A delicious dinner date at Royal Plaza’s Jasmine restaurant
Virender Sehwag teases his fans. Of late, he has taken to testing their patience too. A couple of breathtaking shots and we wonder if the vintage Sehwag is back! Only to be disappointed soon after as the mercurial man gift-wraps his wicket to the opposition. It is the same old feeling of elation and frustration that visits me as I watch a bit of the King XI Punjab-Mumbai Indians match in IPL-7 during a cosy dinner sampling Chinese fare at Royal Plaza’s Jasmine restaurant.
Jasmine has done up its dishes under the guidance of Executive Chef Atul Shankar Mishra and Master Chef Nandan Kumar. The menu retains the best-sellers of yesteryears and has added a few dishes on popular demand. How one wishes Sehwag would do the same: retain his appetite for big runs, add a modicum of discretion and whip up magic like he has done for over a decade. This evening though, it is the same old familiar story: couple of mighty sixes, a boundary and Sehwag has had enough of it.
In 2014, he seems to be running on borrowed time. Not so Jasmine, whose moment in time is about to arrive. The restaurant for all its sparkling décor, open kitchen and slim-line mega screen, concentrates on doing the basics right. And that is half the battle won. No flourishes, no mega announcements, just sticking to the rule book, whipping up delights from Mainland China, including some of the spicier items keeping in mind the Indian palate, giving a cold shoulder to the more bland ones.
The mix and match succeeds wonderfully well, at least with the starters. We — my good friend Aslam Khan, whom I have persuaded to give Chinese food a shot, well removed from his safe haven of kababs and tikkas — start with hot and sour chicken soup. On Chef Mishra’s suggestion, we try out sweet corn soup too; it is a smart choice. The hot and sour soup is tangy but the sweet corn version easily scores over it. The chef suggests we keep our canvas vast and move fast, taking in small portions along the way. We follow the advice. So in come dumplings followed by sliced fish with chilli sauce. Then I make bold to try Hunan style spare rib. The dumplings just about pass muster, the sliced fish scores handsomely. Here the spice quotient keeps me interested. No, I don’t take another sip of the watermelon juice with which we had begun our evening. Rather, I take a little helping of chicken fillet. Then come back to the fish; it is too good to be left after one swallow.
After succumbing to temptation, it is time to stick to the regular for the main course. It is the tried, tested and trusted chicken rice and egg rice complemented rather well by Kung Pao chicken and shrimp. Again, we are rewarded for going with professional advice. This time, the chef suggests Beijing Duck to complete the platter The Duck is a winner hands down. And helps us ignore the fact that the pieces of chicken are small, maybe a tad too small. But I am not one to complain about chicken rice in a Chinese eatery. More so when the condiments add the zing factor to the preparation.
Declining the dessert and the aromatic Jasmine tea offer, I head for the exit before pausing for one final moment. I take a look at the big screen. The match is all but over. Sehwag is sitting in the pavilion with a weary smile on his face. We, Aslam and I, have a happier one. Our tummies full to the brim, our taste buds tingle to Chinese sensations.