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Best of China

Taste the Oriental at China Garden, the award winning Oriental eatery in Ashoka Hotel.

india Updated: May 07, 2010 01:51 IST
Jimmy Chew

Entering into a restaurant and realising that you are the only diner there, has its good and bad points. I derive a peculiar pleasure in first waiting for the staff to recommend a table and then pointing to another one, saying ‘do you mind if I sit there?’, considering none is occupied. But on the downside, you have the entire wait staff focusing their attention and energies on you, which can be quite a bother at times.

Anyhow, I experienced both this week at China Garden, the award winning Oriental eatery that set shop at Ashoka Hotel three months back. The place, with 195 covers, is rather spacious and the black and red décor instantly strikes you as being nice… and very typically Chinese. There is a giant Buddha statue in the center, which, a wait staff informs, is 13 feet tall and imported from China for ‘good luck’. Well, I went about trying to figure out if they really need it.

The menu, primarily Chinese with some Korean and Vietnamese dishes, is elaborate, and misses no opportunity to inform you about the legacy of the brand’s promoter, Chef Nelson Wang, known world over for being the inventor of Chicken Manchurian. Though there is a rather tempting beverage menu too, with a wine list boasting over 60 exotic varieties, it’s disappointing that they serve only the Indian Sula by the glass.

We started with Chilly Meat (Rs 325), described by the staff as a crispy and spicy shredded meat dish that could be made out of chicken, lamb, prawn or pork. We opted for the chicken version, which turned out to be neither spicy, nor crisp. But that was soon made up for, by the other starter, Smoked Chilli Prawns (Rs 450), which, with crispy fried prawns served on a bed of dried red chilies, is simply excellent. We attempted variation by ordering for Roast Duck Hakka Style (Rs 750) and Crab Meat in Butter Chilli Garlic (Rs 875) in the main course. The former is essentially sautéed duck breast in green chillies, a semi dry preparation in soy sauce that tasted quite well. The crab meat undoubtedly turned out to be the best bet… butter and garlic lending an excellent flavour to the mashed crab meat. Fried hakka noodles and chicken rice made for perfect accompaniments.

The experience was marred a tad bit by the requests for ‘last order’ by the kitchen, which I find to be a rather annoying practice, still persisting in Delhi kitchens, unlike many countries that are moving to shift systems in the kitchen to ensure uninterrupted service.

Anyhow, amidst polite suggestions that our choice of dessert, date pancakes, could not be served since the kitchen had all but closed, we settled for Caramel Custard (Rs 225), which actually turned out to be rather nice. All in all, China Garden surely merits a visit from those who relish a good Chinese meal with a touch of Indian-ness.