Turning Over a New Leaf With Vivek Kashiwale

Mint Leaf Dubai's Head Chef Vivek Kashiwale is on a mission to promote fine Indian cuisine and dispel myths about Indian cooking

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Vivek Kashiwale took the reins of Mint Leaf of London {15th Floor, South Tower, Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC; 971.4.706.0900} when it opened in 2014. Today, it’s widely regarded as one of the best Indian restaurants in Dubai.

Kashiwale has worked in kitchens across the UK and his native India, most recently heading up the team at the original Mint Leaf of London. Prior to that, Kashiwale called the shots at The Bird by Vineet in Leeds, helping fellow chef Vineet Bhatia earn a reputation for culinary excellence. Today, Kashiwale continues that legacy in Dubai, where legions of fans fill the tables of Mint Leaf of London Dubai every night of the week.

How did your national influence affect your cooking style at the start of your career?

Being an Indian, cooking Indian cuisine came naturally. Both of my parents cooked in the house. Dad mainly cooked non-vegetarian dishes. This has influenced a lot of my cooking, which is home style with seasonal produce. As my career progressed and I started working in Britain, I started using a lot of herbs and spices which were not common in India. But at heart of it all is traditional home food.

Having worked in all parts of the kitchen at the start of your career, what is the best part about being a chef?

It’s a feeling of reward. As one creates a dish and brings the ingredients to life, there is this sense of achievement. I feel it every time I plate a dish. And I am sure this is the best part of being a chef.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?

Have patience. The best dishes are always simple.

What do you think makes our food community unique in Dubai?

There is this marriage of cultures in Dubai that influences every cuisine. With a plethora of eating establishments, there is a big demand from patrons for more. Therefore food in every cuisine is continuously evolving.

Other than the restaurants you have worked for, what are some of your favorite Dubai food spots?

Street food and the restaurants in Dubai Marina walk.

And now onto the kitchen. What did you hope to bring to the culinary table at your restaurant?

The base of Mint Leaf is fine Indian cuisine. As with everything else, our food has also grown and evolved into contemporary modern Indian fine dining experience. And that is exactly what we offer in our restaurant, be it in London or here in Dubai.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu?

Adraki Lamb Chops is my favorite. Here, we marinade the rack with ginger, Romero peppers and spices before tandoor roasting it. The rack used is of saltbush bultarra lamb, which has an exceptionally clean taste, and blends perfectly with ginger and Romero peppers.

Fisherman’s Prawns is my other favorite. This dish breaks all the stereotypes that Indian food is rich in oil and spices and is heavy. Here, we gently poach the prawns with tomato coconut and scent it with lime leaves and lemon grass. With absolutely no dry or powdered spices and all fresh ingredients, this dish is very healthy, and star of the menu.

What do you hope people feel or experience by dining with you?

There is a sense of luxury associated with Mint Leaf. Dining at Mint Leaf is an all-night experience. We provide a wonderful bar serving amazing cocktails, a separate lounge area for pre- or post-dining experiences, and a restaurant serving Indian delicacies. Mint Leaf has been a pioneer in London and still is, when it comes to providing Indian food in a fine dine atmosphere. That’s is what people feel when they come to Mint Leaf in Dubai. As soon as they enter Mint Leaf they know they are going to have a good night, not just good food.

Do you have any special dishes or drinks we should try?

At present we are serving a special menu: Chefs Catch. This is an all-seafood menu and is an instant hit among our diners. Among drinks, one should try the Peach Julep and Cucumber Fizz.