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The rooster kicks in

Memories of China heralds in the Chinese New Year in the best of traditions: an extensive, authentic Chinese buffet



Chef William shows off his creations at the Taj Residency.

IF CHINESE restaurants are reminiscent of cavernous, dimly lit rooms serving up large quantities of Gobi Manchurian, then Memories of China at the Taj Residency will cause you to do a quick about face. Its ongoing festival marks the Chinese New Year of the Year of the Rooster. The tone of the restaurant is bright and celebratory, festooned with banners and lanterns in red; the colour traditionally believed in China to bring luck. And Chef William Lai Hin Tong will stiffly inform you that Gobi Manchurian is very "Indian Chinese".

Reports from China describe trains and buses overflowing as people traverse provinces and trek across cities to return home to their families in this extensive 15-day celebration of the lunar calendar New Year, which in modern times has been snipped to an official weeklong holiday. Since the New Year falls in harvest time and thus in a season of abundance, fireworks and visits to the temple may be mandatory, but the highlight of the celebrations is the food.

Authentic Chinese

Memories of China cashes in on this aspect during their celebration of the Chinese New Year on till February 20. Promising authentic Chinese food, specially rustled up for the festival by Chef William, the restaurant hopes to attract the tiny expatriate Chinese community in Bangalore to the festival, while also popularising Chinese customs among the larger public. Those who believe the Year of the Rooster would focus on chicken dishes will be pleasantly surprised by the menu range, which Chef William emphasises is, "50 per cent vegetarian, 50 per cent non vegetarian; Chinese eat both equally". There are also clear, rice-based Chinese wines on offer, which the Chef explains will aid digestion and enhance the taste of the light meal without overpowering and subduing its subtle flavours as other wines might. And yes, you're advised to eat using chopsticks.

We began with two starters, the Szechwan crispy vegetables and steamed vegetable dumplings. Despite promising otherwise, the Szechwan crispy vegetables did overdo the corn flour content but the dumplings were satisfactory. Once past the starters, the meal really came into its own and kicked off. Our main dishes comprised rice and noodles with two accompaniments. The chilly garlic noodles were tasty but if you're choosing we recommend you try the burnt garlic fried rice. This was an unusual preparation, providing an edge to an otherwise staple dish. The accompaniments are what made the meal memorable. The braised tofu with shitake mushrooms was excellent: perfectly done, melding the tough texture of the tofu with the mushroom. Light yet substantial, this gravy dish was quite clearly the highlight of our meal. The mixed vegetable in hot garlic sauce was well above satisfactory, but had met its match in the tofu.

The desserts also make the meal money's worth; we had the date pancake with ice cream which, in a manner familiar to Indian palates, encases a sweet date filling in a casing of savoury batter. We recommend you try small helpings of the many dishes on offer, to sample the range of authentic Chinese on offer here, and keep space for dessert!

Wallet factor: Rs. 750 per head plus taxes
Service: Informed, helpful waiters will tempt you with refills
Ambience: Pleasantly bright
Speciality: The chef recommends the chicken dishes; for vegetarians we suggest the fried tofu.

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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