Atmospherics: Chi Ni is a sprawling restaurant that seems to have been located inside a tent. It is certainly one of a kind, though one wishes that the air-conditioning could have been a trifle more effective. Chi Ni has plenty going for it: magical lawns with a waterbody, well-trained staff, two Chinese chefs from Malaysia, an open kitchen and a formal dining space. However, the kitchen does not seem to have been given a free hand with creating a menu that would showcase their specialities, so that many dishes on the menu are Delhi favourites instead of one-of-a-kind gems from Guangdong. As they have been created by Chinese chefs who lack the benefit of spoken English, they are not out and out masaledar preparations, but an in-between pastiche.
Table talk: The most efficacious way to enjoy the best of the talent in the kitchen is by going for their recently introduced fixed lunch. Even such clichés as Sweet Corn Soup (Rs 700 on the regular menu) is by far the best version in the city today, studded as it is with crunchy corn kernels, wisps of celery and crisp vegetables. Even better is the hot and sour soup (Rs 700) that is completely unlike the cornstarch-laden version that is commonly available in the city. The third soup that is available for the fixed lunch menu is the ash gourd broth, seafood (Rs 750) which is a perfect summer soup, ever so slightly thickened with cornflour for a hint of thickness in which petha (ash gourd) plays a star role. The pre-plated appetizers are served to you as part of the fixed meal. The crispy spicy mushrooms were far too desi for my taste, the lettuce-wrap chicken was just a plate filler, nothing more and the wasabi shrimp was a travesty in a Chinese restaurant with two expatriate chefs, wasabi being a Japanese seasoning. I had better luck with the main course that I chose: a delicate, flavourful Sichuan steamed Indian sea bass. You can order a choice of rice or noodles as a staple and one out of two desserts, all for Rs 2,000/Rs 3,200 vegetarian/non-vegetarian).
Plus and minus: Chinese chefs are best left alone to cook the food of their home country.
Must try: mock chicken with three chillies (v), sweet and sour mock fish (v), Signature pork chop with champagne sauce.
Food, service, décor: 3.50, 3.50, 3.50
Dusit Devarana, 21st milestone, Samalkha, NH 8
Open from 12.30-3 pm; 7-12 midnight
Alcohol served, credit cards accepted