Atmospherics: Ano Tai has been around for a long long while, but so timeless and ageless is its décor that it was never ever trendy and it is now not old-fashioned. Plus, the huge glassed-in show kitchen is a beehive of activity and if you have a table overlooking it, you need just gaze at the bustling chefs and settle down to enjoy your meal. The reassuring part about Ano Tai is that it is that it is always full of customers from China, Singapore and other countries of South East Asia. It has always, since its inception, been headed by a chef from China, and that is what sets it apart. Other newer and flashier Chinese restaurants have sprung up and have discovered that maintaining a team of expatriate chefs is no cakewalk. This low-key hotel has learnt the trick. But, you may ask, why have a Chinese chef in the first place? My answer is: eat at Ano Tai, where every element is in perfect harmony and you’ll know how important it is.
Table talk: The reigning chef from Beijing is a purist: he does not use readymade sauces from bottles, uses stock that he makes himself in the kitchen and is a stickler for turning out a dish in the authentic way, though he is quite up to plating a dish in the European style, as he did with wok fried lobster with ginger spring onion sauce and green pea coulis (Rs 2199) where the coulis was brushed onto the plate. However, he knows what dish to serve in the traditional manner, and what to present as a western main course. His Chongqing sesame chicken with cashew nuts Rs 1099 was a masterpiece of spiciness and flavour, with lightly fried but not burnt chopped chillies, sesame seeds wok tossed with Sichuan peppers and chicken nuggets. All the flavours had fused with each other, while no ingredient had been burnt on one hand or half raw on the other: a fiendishly difficult task, requiring split second timing. The cumin lamb chops (Rs 1499) was a Xinjiang-style dish, this western province being the only region where lamb makes an appearance in China. With not a drop of gravy, the chops had a lovely cumin flavoured crust yet were juicy inside. Serious talent here!
Must try: seafood soup, black fungus mixed vegetables, steamed lettuce Hong Kong style
Food: 4.00 Service: 3.25 Décor: 3.50
Jaypee Vasant Continental, Vasant Vihar
Open from 12.30 to 3 pm and 7.30 to 11 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards
Meal for two: Rs 4,000