Chinese fine dining at Vivanta by Taj
It’s been rumoured about for a while now – for three years, to be exact – ever since Vivanta by Taj, Vazhuthacaud, opened its doors to gourmets. Well foodies, it’s finally here! Welcome to ‘Chinapolis’, the hotel’s new specialty Chinese fine dining restaurant, the first of its kind in the city.
Step into the classy wood-panelled interiors of Chinapolis, which has been done up in traditional Chinese colours of black and deep red with a hint of muted gold here and there, accessorised with elegant chandeliers, damask covered tables sparkling with imported china, and (high-pitched) Chinese folk music playing in the background, and you can’t but feel that you’ve gone to dine at a star hotel in Beijing.
As soon as we are seated, a smiling hostess dressed in a complementary black and red cheongsam offers us piping hot green tea flavoured with jasmine, which she pours into dainty Chinese tea cups (it’s part of each table setting) from a quirky brass tea pot with an extraordinarily long snout. “Green tea is an integral part of Chinese cuisine. Not only does it refresh you, it also cleanses your palate,” says Jose Thomas, executive chef.
Chinapolis is an a la carte restaurant. Chef Wang Wen, a native of Beijing, is heading the restaurant. Chef Wen’s been cooking since he was 18 years old and interned at the famous Zhaolong hotel in Beijing, before taking up assignments in various places around Asia. He was at Golden Dragon restaurant at Taj Samudra, Colombo, prior to his arrival in the city five months ago.
“On Chinapolis’ menu, we have special hand-picked spices, ingredients and dishes from the provincial cuisines of Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, Shanghai and Shandong,” says chef Wen, in halting, heavily-accented English that we struggle to understand – until Jose steps in and translates. A sigh of relief from all concerned, including chef Wen!
“Sichuan style, which uses a lot of dry red chillies, is very spicy. The popular ‘Kung Pao chicken’ is an example. Shanghai style – ‘Spare Ribs’, is a typical dish – is less spicy and is a bit on the sweeter side. Hunan cooking involves a lot of green chillies and is slightly orange in colour because of red food colouring. Cantonese cooking is more about stir-frying while Shangdong cuisine is more about steaming and roasting. We’ve tried to include dishes that would be suitable to the Indian palate, that’s why some of the dishes are slightly on the spicier side,” says chef Wen.
Soon our entrées, a trio of dimsums, arrive, all artfully arranged in their bamboo steamers. A bite of the ‘Spicy prawn and coriander hargau’ (minced shrimps and fresh coriander parchment skin dimsums ), ‘Lamb kothe’ (pan-fried juicy lamb dimsums) and ‘Steamed Canton suimai’ (minced Cantonese vegetable dimsums), and straight away we are in culinary heaven! You can dip the dimsums in coriander chilli sauce or the pickled soy sauce, but it’s best when eaten without any accompaniments. We also had sweet and spicy ‘Shanghai spareribs’ (roasted pork spare ribs tossed in an aromatic tangy sauce) that was simply spectacular.
Next up, the ‘Manchow chicken soup’ (a decidedly Indian Chinese dish) is hot, spicy, flavourful, and it actually has a fair amount of diced chicken in it. We slurped down the entire bowl without even looking up.
Chinapolis has a fairly extensive main dish selection that includes all manner of vegetables, meat and seafood. ‘Stir-fried vegetable quilian style’ is apparently one of chef Wen’s specialities (quilian is a moderately spicy sauce).
Each dish was flavoursome, be it ‘Crispy eggplant and potato in sweet bean chilli sauce’, ‘Kung pao diced chicken with cashews’ (one of the best on the menu), ‘Shredded lamb with Onion and slit green chillies’ (not too spicy, despite the chillies) ‘Crispy whole pomfret with sweet and spicy sauce’ (a tad on the sweeter side) or ‘Stir-fried Chinese greens’ (crunchy and juicy at the same time). Each of these dishes dish made a great combo with ‘Hunan chilli garlic noodles with sliced chestnuts’ (the chestnut slices made for a crunchy contrast to the soft noodles), ‘Vegetable sing chow rice noodle (a Singaporean dish), ‘Aromatic five spice flavoured moon fan rice’ (steamed and served in a lotus leaf) and ‘Spicy XO flavoured sea food fried rice’. But we recommend tasting each dish individually before combining dishes; only then will you get the proper flavour of each.
In Chinese cuisine, generally, desserts are limited. Here too the dessert menu is limited but has a quite a few interesting items such as ‘Coconut and jaggery rolls’ (similar to crispy spring rolls), lychee ice-cream and of course, the ever popular ‘Date pancake with ice-cream’. Eat and enjoy.
Chinapolis is open from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. Contact: 6612345.