By Ishita B Saha: Indya by Vineet is the latest restaurant from Chef Vineet Bhatia – a vibrant and casual eatery in the five-star ambiance of Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa. We were invited for a sneak peak of the venue earlier to discover Vineet’s interpretation of Indian cuisine through ‘a curated selection of colourful dishes brimming with unusual fusions, incorporating traditional recipes, undone and reimagined’ by him. Vineet’s interpretation of the cuisine that he’s inherited by virtue of his origin, is quite eclectic and experimental. At the same time, it’s devoid of all the over-the-top presentation that most of the new Indian restaurants in Dubai have taken fancy to in the recent times.
There are a dozen new restaurants on the roll right now with the current flavour of the season being ‘fancy’ Indian cuisine. The drama, excitement and wow factor of a progressive dining experience in Dubai was probably first initiated by Tresind and its different avatar Carnival by Tresind (amongst Indian restaurants – fine dining or casual) and we did lap it up. I don’t think the audience at that time had the maturity to dissect the seriousness and the etiquette of progressive dining from a few dramatic acts, specially the liquid nitrogen act which soon became the only talking point and the major showstopper everywhere! Five years hence, even Carnival seems to have toned down on its presentation, specially with its present rendition – TreStudio which offers an immersive dining experience with chef’s tasting menu for a handful of diners. In the meantime, we have had a barrage of new openings of Indian restaurants, both licensed as well as unlicensed, who are shaking up the perception of Indian food beyond the biryanis, tikkas and curries in the fanciest manner – namely, Bombay Canteen, Mumbai & Co (which will be relaunching soon), Farzi Cafe in City Walk 2, Mint Leaf of London in DIFC, Little Miss India in Fairmont on the Palm, Masti in La Mer, Mitra Bistro in Al Seef, Mohalla in D3 etc. Also, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra opens soon, in place of Atul Kochhar’s Rang Mahal in JW Marriott Marquis. It will be interesting to see what Masala Library has to offer to the Dubai audience, considering it was Masala Library which was originally supposed to have opened in place of Tresind. The good thing about this development is that people are finally perceiving Indian food as trendy. The downside is that it might lead to an over saturation. Or may be there’s enough appetite and every restaurant is playing to a different USP and price pointerWell done then, you Dubai diners, you have such an exciting platter to choose from!
The concept: In a market that is suddenly saturated with so many Indian dining options, I visited Indya by Vineet with slight apprehension as well as curiosity. How was Indya different from Vineet’s long standing signature restaurant Indego by Vineet located nearby in the Grosvenor House. Well, they were indeed two contrasting dining concepts. Unlike Indego, this wasn’t a fine dining restaurant and the space didn’t conform to any traditional Indian look. Instead, it had a very casual vibe (beach vibe actually, perhaps because of its location by the beach). It had elements of quirkiness and fun. A vibrant Ganesha painted on the wall served as a focal point and the entire decor seemed to flow seamlessly from there – peacock plumes, rattan chairs, framed painting of a sadhu etc. It was highly accented with the colour Teal which occasionally reminded my companion of the Indian restaurant Masti. An open kitchen gave way to the chores and behind the scene activities of the kitchen. I love restaurants where I can stand up at the counter and interact with chefs or see the final touches and garnishing that go into the dishes that are served to other diners, myself included. So, what was the idea behind the name Indya, the change of an ‘I’ to an ‘Y’? Vineet explained that the name was ‘inspired by a young and vibrant India’, and was also to bear a semblance to the name of his other restaurant – Indego.
The food: The menu of Indya by Vineet showcased Indian food presented in tapas style and was meant for sharing. Although the menu looked like a simple one-page menu, there were 70 unique dishes that were arranged by the sourcing of ingredients – from the earth, land, sea and lastly, Halwai or the sweet maker. The menu revolved around dishes that Vineet had nostalgic associations with while growing up or were popular dishes across the regions of India. The pricing seemed uncomplicated too – a flat AED 55, AED 65 AED 75 for the dishes from the categories earth, land and the sea respectively. Desserts were all priced at AED 45 flat.
There were no formal divisions between starters or main course in the menu in Indya by Vineet. We started on our ‘Indyan’ journey with Beetroot Raj Puri, served with sweetened yoghurt, pomegranates and sev. Almost by contrast, the next dish had sprinklings of charcoal activated ‘black’ sev on papdi dahi chaat. Samosas too, were presented in an intriguingly new avatar – samosa pinwheels, which I thought were a brilliant take on the traditional Marathi/Gujrati sweet and spicy snack Bhakarwadi. The next dish was a revelation for me – Saboodana croquettes sprinkled with a feisty gunpowder and dehydrated purple carrot chips by the side. To be honest, my the profiling of saboodana changed in mind forever!
