – or really the vibe of the Nassima Royal in general. Carnival, however, hits the nail on the head from the moment you enter. Glittering gold trees, black and white chevron floors, jewel-toned upholstery…it’s crazy, and it works. Props to the design team.
We’re quickly seated at a huge, beautiful round table encased in a cage-like structure, and the trademark bubbles start raining down on us. Bubbles are pretty, sure – but soap in the eye isn’t – Carnival, do you think it’s possible to make edible bubbles? That would be mind-blowing (no pun intended)! Our table, though rather grand, has some proportion issues in terms of distance from seat to table and seat design – so while it’s beautiful, I’d opt for a standard table if you have the choice – they have beautiful looking chairs and since you’ll be eating so frequently you’ll need to be comfortable and close to the table.
The ‘Carnival’ starts straight away with fanciful drinks. The team are happy to provide you with cocktail selections tailored to your specific tastes if you feel like being surprised, which is fab. There are so may amazing options that it might take you all night to get through them! From glowing liquid served in a frog’s head to a bubbling skull – much like the cocktails at Tresind, they definitely aren’t an afterthought – they impress just as much as the food (and that’s saying a lot).
I recommend taking the tasting menu option, it’s pretty great value for Dubai. It’s also the the most FUN food I’ve seen in Dubai to date. Finally, a chef that has unique ideas, is innovative, creative, passionate! This is the type of food I travel to eat and I’m glad to see the culinary scene in Dubai is stepping up a notch. I won’t take you through every course, for this restaurant I think a picture says a thousand words…and I’ll leave some of the surprise for when you dine!
My favourite dish would have to be the Jalebi Chaat – yes, it’s a sweet mixed with a savoury dish – and oh boy, it works! Delicious! Other top contenders include the very first dish, Sita Phal – a sweet and sour pumpkin treat, the Vada Pav service created tableside by a ‘construction worker’ with a well-stocked tool box. The ‘Florets’ nestled in a flower vase were in fact scrumptious cauliflower, and the soup served in a bottle complete with edible cork was fantastic too. ‘Game of Corns’, served playfully in a tin can, was another highlight.
‘Mutton Dressed as Lamb’ and a tiny ball of ‘fried chicken’ were stand out dishes in the meat section of the meal, as was the curry course – but at this point in the meal we were too full to really enjoy it sadly! Those leftovers would have been bliss the next day…
There were a few misses however, with the watermelon carpaccio and the avocado/white chocolate combo not really hitting the mark for me. It’s not the end of the world, it’s rare to have such a long menu and everything be to your taste – but there are some Indian flavours I just can’t get my head around (like betel leaf, showcased in a rather pretty macaron) and that’s probably the reason why some were not my cup of tea. The palate cleanser course fell into this category – plus was served before mains, which really confused us all when mains arrived after instead of desserts like we were expecting.
Desserts didn’t reach the lofty heights of the savoury courses, but we were honestly so full by that stage of the meal that a single bite would have done. Some didn’t exactly lend themselves to being sharing courses, I would have rather those had been individually served to make life easier when dining as four. The stand out dessert course is the ‘Miracle Berry’ – a pill you eat (served on levitating, spinning platforms no less!) that makes sour taste sweet for a short period of time. I’d read about this substance and was rather excited to try it! You’re supplied with an array of tart fruits with which to road test the effect. The effect isn’t overwhelming but certainly fun nonetheless and I was so happy to see they took a risk with this course.
An experience that leaves you feeling very sated and certainly smiling, Carnival is a restaurant you simply must visit in Dubai. It’s great value and so much fun – don’t hesitate in booking! I just hope they change the menu regularly so I’ve got an excuse to go back sooner rather than later…