China Garden’s incredible tastes
Four reasons why you go to China Garden, a Nelson Wang franchise at The Soaltee Crowne Plaza — the sub-continentally sublime Chinese food, the ambience which is set by one time resident, Angeli Sowani whose Buddha painting exudes well being and the pleasure of meeting the knowledgeable Chef Rajiv Srivastava, and Food and Beverage Manager Sharad Upadhaya and attentive staff like Restaurant Manager Amrit KC and Shreejan Wagle, who brought on the dishes.
Nelson Wang, who has five China Gardens in Bombay, one in Delhi and one in Goa, often tells guests to put away their menus while he, calling himself the headmaster, orders food for them. Like him the ordering was done by Amrit KC.
We discovered that Nelson Wang has been praised in The New York Times and critic Craig Claiborne would be delighted by China Garden’s interpretation
of Dim Sum which are ultimate momos with thin ‘outers’ filled with chicken shrimp, black mushrooms and tastes galore. Says Claiborne in his Food Encyclopedia to eat Dim Sum he had to wait until five Chefs cooked a variety for him including a rabbit shaped one.
The China Garden Dim Sum have a taste of fleeting clouds where the ingredients softly come together, and if you want them to stay, you dip them in the sharp mustard sauce. They are called five star Dim Sum and are heaven.
The vegetarian starter is The Corn Cream which was the stuff of dreams. It came in cubes and was mashed corn and salt deep fried in a wok. You could dip it in chillies to heighten the spell but I like my dreams in food pure.
When Nelson Wang was asked what was good he inevitably said, everything — we don’t put bad things on the menu! The Roasted Canton Duck was thinly sliced and marinated and roasted in soy and wine and Chinese herbs that reduced itself into a soft delightful crust.
Not on the menu but unbeatable (Amrit KC promised to go and make it himself should anyone order it) are the incredible Tiger Prawns with Hot Garlic Sauce which is my favourite dish where you have a marinade of Chinese wine, garlic and several ingredients including ketchup which originated in China as pickled fish sauce called ke-tsiap. When British sailors took it to England they made it with other ingredients and so ketchup was born. The fresh prawns are meteors in a wonderful dish with the sauce being an unforgettable tail. Sweet at first and then a touch of chilli hits the palate.
When the Chinese were working in American railways in the 1800’s their food became popular with sophisticated Americans who adapted it to local taste like egg rolls, chopsuey and barbecued spare ribs which at China Garden have a peppery taste and a gnaw factor that puts a slow fire on your tongue.
I love the Sapo Chicken which gets its heat from sauces, pepper, ginger, garlic and chillies and it is cooked in its own stock to make it tender. It has wonderful after burn. You temper the taste with date pancakes and ice-cream which incidentally was invented in China in 2000 BC when someone packed a soft milk and rice mixture in snow. Stepping out of The Garden into the night we felt a little like those first humans expelled from another garden and redemption lay in our ability to come back again. Chinese feasts can bring you health, wealth, happiness or an untroubled carefree, according to Chinese tradition and most of the Chinese cooks I know. For all the good things, call 4272555, 4273999.