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Chinese cuisine, double delight... .

Oriental Bloom in Ansal Plaza is an unassuming place with a friendly atmosphere. It offers a feast for the eyes, a treat for the palate. SUMITRA SENAPATY gives you the route map to one of the newest food joints in South Delhi... .


ORIENTAL BLOOM IN DELHI: The restaurant in Ansal Plaza offers varied choice. Photo: R.V. Moorthy.

EVERY ONCE in a while you enjoy a restaurant so much that you want to tell everyone. Oriental Bloom is that kind of an experience for a group of people who went there recently. This is an unassuming place with a comfortable atmosphere. The help is friendly and the staff seems knowledgeable. Everything we have is prepared to order and absolutely delicious. If you like well-seasoned, prettily presented food that, while deeply rooted in Oriental traditions, still manages to be modern, imaginative and just plain fun, then Oriental Bloom at Ansal Plaza in South Delhi is the place to go. It is crowded most of the time with friends, high-fliers, young and not-so-young couples. It gets to be pretty full up sometimes, but an army of young servers keep the hot food coming, drinks replenished and plates cleared.

Open just a little over a month ago, Oriental Bloom restaurant is a welcome Chinese cuisine stopover. Lengthy in structure, with a neat assemblage of lacquered tables and high-backed lacquer chairs with cushioned seats, bright hues of flowers decorate the restaurant, interspersed with mirrors and Chinese artefacts. Should the entrance door to the bright and busy kitchen be left open, diners can overhear the homey, reassuring bustle of chefs and the chop-chop of mincing, dicing, fine slicing so essential to freshly prepared Chinese food. For the female staff here, trim in traditional Chinese gowns, good food knowledge and lots of smiles add to the overall appeal of the restaurant.

Diners may order foods mild, spicy or extra spicy, with little "red pepper'' markings at so-called hot and spicy foods. We find most selections freshly delicious but lightly spiced, without the interior fire that many diners welcome in Oriental dishes. Most items on this generous and diverse menu are familiar, customer-tested Chinese comfort foods, dishes easy to understand and accept such as egg rolls, chimney soup, lemon chicken, Singapore rice noodles, sweet and sour chicken, and so on. Appetisers, soups and salads here, with most entrees offered in half or full sizes, make the old Chinese mix-and-match dining game even more possible. The garlic chicken is good and our dining group savours a well-known Oriental preparation -- Thai style rice stick noodle with egg wrap. Another absolute favourite dish is the crab from Chilka Lake, Orissa served with snow peas,

water chestnuts, and delicately cut ribbons of carrot, chef- designed with notched edges. The mainly South-East Asian menu boasts a diverse selection of dishes that offers a feast for the eyes, such as the Yakitori Grill -- skewers of seafood, chicken and vegetables with special dips and flavoured chilli flakes. A delightfully spicy peanut sauce accompanies the Chicken

Satay, which melts in your mouth and leaves you wishing for more.

Yes, that rhythmic chop-chop noise from the kitchen at Oriental Bloom can have interesting culinary results. Rounding off the meal is chewy glutinous rice with mango and crisp-fried Litchi wonton. You can even cool down taste buds with a choice of ice-creams with fruits and nuts. Jasmine tea, fortune cookies and candied ginger are complimentary. Sweet and satisfying, the desserts are just right. Tucked away on an upper floor, the restaurant gives you a bird's eye-view of Ansal Plaza. Oriental Bloom is quaint yet hip, with a friendly staff and reasonably priced fare that will tempt you to try just one more dish.

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