In a culinary revolution that’s captivating food enthusiasts around the world, Chef Rahul Rana of Avatara Dubai is on a mission to shatter the notion of limited Indian food offerings. Famed for its innovative vegetarian menu, Avatara recently became the world’s first and only vegetarian Indian 1-star Michelin restaurant. “There is a perception that Indian food is limited. We want to change that by showcasing the endless possibilities that Indian food can offer,” says Chef Rahul Rana, the Executive Chef at Avatara Dubai.
In Chef Rana’s kitchen, humble and often overlooked vegetables like turnip, bottle gourd, and ridge gourd are finally taking the spotlight. He shared, “At Avatara, what we create is a reincarnation of soulful Indian food that’s inspired by fresh and simple ingredients.” To underscore his point, he has purposefully excluded common ingredients like paneer and mushrooms from his menu. Garlic and onion, known for their robust flavors, have also been omitted due to their tendency to overpower the subtleties of vegetables.
Avatara Dubai’s culinary journey is now set to enchant the Indian palate, starting with an exclusive dinner pop-up hosted by Conosh, a platform curating global culinary experiences. “We are thankful to Conosh,” Chef Rahul Rana expresses, “They approached us for this popup when we were just an Indian restaurant and not Michelin-starred.” The pop-up dinners in Delhi and Pune will not only introduce Avatara’s flavors but also serve as a precursor to their imminent launch in Mumbai this November.
In a country already abundant with vegetarian restaurants, Chef Rana’s challenge is to stand out. “We are doing a fine dining version of it. Ours is a unique concept and no one is doing that here,” he confidently states. Drawing from his background in pastry, he innovatively combines temperatures and textures to create captivating dishes. “When you are from that background, you know how to pair and what to add to give different textures,” he adds, citing his creation of a bitter gourd dish with raw mango sambar gelato and a dosa tuille for crunch.
Avatara’s kitchen is a playground of constant innovation, fueled by the aspiration to attain two Michelin stars. “If we want two stars then Avatara needs to beat Avatara,” emphasizes Chef Rana. He collaborates with his team to brainstorm, often challenging them to work with their least favorite vegetables. This approach has led to the birth of ingenious combinations that even convert skeptics. “When someone who doesn’t like a specific vegetable enjoys a dish made out of it, it means the others will definitely relish it,” he quips.
The upcoming Avatara x Varq dinner hosted by Conosh promises an unforgettable dining experience. Held at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel’s Varq in Delhi, the 15-course meal showcases the fusion of Avatara and Varq’s culinary prowess. The meticulously crafted menu includes a range of courses, from amuse-bouche to desserts, incorporating ingredients from Chef Rana’s hometown of Uttarakhand.
As Chef Rahul Rana redefines the culinary landscape, one dish at a time, Avatara Dubai’s innovation and dedication to spotlighting the potential of Indian vegetarian cuisine continue to captivate discerning palates worldwide.
Avatara x Varq hosted by Conosh will take place on August 19 and 20 at the Taj Mahal, Delhi, and is priced at ₹10,000 plus taxes. Conosh X Avatara will be on August 24 and 25 at Zeera, Conrad Pune, priced at ₹8,000 plus taxes. For reservations, visit conosh.com.