Eest in Westin Gurgaon embodies the eternal dilemma of international hotel chains in India. Whether to have expatriate chefs or Indian for their Chinese/oriental restaurant. And if the former, whether to take the cuisine to stratospheric levels or keep it suitably dumbed down for the local palate.
Eest has not one but five expatriate chefs – three from China, one from Thailand and one from Singapore. The way they have approached the dilemma is to keep their menu simple and familiar. It is not the same thing as dumbing down: there is no chicken with hot garlic sauce for instance. What there is, are set menus for Thai, Chinese and Japanese and a la carte too. The only Japanese I tried was a platter of assorted sushi and sashimi small (Rs 1400) in which the scallops were obviously diver caught (they were too melt-in-the-mouth and sweet to be farmed). There were a few pieces of sashimi and a few nigiris with a couple of sansho leaves to add colour to the platter. What was remarkable was the precision with which the rice was cooked: it was obviously sushi rice from Japan rather than its poor country cousins from Nepal.
Something tells me that Chinese is the strongest section in Eest. Though there are no surprises of the culinary kind on the menu, we ordered a rather clichéd choice, one that I could never imagined I’d order. Sweet corn crab soup (Rs 320) was what the ebullient young Chinese hostess insisted on, and I’m glad she did. Forget about vans, forget about Hindi-Chini joints: this is the real McCoy. Light, flavourful, no cornstarch and enough fresh crabmeat to catapult it into the realm of a luxury food. I highly recommend it.
Cod fillet, spring onion, soy sesame oil (Rs 620) was the high point of the meal. The fillet was cut thick and the snowy white flesh made a picture against the soy. It is a standard dish in every Cantonese restaurant and usually the thin gravy is made using nothing but soy and sesame oil, but this version has a secret ingredient that is probably stock. Whatever it is, and the chef’s certainly not telling, it’s a treat for those who appreciate light, subtly flavoured seafood.
For those who don’t, there’s always spicy fresh prawn salad (Rs 420) that lacked any other dimension other than the merely spicy. On the plus side, it is one of the few cold salads served in a Chinese restaurant. (In China, no meal is complete unless it has a sprinkling of cold starters, hot starters, soup and main courses, a concept that has never caught on hereabouts). The crispy fragrant duck with hoisin sauce (Rs 520) is for those who like their food deep fried, though even here, the restaurant goes that extra mile and makes the hoisin sauce in-house! Our final dish, crisp eggplant, browned garlic and dry chilli (Rs 300) was a gourmet delight, yet again proving my theory that you should never eschew aubergine in an oriental restaurant! Fried in a batter, the nuggets were soft pillows like cotton candy. Whoever can make the humble baigan taste this good has my heartfelt respect.
For dessert, I chose a Thai dessert of pandan and coconut jelly (Rs 300). East specializes in Far Eastern deserts which they do superbly.
Number 1, MG Road, Gurgaon
Open from 12.30 to3 pm and 7 to 11.30 pm
Meal for two: Rs 3,000
Alcohol served, credit cards accepted