Carnival by Tresind has been popping up on my Instagram feed since it opened in August, and I was desperately curious to check it out. When Zoe (of Table No 7) secured an invite and asked me to join, I happily agreed. While I enjoyed my experience at the sister restaurant, Tresind, judging against other venues I’ve reviewed since then, all I can do is say (once again) how incredibly crowded the modern Indian gastronomic scene in Dubai is. Somehow, in this group, everyone has their own magic spin on the cuisine. While I realize I might start to sound repetitive, it’s incredible how these chefs seem to push each other to new heights in creativity. Comparing them is difficult, because it all comes down to what type of night you want to have. Each of the group has something to offer.
So, let’s see what the new kid on the block has to offer? For starters, the fit out of Carnival ranks with Weslodge as my favorite restaurant interior in the UAE. Someone clearly got the memo on designing a space that is just as interesting as the food (and to me, the biggest fault with Tresind, who doesn’t even compare to the eclectic interior of younger sister, Carnival). With dramatic lighting, a brilliant color palate, and artistic interior trees (yes, that’s apparently a thing), my only comment would be to slightly tweak the benches within the booths. They were too far away and the scratchy pillows did not add any value. After all, when dining out, who wants to be worried about how far away they are from the table or what to do with a stack of uncomfortable pillows?
But, you’re probably not reading this for my interior design commentary. For as many courses as we received, the food is a lot of fun and quite good. As with the Tresind team, there is an overall playful quality to the meal — if you don’t believe me, just look for the bubbles at the start (your inner child will be delighted). While there is an ala carte option (and I would be quite interested in the lunch menu), the Chef’s Tasting Menu is the only thing you need to consider. Oh, and have your phone completely charged, because even those who scoff at taking pictures of food will want to get at least a few snaps during the meal.
To leave a few things to surprise for your visit, I’ll mention my standout dishes. As the very first thing we tasted, the pumpkin kulcha was made of the softest bread imaginable stuffed with sweet and spicy pumpkin. I compare it to the ‘can’t stop eating it bread’ at Gaucho. Towards the middle of the meal, the perfectly grilled lamb chops (marinated in Mysore Masala and served with Masala potato) were my far and away my favorite protein served.
To match the food, the bar staff can create bespoke cocktails for your party at the table. If you mention what your likes and dislikes are, he’ll create a masterpiece — in my case, Mystery Tea, served in its own teapot, with cup and saucer — which was quite a civilized way to consume alcohol. Wine and traditional spirits are also available.
My only notes, and they are limited, were not so much around the pacing, but around the sheer volume of food. While I enjoyed everything, I would have cut Vada Pav Service, which to me distracted from the beauty of the other dishes. While it was a fun moment, I think it doesn’t match the tone or sophistication of the remainder of the dishes. From a taste perspective, I enjoyed all the plates, with the exception of the Eat Dessert First (Makhan phal). I realize I’m in the minority, but I didn’t particularly care for the texture or the taste combination (white chocolate and avocado just don’t work together, in my opinion). As with the Vada Pav service, I thought the sweets could’ve been scaled back as well. I understand wanting to end on a high note, but the volume was a bit overwhelming for me (and serving desserts in a plastic dollhouse was not nearly as charming as it wanted to be)
One of the most impressive parts about Carnival is the price. For the set menu of AED275 (non-veg), this lands firmly in the category of reasonable and is well worth the money. There are add-ons to this, and also a set vegetarian menu, which I’m sure is delicious, but overall, it falls in line with its competitors.
Do yourself a favor and be sure to make a booking — we attended on a Monday evening, and it was relatively crowded. I imagine the weekend would require making reservations well in advance (and are worth the wait).
Have you been to Carnival? What was your favorite dish?