For purists, the emphasis in Chinese food should be on the marriage of flavours, the method of cooking and in the choice of meats and vegetables. And while most of us think Chinese food starts and ends with a chop suey, a chow mein and some dim sums, the cuisine is rich in folkloric romance. Behind each dish are stories that, once told, would elevate a dish beyond its noodle-and-rice wine flavour.
Some of this romance is evident in the over-the-top names given its dishes by The Chinese in Connaught Place. This institution is fond of the hyperbole which, because it’s so dramatically beckoning, may sometimes be an over-promise and an under-delivery.
We were guests of the restaurant recently and it appears that the regulars, who include members of the local Chinese community, swear by the food here. The place is big on authentic pan-Chinese cuisine, with the main inclusions being dishes reflective of Sichuan, Peking, Shanghai and Guangzhou. A separate Hunan menu is available and is a more exciting option than the a la carte.
Some good things about The Chinese — you will get consistency and quality, a big attempt at authenticity, very good service and a lovely retro ambience. We sat through a parade of starters, best of which were A Union of Friends (assorted crisp vegetables fried and tossed with pepper and salt), a slightly over-crisp sesame lamb, a good Treasure of Three (crisply fried fish with chilli, honey and garlic) and Holy Lion (smoked lamb flavoured with Chinese wine).
Someone in the kitchen had been a bit liberal with the salt on some dishes but we were told by a regular that this was an aberration.
The Hunan menu provides that bit of excitement in a restaurant that is otherwise happy with its lunch time corporate crowd and finds no need to be inventive. Best picks off this menu include the sliced fish on hot tile, the nicely-turned out home-style stir fried duck, and pork with chilli. The chicken with doufu in clay pot, however, failed to come with the chilli hot excitement that is promised by this region’s cuisine.
All in all, a pleasant enough lunch and a great excuse to step out of office if you work in CP. Address: F-14/15, Middle Circle, Connaught Place Phone: 23708888 Average cost of meal for two: Rs 6,000