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Near East... due South!

The Near East offers fine Chinese vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare at reasonable prices. SUMITRA SENAPATY checks it out... .


ANYBODY WHO lives near the bustling Priya Complex at Basant Lok, Vasant Vihar and enjoys Chinese food would know of the newly opened restaurant The Near East. When you enter the restaurant, everything feels modern and decorative. Indications that the menu consists of wholly Chinese food are few and far between. In fact, this is a million miles from the traditional `Chinese' image of red dragons and laughing Buddhas amidst green upholstery and it appears that no expense has been spared to present a chic and clean place to eat out. This 130-seater restaurant is the fourth to open, in the chain of Oriental fine dining restaurants managed by Foodworld, after Lotus Pond, Bamboo Shoots and Rice Bowl.

Apart from its new image it has an extensive menu, sporting many dishes normally not served in neighbourhood Chinese restaurants, and the menu offers various combinations and also some freebies. The food is similar to what you might find at a Chinese restaurant anywhere in Delhi, but though the food isn't exactly `authentic', some preparations have a definite flavour that attracts the diner.

The Near East has quite a bit of vegetarian for a Chinese restaurant - and well-made vegetarian at that - ranging between Rs.90 and 175 per dish.

Choose between Thai Papaya Salad or Kimchi, Crispy Water Chestnuts, Vegetable Ginger and Wine Soup, Sizzler Vegetables, Crackling Spinach, Stir Fried Zucchini, Crispy Fried Ladyfinger, Spiced Chilly Potatoes, Eggplant in Hot Garlic Sauce with Vegetable Fried Rice or Vegetable Noodles.

Non-vegetarian preparations are pegged between Rs.90 and 225 per dish and again, there is an enormous range to choose from, be it fish, prawns, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, rice or noodles. The prawn dishes are more expensive, ranging from Rs.325 for medium size prawns to Rs.625 for the juicy jumbo prawns. A sharp tasting dish is the Spicy Fried Red Snapper with tamarind, red chilli, garlic, basil and an exotic tangy Thai sauce. The fish tastes crisp outside but tender on the inside with a sweet and salty flavour.

Another step up is the succulent Chicken Satay served on a thick stem of Lemon Grass. What makes this dish interesting is the subtle whiff of lemon grass and the chilli dip, a perfect blend of red chillies, lime juice, garlic and finely crushed peanuts. Upon recommendation one tries the Butter Chilli Garlic Prawns and soon comes to the conclusion that the recommendation is on target. Another excellent dish is the Pan-fried Chicken with Kaffir Lime and Sweet Lemon Sauce along with the Moon Fun Rice, rice complemented with the delicate aroma of shitake mushroom and five-spice powder.

The Near East also provides its customers with a full meal at a price that won't break the budget, but you need to form a gang of 10 persons or more for this. For Rs.235 per person, the Express Lunch offers a choice of soup, two non-vegetarian and two vegetarian main course items, rice and noodles and a choice of ice creams. Of course, taxes will be extra. There is an offer for Kitty parties as well, and a special deal if your bill is Rs.4999 or more, exclusive of taxes - you land up with a free holiday package near Delhi, for two nights/three days for two adults and two children below 12.

There seems to be infinite value for money at the Near East. Check it out!

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