Some tweaked, some authentic, Aromas of China gives you a taste of the Orient

We bump into bare-chested fire eaters first. We’re admiring their six packs when my friend backs into a dragon. He looks faintly annoyed.

She’s more worried about her hair. Apparently flame-breathing dragons can really ruin a blow-dry. She trips over a man with a sword next. He brushes her off and continues to pose for the camera, flexing his biceps boastfully. Somewhere Lochinvar’s sobbing. “So faithful in love and so dauntless in war?” Sigh, Sir Walter Scott. If only.

Despite the lack of knights in shining armour, we soldier on. Nothing gets between us and crab fried rice. So we elbow the fire eaters, and step on the dragon’s toes. We hear a series of ‘ouches’ from the men inside the dragon suit. The vain sword man is, of course the easiest to deal with. We just distract him with a camera flash and then run into Aromas Of China. Turns out it’s their grand opening party. Hence the whole Lord Of the Rings rigmarole outside.

Predictably enough the interiors are a clutch of clichés too. Oddly comforting really, in this age of minimalism. The whole posh-Chinese restaurant stereotype from the Nineties, when dining out involved just three options: Chinese, Indian or Continental. Which invariably meant egg fried rice and chilli chicken. Naan and tandoori chicken. Or French fries with — yes — chicken blanketed in rosemary-speckled white sauce.

In keeping with the retro scheme of things, there’s Shania Twain playing in the background, along with Ronan Keating. We pick up our menus and hum ‘From this moment’.

The waiters are quick and courteous. Although the menu offers standard upmarket Indian-Chinese fare — very similar to the tried and trusted Mainland China — there are some variations to keep things interesting. The Mongolian paper thin sliced lamb hot pot, for instance. It’s tender, with an interestingly complex web of flavours.

The crab fried rice, stained orange with chilli sauce, is delicate and fluffy. We eat it with a skillfully prepared bowl of stir fried greens. Stir fries tend to be a stumbling block in Indian restaurants, often turning out soggy and overwhelmed by soy sauce. Aromas of China makes a skilful stir fry, crunchy green spiked with generous amounts of garlic. There are also glistening hakka noodles tossed with bright julienned carrots and beans. Refreshingly the food is not oily, which means we’re still bright and happy enough to bounce up and down to Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I feel like a woman’, and order dessert.

Daarsaan. Of course. It’s the classic Indian Chinese dessert. Fried strips of dough, sticky with honey and speckled with crisp almond flakes. And date pancakes. Neat little triangles filled with the sticky, gooey goodness of dates.

Aromas of China lives up to expectations. You’re not going to be blown away by the food. Or have any epiphanies here. But it’s an ideal place for a big family dinner: something for everyone. And friendly waiters who will tolerate even your bratty five-year-old nephew who insists on carrying toy trucks to dinner.

Aromas of China is at 15/9, Khader Nawaz Khan Road. A meal for two is approximately Rs. 1000. Call 43178111 for reservations.

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