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Mooning over Shanghai fare


A DUMPLING on the plate is worth two in the stomach. That's how I feel about Shanghai Moon, which serves authentic Chinese cuisine. Its quiet, bamboo-rich courtyard is perfect for a quick executive lunch or a daytime kitty party, while natural fibre torches transform the starlit ambience when families troop in by night.

"We have many dishes from Shanghai, while the moon shines over our dining space. That's why we called it Shanghai Moon," explains its initiator, Cornell-trained Pramod Chaudhry. "I and chef Diwas Gurung, who worked at Mumbai's Mainland China and China Garden, spent nearly three months over the menu before our launch on September 5, 2003. We wanted to ensure authentic Chinese dishes, not their Indianised versions."

Tantalising flavours

True to that promise, we encounter tantalising prospects such as crispy konjee lamb and vegetables monk style. They even offer a low-fat menu, with energy, cholesterol, and fat counts for each dish, steam-cooked in olive oil sans monosodium glutamate. It includes braised bean curd with mushrooms, three sea flavours stir fry, and asparagus with crabmeat sauce.

Surrounded by offices, the 50-cover Shanghai Moon even has a five-course corporate power lunch from Monday to Saturday at Rs. 125. It offers choices such as pepper lemon or coriander soup, Taipei chicken or chilli batter-fried tofu, fried rice or noodles with pepper lemon chicken or crispy aubergine in black bean sauce.

What won us over? My pepper lemon chicken clear soup (Rs. 59) was flavour-rich with lemongrass, while my vegetarian companion savoured her coriander soup (Rs. 50) with delight. Steamed dimsums appeared next. The sui mai (Rs. 95) or open dumplings were exquisite, their five spice-enhanced minced chicken redolent of basil and star anise, served on a Chinese lettuce leaf. The closed vegetable ching kao (Rs. 73) proved as delectable, its subtly-diced contents enhanced by the accompanying black pepper sauce, fragrant with spinach, onion, pepper, and olive oil. Right through, delicate jasmine tea is served on the house.

Starters

Of the starters, the portion of lemon Shanghai chicken (Rs. 100) seemed enormous, garnished with sliced lemon and dainty folds of cucumber. But the irresistible first bite brought its tangy undertones, its minced garlic to the surface, until I found my plate empty, seemingly without my consent. I stole a piece of crispy fried vegetables in chilli plum sauce (Rs. 86) from my dining companion's plate. The cauliflower floret was crisp, its chilli sting mellowed by the sweet plum sauce.

The main courses were superb. The baby corn, water chestnuts and tofu Shanghai style (Rs. 91) revealed notes of tomato sauce, garlic, chilli, and sesame. It was perfect with the unusual butter garlic noodles (Rs. 82). The ginger and capsicum fried rice (Rs. 68), jewelled with diced red, yellow, and green bell peppers, was enhanced by a garden-fresh coriander sauce. As for my last bite of the superb slow-fried king prawn with chilli oyster sauce (Rs. 185), it still lingers on my tongue, testimony to Gurung's wizardry.

Our preconceptions about zero-dessert Chinese meals were overturned by the pears with ginger and star anise (95), the crunchy fruit yielding to the bite of preserved ginger. Other sweet treats include drunken apple and toffee walnut.

Authentic ingredients

The restaurant sources authentic ingredients from China via Chennai, and even arranges cookery demonstrations for kitty parties.

Shanghai Moon — started years after Chaudhry's 1992-launched Treat in Indira Nagar, with its Tandoori and Punjabi fare — doesn't just promise you the moon. It delivers it on a platter.

Isn't that enough to wean you away from the ubiquitous gobi Manchurian?

Shanghai Moon, at 16, Wood Street, Ashok Nagar, can be contacted on 25306555/ 25542824.

ADITI DE

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