In the 17 years since its inception, not once has China Club ever faltered or lost its stride. That says something for a brand in the lone-standing market, with no hotel guests to fall back on. It is probably one of the oldest restaurants in Gurgaon, built at a time when Gurgaon was a sleepy suburb of Delhi, with hardly any malls! The address, in a largely office complex, ensures a certain number of patrons at lunch time. At dinner time, diners from all over Gurgaon and South Delhi make a bee-line here. A few things that work in their favour are: the consistency, the fact that your car can be driven right up to the entrance – not many places in the NCR have that facility, the fact that there are private dining rooms and semi-private tables in alcoves, a pre-dining area with low seats that is ideal for a drink before dinner and finally, a glassed-in kitchen and three Sichuan chefs who cook the entirely Sichuan menu for delighted guests.
The cuisine has been well-chosen: Sichuan food contains the heat of fresh and dried chillies, preserved and pickled chillies and Sichuan peppers. It might blow away the top of your head, but at least it will not be boring! Preserved and pickled ingredients like vegetables add a slightly sour touch to a few of the dishes and some of the famous dishes of Sichuan are on offer here. The best of them is Chongqing Chicken (Chongqing used to be part of the Sichuan province at one time) and MaPo Tofu, in its vegetarian iteration. Chongqing Chicken is served with a mountain of chopped and lightly fried chopped red chillies: a native of the province would polish off the entire dish, chillies and all, but most others devour the juicy chicken morsels and leave the chillies on their plate! Other delicious specialties of the house include fried bacon with green chilli and eggplant stuffed with beancurd. Traditional style crispy fried shrimp with dried egg yolk and fresh chilli is a tongue-tingling, fresh look at the food of a province of China that has its own set of dishes that are rarely seen in this part of the world owing to a misplaced notion of consumer preference.
China Club suffers no such illusions and give their chefs a free hand to cook the cuisine of their land. There are very few regional Chinese restaurants in our cities and China Club is probably one of the first ones. There are even fewer restaurants in India who have the guts to represent Sichuan food as it exists in its home country with cold starters, hot starters and main courses, and China Club is one of them. Very few restaurants anywhere in this country would persist with a menu serving authentic specialties of a region if its patrons do not have the palate for it, and China Club must be applauded for not caving in and going the ‘noodles with hot garlic sauce’ route to pander to the local palate. It truly is a one-of-a-kind effort. It is the reason why it has so many Chinese expatriate clients who entertain guests in China Club. After all these years, the chefs, who are occasionally rotated after every few years, have always been from the Sichuan province and the ingredients, in particular the flavourings and sauces, have always been imported from Sichuan. This has gone a long way to maintain a high standard. The photogenic, slightly formal interiors have played host to every high-flyer who has visited Gurgaon in the last 17 years.