I was invited to review the Pan Asian Kitchen Festival at Mainland China by DNA (the newspaper) yesterday. They mentioned this would be a Pan Asian Kitchen Festival that i needed to review. I am a big fan of Asian cuisine so i took this as an opportunity to start officially reviewing restaurants.
Ambiance and Location
The location for the restaurant was somewhat out of the way with three signboards directing me to the place. It was right opposite Infinity Mall in Andheri West but you could miss it because there wasn’t any signage on the main road. So i had to rely on Google Maps. Google Maps by the way is my new best friend when looking for locations in Mumbai. It has failed me just once and i usually allow my new friends to fail me thrice 😉 So once there, you really cant miss the typical ambiance of the place – the warriors at the entrance, the low lighting – just enough to view your food (but not click pictures), piped music, typical murals on the walls and comfortable seating. I was directed to a centre table with a lazy Susan – ideal for eating Peking duck but alas that wasn’t on menu.
The staff was courteous (probably because their brand head Shayantan Sinha was present and i was a guest) but i wouldn’t say that for all their locations. I had a particularly unfriendly experience at their Mainland China Asia Kitchen restaurant at Oberoi Mall where i dined alone and they were at their ignorant best. No one catered to me till i waved like a mad person and then they ignored my request for recommending what goes with the Mee Goereng that i had ordered.
None of that was repeated at this meal – the staff was courteous and Shayantan was a great host. However, they conveniently forgot to serve me the Dynamite Tofu – which i had categorically asked for – twice. I would blame it on nerves.
Also the normal thing to do was to as whether i preferred vegetarian or non-vegetarian options. This was asked in the middle of the meal and then not adhered to.
Considering this was pan asian cuisine, i was expecting cuisine from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and of course China. So the food primarily covered Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea. No sign of Japan – so no sushi for me 😦 and strangely no dumplings). When i asked why – the answer was dumplings are the cuisine from China and this was the Asian festival. In my mind dumplings are very very Asian – everyone in China, Indonesia and Malaysia eat dumplings.
The plan the team had was to let me try small portions of every dish they had on menu. I had to literally brace myself. However i would have liked a choice in the soup and a choice in the starters. However they decided the menu for me starters to main to dessert.
Anyway coming down to the contents of the menu – EVERYTHING had small chillies next to it – and only one starter and dessert not with a chilli next to it. That meant EVERYTHING on the menu was spicy. Really. Why? I got an explanation that everything in the far east is spicy…really but NO everything isn’t. Even the soup was spicy. There was no non-spicy option. If the menu was given to me just like this – i would have probably picked only the Garlic Shrimp from the list and the dessert.
When i actually got down to tasting, there were some dishes which were labelled spicy and were really bearable on spice and some porbably needed 3 spice meters (chillies) next it on menu.
So if you are presented this in Mainland China the non spicy starters are:
1. Chicken Satay
2. Dynamite Tofu / Shrimp
3. Crispy Lotus Stems
Everything else on menu was moderately to extremely spicy.
Even the soups which need to set the tone for the meal killed it for me – I couldn’t finish the Tom Kha soup (vegetable). I sincerely feel there needs to be a balance atleast in the soups!
So my recommendations from the menu are as follows:
Highly recommended: Crispy Lotus Stem with Black Pepper and Curry Leaves
Others to choose from: Dynamite Tofu, Java Grilled Fish with Sambal Salsa, Chicken Satay
Avoid: Barbequed Pepper Chicken (it nearly killed me with the spice)
Avoid the Tom Kha for sure if you can’t tolerate high spice levels. I wasn’t served the Tom Yum soup so i am not sure..but considering there is a chilli next to it i would avoid it.
Again full of chillies next to the names of the dishes. I wasn’t asked if i’d like a vegetarian or a non-veg main dish. I was served Vegetables Thai Green Curry with jasmine rice – that went down well. Awesome actually. Nasi Goereng – a tad spicy – but bearable. I think i am partial to the Nasi Goereng that is served in Indonesia (it is served with Chicken Satays in peanut sauce, with ample prawn crackers and fried noodles at the side).
If i had to choose, i would choose the Chicken in Thai Green Curry for my main. Haven’t tasted a better green curry ever since i tried it in Singapore.
Presentation: The food was presented in a very appealing manner overall, though i am again partial at the way the Nasi Goereng was presented.
There were no other options for dessert except the Caramel Sponge Cake with Toffee Sauce. Though awesome, i would have liked Honey Fried Noodles with ice cream as an option.
Going by what i picked these are the damages ( this is the price for a meal for two minus soup and drinks)
Starters: 1320 (Crispy Lotus Stem, Dynamite Tofu, Chicken Satay and Java Grilled Fish)
Mains: 390 (Chicken in Thay Green Curry)
Dessert: 225 (Caramel Sponge Cake with Toffee Sauce)
Total: 1935+ VAT+ Service charge + Service Tax
I would guess that a meal for two would cost 2500 at the Asian Kitchen Festival (exclusive of soups and drinks).
I would go there again if i had some company who liked spicy food. I wouldn’t go there on my own because i now have a inflamed tummy owing to the spice i had the restaurant yesterday. If i had to choose my favourite thing at the restaurant it would be the Lotus stems and the dessert but that doesn’t make it a meal does it?
Food : 3/ 5
Mainland China is evolving as a brand and is looking at getting the Asia Kitchen to Indian palates. As Mainland China, the restaurants are always full and having established itself in the fine dining in the Chinese cuisine space, i personally think the Asia Kitchen might work if further work on the menu and add a bit of non-spicy options to the menu like dumplings and broths. Non all Indians like to have a burnt tongue and like to sweat it out during the meals – even though i agree a large number of Indians like chillies and pepper in their food. But please spare a thought for those who can’t take more than one chilli in their food – i.e. people like me.