6-12 February 2015 #744

China Garden

China Garden’s new seasonal menu promises a satisfying Chinese spread
Someplace Else by Cynthia Choo

One can easily be overwhelmed by the infinite scrumptiousness offered by Soaltee Crowne Plaza’s new seasonal Hakka and Szechwan menu. 

With over 30 mouth-watering mains to choose from, and five types of desserts, China Garden promises a satisfying Chinese spread ideal for anyone with a palate. 

The standout dish was the Jumbo Prawn Szechwan (Rs1,590). The tiger prawns were not only fresh but stir-fried with an authentic sweet and spicy sauce that hit the spot.  Flavoured with Szechwan spices and Chinese condiments, the sauce made the dish taste authentically Chinese while setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the meal: and perhaps for other Chinese restaurants in Nepal. 

The rest of the dishes did not let us down either. The stir-fried soya bean sprouts (Rs 875) did not sound that appealing at first, but its simplicity was elevated by quality ingredients like sliced shitake mushrooms, immaculately fried tofu and garden greens. 

Meat lovers will relish the Hakka style steamed pork and yam (Rs 1,000). Braised in wine sauce till tender, the layers of mouth-watering pork belly melts in your mouth instantly.

It was no surprise that we had to try an authentic Hakka dish ‘Yam Abacus’ (Rs 875) from the promotional menu focusing on Hakka cuisine. A dish that is tedious to make in general and difficult to make just right. The Yam Abacus at China Garden was soft yet chewy -- showing that the chefs spent ample time to steam and carefully knead the yam to achieve this perfect consistency. 

The only item that failed to meet the high standards was the stewed mutton with pickle and shallots (Rs 1,050). It comprised of chunks of mutton simmered in pickle and rice wine.

Perhaps the presentation could have been better with delicate slices of meat rather than random small chunks. It could have used less rice wine as it appeared more like a soup.

Despite the presentation issue, the dish did not compromise in flavour with a slight hint of rice wine complementing the mutton without overpowering the taste.

With such overindulgence the chefs played it safe with savoury rice and noodle staples, serving up Mushroom Corn Fried Rice (Rs 580). It was a simple, not overly greasy dish that could complement the heavy flavours of any of the main dishes. 

According to Executive Chef Yuba Raj Pokhrel, the kitchen is staffed by cooks of Chinese descent who have trained and worked in India. This must be why the dishes tasted authentically Chinese, without getting a bit carried away with Szechwan’s cuisine numbing heat.

With starters and mains staying true to aesthetically Chinese cuisine, the chefs at China Garden took the chance to switch up traditional Chinese dessert ingredients with modern style French plating. It paid off.

The sweet potato dumplings (Rs 520) were the perfect balance of savoury and sweet: quintessential of a Chinese dessert. The modest pieces of sweet potato were coated in a shell of chocolate and coconut, giving the creamy tuber a little crunch and sweetness, all in a single bite. 

These sweet potato dumplings could singlehandedly convince anyone that Chinese deserts are comparable to, if not better than, saccharine sweet western ones.

This is not the first time the Hakka and Szechwan menu has been offered at the China Garden. The overwhelming popularity of the menu convinced the restaurant to bring this seasonal menu back for a second time. And with the fresh, quality ingredients and consistency with taste, the Hakka and Szechwan dishes may be back for the third time. 

Cynthia Choo

China Garden’s Hakka and Szechwan promotional menu is offered to 6 Feb 2015 at Soaltee Crowne Plaza Hotel

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