Now that the renovation is complete, Sampan has morphed into an attractive, sophisticated dining space with a menu that is bound to make waves. After all, teppanyaki, oriental salads, sushi, tempura, Thai, Chinese, soups all in one massive effort is no mean feat. Some of the items on the menu are seldom seen elsewhere; others are boldly desi, like Gobhi Manchurian, more as a style statement than because they are expecting it to be ordered frequently!
You don’t encounter pressed sushi often. It’s here though, and it’s called Sampan Oshizushi (Rs 1045 for eight pieces). Though it is a novelty sushi, the ingredients – tuna tataki and sauces – were kept as close to traditional sushi as possible, and the rice was surprisingly firmly cooked. It is something I’d go back for more. But that’s the best part of Sampan: the menu is so long, varied and interesting, that it would take at least ten visits to exhaust all possibilities. That is its biggest plus point.
Thai mango salad (Rs 345), Rojak (Rs 345) and ceviche style sashimi (Rs 645) are hardly common dishes. While the Thai mango salad lacked the punch of a Thai raw mango salad entirely, the thinly sliced fruits were lost in the foliage of lettuce. The rojak too was much too five-starized compared to what you would get on the streets of Malaysia: hard, tart fruit and vegetable chunks napped in a mouth-puckering sauce that contains shrimp paste. Sampan’s daintily sliced kiwi fruit bore little resemblance to the earthy delights of the real thing. The ceviche style sashimi was delicate and delicious: even the paprika was sprinkled with a restrained hand.
You’ve got to love a restaurant in a hotel that is brave enough to put ‘Sarojini Nagar Momo’ (Rs 445/575 veg/non-veg) on its menu, along with Tak-a-tak noodle (Rs 445/545). I tried the Gobhi Manchurian (Rs 475) and found it acceptably five-starized with the addition of a cornstarch batter and a chat-pat sauce, complete with finely diced onions and garlic.
Sampan does the sophisticated items with just as much élan. Our teppanyaki grilled steak and eggs (Rs 645) was served with noodles; Sampan salt roast chicken (Rs 1245) turned out to be a western-style roast breast of chicken. I was expecting both these to have a definably oriental twist. The tea-smoked lamb would have been sensational had the meat been cut against the grain inside of along it.
Pazoon hin (Rs 1095) turned out to be a Burmese prawn curry thick with coconut milk. Eat it with the fragrant jasmine rice that the restaurant serves and you’ll realize how Sampan has managed to capture the intersection between novelty and comfort food perfectly.
For dessert, don’t miss the Chen pi – a completely western mocha cake with real Chinese mandarin peel as a surprising flavour.
The Suryaa New Delhi
New Friends Colony
Open from 12 noon to 3 pm and 7 to 12 midnight
Meal for two: Rs 4,000
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted