You will find lots of authenticity, with recipes reminiscent of the 1970s and '80s—think prawns fu yung, kung po chicken (but no, sorry, they do not do chilli chicken, really they don’t, not even on request), a deep-fried sweet and sour fish with pineapple, dan dan noodles, as well as Sichuan and Cantonese recipes from former head chef Leong’s mother-in-law’s kitchen, continued in homemade sauces concocted from imported raw ingredients, such as infused oils, chilli and others. Indian palate preferences are honoured, but the condiments on the table are the real thing. The dim sum category is also extensive, instituted originally by Leong’s nephew (both expats have since headed home) and marrying authentic flavours with novel colours and shapes. Vegetarians will find excellent eating here, despite the gamey name—there is a surprising array of mock meats and mushrooms (many also imported, like the shimeji from Tokyo, complementing the local portobello). There is also a rather intriguing bunch of cocktails, reminiscent of the erstwhile Blue Ginger’s flair—Smoke of Dragons, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Rose, and my favourite, the delightfully soused-sounding Qing Ceremony. The desserts are innovative, some taking a cue from flavours people relish in contemporary China—like the sharing-sized chocolate fondue warmed up with ginger and served with fresh fruit and banana spring rolls, a chilli and chocolate mousse, as well as a kueh-like snow rainbow cake that seems to upgrade childhood jellies into something rather posh, almost adult. This too, the Duck claims as authentic—because, of course, like the winging fowl, food travels through geography and time alike. Who’s to say how far back one must go to be ‘traditional’?
We hear there is a bloodless revolution imminent, though, with a new chef coming in from China even as we go to press, said to be a particularly dab hand at pulling his own noodles, and talk of a more interactive menu, cooking classes, and more seasonally inflected offerings. However, the grounding in Sichuan and Cantonese terroirs stands steadfast.
Black and white yin-yang har gao to set the tone, then the more-modern steamed edamame dumpling with truffle oil, the exquisite spring roll with mushroom milk, and thousand-layer radish puff with mock ham. The wok-fried shimeji mushroom with dry chilli and green beans is superlative; and the champagne pork-chop is based on a modern classic of China (where they use pork belly). Duck owns the marquee here, and the Peking duck is popular (add on the deep-fried duck-bone), but you might change it up with the signature black bean duck with celery. The deep-fried, then steamed Chilean sea bass is spiced right, the Sichuan-style bean paste warming rather than searing. For vegetarians, the mildly spicy Ma Po tofu with pickled veg would not be ‘settling’, alongside the clean, subtle flavours and textures of asparagus with broccoli, bamboo pith and wolf-berries. Contact: Taj Diplomatic Enclave, 2, Sardar Patel Marg, +91-11-26110202, tajhotels.com
Occasion: For the parents’ golden anniversary, with nostalgia getting an update, by way of contemporary China, for the August Moon regulars
Ambience: Old-fashioned, overstuffed comfort signalling the luxury of consistency and constancy, this is the old Blue Ginger warming up to the Far East, with spicy accents