A new chef successfully walks the tightrope between authentic Chinese cuisine and Indian sensibilities
One dilemma that all authentic Chinese restaurants in the city face is the place of the Chinese chef. Hire one at great cost, and the food that he produces will probably not cater to the local palate. Get in a team of local chefs, and the food quality suffers.
Panasian at WelcomHotel in Saket (it used to be called Marriott) has the perfect answer, one that other restaurants would do well to follow. They have got in Chef Wang Yi from Beijing, so the food is perfectly authentic. Yet, during his induction with legendary Chef Liang Xiao Qing, he was given a direction to follow, so that his food has popular appeal.
Fried and spicy is not his only trademark; the trouble is that Chef Wang Yi has just arrived in India, so his English is limited. In a few months from now, he will have picked up enough English to understand guests’ requests. For the time being, the tent card on every table in the restaurant mentions a few of his specialities. Roasted Shredded Duck Tossed with Chilli Sesame Sauce (Rs 600) is a dish of intensely flavoured duck stir-fried with sprouts and juliennes of bell peppers and onions. Spicy and aromatic, it is one of the best dishes on the Chinese menu.
You don’t have to feel overcome at the thought of eating duck: the birds at this restaurant are of the best quality, and because they are carefully bred, they lack the gamey flavour of their wild country cousins!
His other signature dish is Deep Fried Monkfish with Chilli and Onions. Why Wang Yi has insisted on monk fish for this batter-fried starter is probably because of the dense texture of the fish, juxtaposed against the lightness of the batter. It is every bit as spicy as Amritsari Machhi, especially with the chopped onions, chillies and Sichuan peppers as a garnish. And if the price (Rs 800) seems high, it is because of the cost of this particular fish.
Less successful was his rendition of Kung Pao Chicken (Rs 600) which is essentially a Sichuan speciality. Wang Yi’s version lacked the punch of the original. Kung Pao is the chhola bhatura of China. Unlike haute cuisine, the form that works the best is the street-side one: the higher up the ladder you go, the more watered down the dish becomes. I would say, try some of his other specialities instead: Peking Duck Tossed with Roasted Cumin (Rs 1,150) is full-bodied and flavourful, and there is a dish of bitter gourd stir-fried with black bean that is an excellent choice for vegetarians.
There are dishes that Chef Wang Yi does that have subtle touches: Sweet Water Prawns Tossed with Five Spices and a clear soup that features fish dumplings and pak choy. In an authentically Chinese meal in the Beijing style, you would order a couple of subtle flavours along with spicy ones. And spicy is where this chef’s talent lies.
Add: Welcomhotel, New Delhi
Open for dinner only weekdays and for lunch & dinner on weekends
Average cost of a meal for two : Rs 2,000
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted