Yours Truly, Chinese

Published: 01st August 2015 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2015 12:21 AM   |  A+A-


magandeep.jpgFor those who write about gastronomy, any announcement heralding the opening of a new restaurant is as exciting as things can ever get. I am not talking about some multinational assembly line burger-flipping or dough-shoving chain but F&B establishments that advance the culinary arts by virtue of their presence. Restaurants which have long been an idea in the mind of a talented chef only to be slowly and painstakingly nurtured to a grand opening.

And this bug-eyed curiosity was the theme through most of July as I managed to visit new eateries serving “Chinese” food.

I say Chinese with the quotes because frankly, I don’t know what constitutes true Chinese anymore. Apart from the myriad interpretations that exist for the food of this country within our own borders, you also have worldly incarnations of Chinese, from New York to Sydney. In that context, was there anything true Chinese, save for a meal in a Beijing home?

Well the mark of any true cuisine is its ability to adapt, and evolve. Neither ingredients nor creativity should ever define what a cuisine can or can’t be. In light of such new wisdom, when one heads out to find Chinese food, one is mostly looking for a certain culinary philosophy that revolves around the use of certain spices and sauces, some basic preparation styles, or textures that evoke a certain cognitive memory. In plain English, a Dim Sum, with no matter what filling, would still be considered oriental.

Which is important to remember when trying food at Tian at the ITC Maurya. It is more of a culinary studio than a restaurant, a canvas for the chef to creatively construct, all in an effort to enthral not just your taste buds but all your senses. Purely experimental, here the chef manages to ensure that you leave well fed and yet hungry for more. Some dishes may seem to be a victim of creative hyperbole (and some molecular inspirations were just passé) but the dishes that do work heighten pleasure to such levels that all else stands forgiven. A formidable service team replete with a sommelier made this a stand-out oriental experience.

By contrast, Chi Ni at the Dusit was a lot more sober, creative still, also contemporary, yet very subdued. Except that awesomely massive tent which houses the restaurant (and makes you feel very small indeed), everything about the place was subtle, from the lighting to the presentations. It was almost a French-inspired take on classical Chinese. The chef doesn’t speak much English so lets his dishes do all the communicating, personally curating each plate that leaves the kitchen.

And finally I found myself at Fatty Bao, Manu Chandra’s playful take on all things eastern. The flavours are strong, pronounced and most of all, hearty. This place is all about generous soul food, the kind you crave on days when everything seems dull. The kind that we relate to a version of Chinese that we had while growing up, bastardised but proudly so.

With eateries like Tian, Chi Ni, and Fatty Bao, we are showing the Chinese yet another facet of their own cuisine, one that may never have been served up otherwise. Good job India, you have surely come a long way since your days of Chinjabi joints. Although mind you that too is a cuisine unto itself, just ask Mainland China.


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