Food

A taste of retro China

Real experiences: (From top left)

Real experiences: (From top left)  

Restaurateur Zorawar Kalra’s ShangHigh takes patrons back to a time when recipes were sacrosanct and untouched

In the last year alone, restaurateur Zorawar Kalra has revamped a substantial number of his existing properties. There was River to Oceans which became Tygr; Farzi in Kamala transformed into Younion; Kode turned into another Asian establishment named Hotel ShangHigh. The new gastronomical entrant to the city sits prominently as you enter Kamala Mills in Lower Parel.

For long now now, Kalra’s Massive Restaurants stable is known for introducing the contemporary Indian to new modern food and cocktails. So it’s noteworthy that ShangHigh goes back in time and with a serving of retro Chinese. “I am a big lover of modern food,” says Kalra who is a huge fan of Chinese food. “There are a lot of modern Asian restaurants out there already; including PaPaYa [also by Kalra]. This time, I had a clear concept in mind — that of retro, unapologetically authentic food. It was a conscious decision to invent a brand that focused on really heart-warming, comforting food.”

With the new restaurant, Kalra wants to focus entirely on the food with just six signature cocktails that will keep changing every month. The menu has been designed by chef Pankaj Jha (an oft Kalra collaborator), who tells us that in addition to travelling, he has had a chance to work with authentic Chinese chefs abroad. The two experiences have of course helped shape the direction of ShangHigh’s menu. “Retro Chinese is something that one would get to eat in Chinese homes and original Chinese restaurants, where the recipes are untouched and presented just as they should be,” says Jha adding that the recipes at ShangHigh have not been modified in the least to placate an Indian or modern palate. “This means importing special ingredients that aren’t commonly found here such as the banana chilli or tisen tsin pepper,” says the chef.

To create a retro vibe, ShangHigh sports a giant dragon and typical Chinese paper lanterns (with colour changing lights though) and umbrellas suspended from the ceiling. Tones of red dominate the room, reminding patrons of the typecast sets of Chinese hotels in Hollywood films.

The island bar stands as a memory of Kode, it’s covered with what look like Christmas tree decorations though. While Kalra plans to open properties in two more countries this year in addition to focusing on tier-two cities, he’s not lost love for Kamala Mills. “The business was definitely very heavily affected after the fire and never really recovered until the end,” Kalra lets on about the future. “But I think something new and a good quality product will always have its own draw. Younion’s our biggest hit today, and we are hoping the same will hold true for Hotel ShangHigh.”

Take a bite

As the conversation ends, suddenly the lights go dim and a short Samba dance begins, something that recurs every 45 minutes or so. It’s revealed there will be a mix of performances every day. Everything else fades when a cocktail glass arrives (Kalra has custom-designed glasses at all properties). The Age of Invention (₹495), uses milk washing to present a refreshing hibiscus tea and litchi concoction. Another drink, The Great Emigration (₹495) is a baiju and lemongrass cocktail with egg whites shaken in perfectly. The mood changes with a spoonful of Crab Rou and Enoki (₹285) a clear soup that instantly warms the heart. An eternal love affair with crystal dumplings is more than satisfied with the Pok Choy and Shiitake dumplings (₹285). Chef Jha is indulgent with another plate of crystal prawn dumplings and aromatic coriander (₹325). The Smoked Duck Breast salad (₹295) with a Hoisin mango vinaigrette is a must-have. In addition to baos and pot stickers, Cheung Fun is another crowd favourite on the menu, like the Crispy Cheung Fun with Prawn and Chive (₹295). As for the tien tsin pepper, if you love some heat on your palate, the pork ribs (cheekily named At Your Own Risk, ₹455) use the hottest chilli from China balanced with a mix of other spices and herbs. There’s a good balance of meats, with sections in the mains dedicated to duck, chicken, seafood and pork, and there is a Jain menu too. And if you have any space left for dessert, Matcha Delight (₹425), a mousse with crisps might just manage to tempt you.

ShangHigh, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel; phone: 49716931; noon to 1 a.m.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:08:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-taste-of-retro-china/article30974557.ece

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