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Scaling up China Garden

After a hectic week of cooking in a professional kitchen, I finally took a break with, what else, but Indian Chinese…

By Anoothi Vishal

It may not have the mandatory red lanterns synonymous with Indian-Chinese restaurants of yore. But it does have red, runway-type, floor bulbs in the loo lighting up the throne! Make no mistake, Nelson Wang, celebrity restaurateur, father of the manchurian and other pop dishes that have long defined Indian-Chinese, sticks to the tried and tested, scaling up the formula of dishing out his own concoctions guaranteed to curry favour with the Indian palate. And curry favour they do.

But first the restaurant: The new China Garden at Hotel Ashok is by far Wang’s most prestigious project. Conceptualised as a luxury space, it will awe a first-time visitor with its sheer scale, spread, as it is, over an indoor area of 7,000 sq feet. Another 7,000 sq feet are to be added by October this year, as an outdoor garden, no mean feat considering that this is prime real estate. So, if location is a major criterion for a restaurant’s commercial success, China Garden has certainly got it right.

But such mammoth space is a double-edged sword. While the interiors — Feng Shui compliant— complete with a towering 12.5 feet high statue of the Buddha imported from China, two large water channels with the mandatory koi fish and 22-carat gold leaf covered pillars and walls, give you a sense of grandeur, the restaurant’s huge seating capacity of almost 200 people also means that the team running it will have to work that much harder to keep it occupied. Even in Delhi, that enjoys both huge reserves of wealth and its display, this is going to be challenging.

Does China Garden get its food right? The answer is an unhesitating “yes”, that is if you go expecting Wang’s signature recipes and not necessarily the simple styles of authenticated Cantonese or other regional Chinese bites. (Recipes from other parts of South-East Asia are included too.) The garlicy soy sauce on our table sets the tone for the entire meal. It is delicious and exactly what Dilli customers may want. Crispy duck strips in pancakes also stand out but beware, the main course can get seriously hot. Don’t go looking for understatements.

There are almost 300 of Wang’s creations on the menu, so there is dollops of nostalgia on offer for all those who may have eaten at his establishments in Mumbai and Delhi. And who hasn’t? But I found the most interesting part of the menu —well, it is a separate menu in itself—to be a section devoted to the Chinese clientele. When it gets introduced “soon”, this is going to be a much more “authentic” offering in terms of seasoning, cooking and ingredients. The names of the dishes are going to be printed in Chinese alongside English. But what is remarkable is that Wang doesn’t hesitate to experiment even here: Chinese style chicken and other meats are to be cooked with seasonal Indian veggies, including parval and gourd!

As his mission, Wang states that he now wants to establish satellite kitchens and research and create other distinct recipes. Clearly, whether or not you agree with his genre of food, that is his calling.
Food: 3 (on 5)
Ambience: 4
Service: 3

China Garden
Ashok Hotel,
50B, Diplomatic Enclave,
Chanakyapuri, New.Delhi-110021

What to order: Old China Garden favourites, had with dollops of garlic soy sauce

What not to: Despite a huge wine library, house wine by the glass seems to limited to Sula. With such robust bites anyway, stick to Jasmine tea.

Meal for two: Rs 2,500 (without taxes)

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3 Responses to “Scaling up China Garden”

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