Moving on next, was the section ‘From the land’. The first dish we tasted was Lamb Biryani Kofta. The koftas were created a la Arancini, the Italian stuffed rice balls and were served in a pool of creamy Rogan josh sauce. Kababs came in the form of Chicken habibi, makhne labneh – tender and succulent pieces of chicken marinated in labneh, a cream cheese made from strained yogurt that’s a very popular in the region, thus incorporating some local flavours. A traditional Koli preparation of fish wrapped in banana leaf initiated us to the section ‘From the sea’. Coriander fish tikka followed next. It’s interesting to see that the menu attempted to represent the vast regions of India through a selection of either traditional dish or a non-traditional dish in a fun and contemporary way. Coming from Bengal, I did expect a Bengali dish plugged somewhere in the menu – specially a Bengali fish preparation. The tasting menu in his Indego did have a section ‘Kolkata se’, dishes with origin in Kolkata and also Fish Kasundi, a fish preparation in mustard fish. When I approached Vineet with my suggestion, he promptly declared that a ‘macher jhol’ or a Bengali fish curry preparation was soon under way as the kitchen team just had a Bengali member joining in. One could see that a lot of creativity had gone in creating the menu. This was reflected in some of the names of the dishes – clever compositions and takes on regional dialect or phrases. I’m not too sure whether a non-Indian or even an Indian with not much knowledge of regional variations in Indian food, will comprehend that. That will allow the staff to explain the story behind each dish – something that is anyway the philosophy of Indya. For example, in the dish named Ghar ki Murgi, daal barabar – the presentation was broken down to its literal translation and the result was a homestyle chicken curry in daal. I don’t think that the above posed any issue in enjoying the food in Indya. As Vineet’s philosophy here is that “Indya is an opportunity to have fun with Indian food, to challenge perceptions and introduce new ingredients to age-old dishes. I guess you could liken it to an expression of my roots and respectfully breathing new life into the food I grew up with”.
The dessert: Indian desserts can be too sweet even to the biggest fan of Indian cuisine. This is where Vineet’s experience in working on foreign shores have probably helped in creating a dessert menu, ‘From the Halwai’, that is not only playful but extremely subtle in its intensity of sweetness. Seeta aur Geeta, a dessert array named after a popular 1972 Bollywood film depicting contrasting personalities between two twin sisters, presented the traditional kaju katli in the form of kulfi served in a bed of chocolate peanut halwa. These were two entirely different sweets that came together to form an exotic dessert. More impressive was the Awesomosas, a take on Vineet’s extremely popular creation – Chocomosa, chocolate samosas filled with almonds, dark and white chocolate. Our dessert samosas had a purple carrot filling with a creamy carrot cream served as an accompanying dip. We finished our tasting for the evening with another of Vineet’s signature – chocolate Golgappas with spiked Rabdi.
The drinks: There’s a wide variety of lassis, mocktails and cocktails to choose from, including a special gin bar. Amongst the few drinks that we tasted that night, my favourite was Chandan chuski, a subtle and fragrant ice pop made from pure sandalwood. It was probably one of the simplest of the more elaborate recipes that graced the beverage menu. It was refreshing, much like a cool summer breeze!
The sign off: With more than 25 restaurants across 3 continents, and a new restaurant opening up every other day, Vineet Bhatia leads a very well-travelled entrepreneurial life. He is also a prolific social media user (influencer, if I may!) using the hashtag #cheftraveller. Quite obviously, his culinary creations are a culmination of his extensive travel experiences and his high-profile successful career of working as a chef and restauranteur in multiple countries across the globe. We are fortunate to have tasted a menu in Indya that was eclectic, experimental but not a confused fusion. I’m guessing every guest will have fun dining on the sharing platters in Indya and find some form of familiarity to Indian food that he/she can relate to. Every dish that we tasted on our preview evening was exciting and extremely satisfying, without overstimulating our sensory buds, both aesthetically and taste wise. Once the honeymoon phase is over with media previews, invited guests and the typical Dubai audience who’s always looking out for new openings that are instagram worthy, the litmus test begins for Indya. My friend dining companion for the evening rounds up our preview experience, ‘What a wonderful experience it was to dine on the delicious and innovative dishes, while sipping on amazing drinks within the cheerful interiors of Indya. Meeting Chef Vineet and talking to him was the cherry on the cake!’ I must ask Vineet now to create some sort of a cherry pickle and a fancy version of an Indian cake on our next visit!
Indya by Vineet
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Al Mamsha Street
Open daily for lunch, 12:30pm – 3:30pm and for dinner, 7:00pm – 12:00am
For more, visit the
Disclaimer: Ishita and her guest were hosted guests at Indya by Vineet. This compilation has been drawn from her experiences at the time of the visit. All images and videos have been taken by Team FoodeMag, unless mentioned otherwise.