Vikas Khanna interview

Vikas Khanna talks tasty dishes, setting up in Dubai and getting that call from Michelin...

Vikas Khanna interview
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If you know your stuff when it comes to food, then Vikas Khanna needs no introduction. The trailblazer was one of the first Indian chefs to receive a Michelin star for his New York restaurant Junoon for six consecutive years since 2011, which is no small feat.

“Being a person of colour and living in New York for the past 20 years, I’d been told many times that a Michelin star wasn’t for me but it didn’t stop me from working harder,” he says.

“I think getting that star for the first time was really… I can’t explain it. It was a powerful moment and it wasn’t just for me – it was for my parents, for my family, for my city, for my country, for all the other chefs who were told they couldn’t do it.

“I’ll never forget that phone call from the Michelin guide.”

A massive achievement, but having lived in New York for the past 20 years, the Indian chef has more than just a Michelin star string to his bow.

As well as making waves in his day job, the acclaimed chef is an author, a humanitarian, a poet, a film maker, an even a well-known TV personality – having hosted MasterChef India and making numerous guest appearances on shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef Australia – and the list goes on.

And in exciting news for the city’s foodies, Khanna’s latest culinary venture Kinara by Vikas Khanna has now opened its doors in Dubai’s Jebel Ali.

Described as a ‘journey of the senses and an explosion of flavour’, Kinara (which means the shore or the bank) can be found at the brand-new JA Lake View Hotel and is offering up “an approachable and affordable homage to the Indian home cooking” but with a unique twist, of course.

Khanna’s protégé Ashish Kumar is heading the restaurant as chef de cuisine, but what can we expect from the famed name?

Dishes are innovative but also familiar – that’s the balance for ethnic cuisine – we want to give people dishes they’ll know, but in our style,” explains Khanna.

“The heart of Indian cuisine is very rich and very beautiful. We’ve experimented with different flavour combinations and elements that make it stand out.”

Junoon might be a name familiar to Dubai foodies, too, as a branch was previously open in Shangri-La Dubai. So he’s excited to be returning to the city with a new project.

“It’s not easy for me to open a new restaurant as I treat them all like my babies and this was a very researched project,” he adds. “Most of this is custom-designed for this restaurant – I didn’t want to go run of the mill with it.”

The menu features a balanced mix of inventive meat, vegetarian and seafood dishes at affordable prices (you’ll even get a bowl of rice for free).

Highlights on the menu include paneer with a green mango reduction and a kumquat-ginger marmalade (Dhs60), sesame-crusted scallops with a coconut-mango sauce and brown butter (Dhs75), tandoori lamp chop with sweet potato mash and green papaya chutney (Dhs130) and a braised chicken biriyani with mixed berries and yoghurt cucumber dip (Dhs75).

Desserts include a saffron-rose pudding with rose petal jam, cardamom, a banana-caramel sauce and candied nuts (Dhs40) and pomegranate poached pears with saffron cream and coconut ice cream (Dhs40).

And what’s his favourite dish on the menu? “One dish the chefs were very surprised by  and excited by – which is a good thing as they’ve worked at the best restaurants – are the kebabs. Made just out of yoghurt with a kunafa-style crispy exterior, passion fruit gel, pickled beetroot and a golden turmeric sauce,” he says.

“The dish took months to perfect and the textures are so different so you don’t know what to expect and people love it – even meat-eaters, which is fantastic.”

The new hotel has a huge focus on sustainability and this is also reflected in Kinara. “I’m absolutely for sustainability and we don’t have one piece of single-use plastic in the entire restaurant” he confirms.

But with so many world-class restaurants here, what will distinguish Kinara from other Indian restaurants in the city?

“The food,” he says confidently. “There are so many unique combinations and textures. Consistency is so important  too – diners have to be able to trust the chef and team, that’s the challenge.”

With a CV as jam-packed as this chef’s, it’s certain to be an exciting addition to Dubai’s fast-growing dining scene. Watch this space.
Open daily 6pm-11pm. JA Lake View Hotel, Jebel Ali (050 718 2382).

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