A Shangri-La classic marquee, this restaurant has location and value to its advantage, alongside skill.For all that, this place is exceptionally fun—the music is decidedly poptastic, not Orientalist in the least. The Shangtastic Dim Sum Lunch cannot be surpassed at about ?1,500, with 14 types of dim sum baskets (steamed, fried and baked), plus a choice of mains and some very interesting homemade ice creams. Just be aware the swift service for such a huge panoply means some dishes arrive steaming hot, literally. A lot of on-the-table drama is designed into the menu. The Yunnan-style skewers arrives till smoking over a charcoal brazier (unfortunately, the venting is wanting, so the brazier is quickly repossessed by the waitstaff ); even a rice dish (one of the best we’ve had) is mixed tableside; hot-stone cooking and on-order carving of a Beijing roast duck feature too. There are expat chefs representing not only different regions but techniques: dim sum, wok, barbecue. While the mainstay for the brand has been Cantonese and Yunnan cooking, some Sichuan features because we are in India, and some Dai surprises. Ingredients are selected for perfect flavours, with no compromise led by pecuniary motives, like using the Thai ‘Sichuan pepper’ instead of the real thing. Also imported: pickled Chinese mustard, fermented bean and chilli pastes.
Presentation marches in lockstep with skill—the crockery makes one come over all touchy-feely, an alcove filled with pretty jars of Chinese teas is lined with their names in Mandarin carved on the wooden panel. A jasmine green samovar is on the go, right next to the Dragon Welland smoky Lapsang Souchong, blooming flower teas and tight pearls. The dim sum are decidedly decorative, with spectacular colour and garnish supplementing their elegance of shape. The private dining rooms—one has a wall full of Chinese coins for kitty luck, another a contemporary wallpaper inspired by Ming china and the largest Lazy Susan in town (serves 10). The main room has lights inspired by warriors’ shields shingled overhead, with Art Deco flourishes at floor level.Surprisingly for a Chinese restaurant, they have astartlingly extensive sake collection, featuring even inthe signature cocktail list, and Japanese whiskeys too. And the dessert menu here features Oriental flavours in technically European recipes.
If ordering à la carte, we recommend the soupy xiao long bao, the pan-fried water chestnut and mushroom dumpling, the spicy edamame and pickled mustard leaves cheung fun roll (hot yet balanced), the sublime eggplant puff (baked, not fried, to perfection, gently sweet yetumami), Delhi’s best char siu bao, a delightful crackling prawn ball and delicious tenderloin dumpling. On the fancier end, you have scallops har gao with black truffle, and a crispy Iberico pork bun. Then try a couple of skewers to share—crispy pork belly or cumin lamb, eggplant or leek and wild mushrooms. The cold appetisers deserve special mention, even the marinated cucumber being moreish, and also the cold chicken. Hot favourites include the sauna prawns grilled on a lava stone (but why not push the boat out with lobster?), and the Yunnan mushroom and tofu wantons with spicy tomato salsa. The pork belly is super crisp. The spicy-sour Dai tomato soup is a revelation, but the Yunnan-style Crossing the Bridge has more drama if you have a bottomless stomach. The cumin-scented Chengdu lamb is worth making room for, amid the impressive variety of seafood and pork and tenderloin dishes. The fresh cornice cream with popcorn is especially fun for dessert if you went the Shangtastic way; we loved the table-torched jasmine tea brûlée and the citrus-freshened sticky toffee pudding, each of which comes with a side of ice cream (almond and mango respectively) and are each so good you won’t glance at the ices twice. Contact: Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, 19, Ashoka Road, Janpath, +91-11-4119 1040, shangri-la.com
Occasion: With the ladies (or lads/ladettes) you lunch with
Ambience: Lively and naturally well lit at lunchtime, more dramatic for dinner, the décor here is evocative without straying into cliché; four private dining rooms, of which two can be combined for a private party with live music; there is also some al fresco space; smart dressing recommended