For as long as it has been open, 19 Oriental Avenue, the Chinese-Japanese-Thai restaurant at the Shangri La, has been trying to get its act right. Finally, it has hit upon the winning formula. So, while there are three sections, each of them has become more independent. Chef Hiroyuki Hashimoto’s excellent Japanese menu straddles both sides of the divide.
Half his customers are Japanese and the other half locals who may or may not be comfortable with Japanese food. There’s neba neba (Rs 450), a cold starter containing sashimi, fermented nato beans and sticky yam paste for the Japanese community, and the spicy hitsuji maki (Rs 700) — grilled lamb formed into an India-meets-Japan sushi.
Don’t miss the excellent robata grill section (Rs 350-1,100), where ingredients range from the familiar (chicken) to the unusual (sting ray fin). Not everything on this remarkable menu is stiff upper lip Japanese. Mentaiko cream udon (Rs 300) is a Japanese housewife’s special that turns out like a cross between Italian and Japanese food. Basically, the Japanese section consists of teppanyaki and robata grilled ingredients and sushi and sashimi.
Chef Wang Bing is a young genius. His cold starter Guangdong-style poached chicken with spring onion and ginger (Rs 575) could have given a Sichuan starter a run for its money. Peking style duck soup (Rs 375) is the exact replica of a soup I have tasted in Beijing’s most famous duck restaurant. Cantonese lobster tail with garlic and soya (Rs 1,550) was a premium dish, presented with the utmost flair that had the kick of fried garlic.
But if hot garlic sauce is up your street, worry not, because that, too, is on the menu — stir-fried prawns with hot garlic sauce (Rs 1,150) and lobster tail with fiery chilli garlic sauce (Rs 1,550). Shandong braised pork rib with soya sauce (Rs 700) is as spiked with star anise and cinnamon as any North Indian curry, while maintaining its authenticity.
Options in the Thai section include phla kung (Rs 550), a salad with startling fresh, optimally cooked prawns in fish sauce and onions. The irresistibly named choo chee kung (Rs 1,350) is a rich, creamy red curry that is thick with coconut milk and sizzling lamb with red chilli paste and shallots (Rs 650) is ideally suited to the Indian palate. Two areas where they have to pull up their socks is their teas — what is available is pedestrian, unforgivable when you are paying a premium for your meal; and desserts: more research is indicated.