The moveable feast : Wallowing in China Garden

Kathmandu :

Three reasons why you go to China Garden 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 restaurant manager Freddy Dickson.

“It’s all about appealing to tastes around here. My boss Nelson Wang, who has China Gardens in Bombay and Delhi often tells guests to put away their menus while he, calling himself the headmaster, orders food for them. May I like him recommend...

The Captain Tej Ale and Dal Bahadur Shrestha brought on the dishes.

The Corn cream 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.

We discovered that 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 wasabi sauce. They are called 5 star Dim Sum and are heaven.

Says Freddy, “When Wang is asked what is good he inevitably says, ‘Everything — we don’t put bad things on the menu!’”

The Roasted Canton Duck was thinly sliced and marinated and roasted in soya and wine sauce that reduced itself into a fine crust. “It’s a classic marinade turned into a sauce,” said my friend and fellow foodie John Child.

A slightly more gravied version with ginger added which was both marinade and sauce was for the pomfret, a fish dish that wasn’t on the menu but was created by Freddy. Both dishes were sheer exquisiteness.

The signature dish of China Garden is the marmalade flavoured Orange Golden Prawns, which are marinated “in an original sweet and sour orange sauce with peel and swiftly sautéed”. The Golden Prawns become a meteor and the lingering taste of the sauce becomes its tail.

It is said that by the mid 20th century Chinese food became popular with sophisticated Americans buying supermarket foods adapted to local taste like egg rolls, chopsuey and barbecued spare ribs, which at China Garden have a peppery taste and a gnaw factor that takes you on a slow burn to China.

According to the Claiborne’s Encyclopedia of The New York Times, different foods have a prophetic quality about them and, “a personal favourite is chicken in hot bean sauce that means everything you have is more than you have, or in other words, everything we do is head and tail, there is no halfway”.

Like a mild form of the Szechuan Chicken, the black bean dish goes from a gentle bite to a hot second one and then pure fire which has to be tamped by 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. Call Freddy at 4272555.