We Indians are unique. Anything we acquire from the outer world, we tend to Indianise it, to an extent that it becomes an entity in itself. One of such acquisitions has been the Chinese cuisine. India is said to have first gotten a taste of it over a hundred years ago, when it was localised by a small Chinese community in Calcutta (now Kolkata). It spread from there, and reached almost every corner of the country, and now can be found in practically any state, city or town, each place lending a distinctiveness to the taste and flavors, depending on the local ingredients and palates. We have the Chinjabi (Chinese-Punjabi), or the Tangra Chinese (in Kolkata’s Tannery Hub) and various other such regional variants. We have adapted the Chinese cuisine so well that apart from the usual Chinese dishes, we have invented some of our own- Chinese Bhel, Gobhi Manchurian, Paneer Chilly, Dragon Chicken, et al. The other wise non-existent authenticity in all “Chinese” dishes in India mainly comes from two ingredients- the MSG, also sometimes called the ‘Salt of Chinese Cooking”, and Corn Flour- both used generously in almost every dish.
And all this is far from the original Chinese, which is originally somewhat bland. From a roadside eatery to a starred establishment, the Indian Chinese has become as ubiquitous as the Daal Makhani, and even the Chinese swear by it. To quote one of my wife’s Chinese colleagues- it tastes even better than what they have back home, because of the perfect blending of the Chinese recipes and Indian spices and palates! I heard someone else say about the Indian Chinese – the more gravy it has, the farther it is from the authentic Chinese.
All said and done, the Chinese cuisine, Indian or otherwise, remains my favorite. And Mainland China is perhaps the only option for good Chinese food in Ahmedabad, unless I count the starred hotels. The only hassle is, they don’t deliver. So if I’m in mood of Chinese, I have to get out of the house. Almost every weekend, Mainland China offers a lunch buffet. It was a rainy Saturday, and self and the wife were hungry after 4 hours of shopping at Gulmohar Park. Mainland China is located on the fourth floor of the mall, with a heavy door leading the diners inside, to be greeted by life-size golden statues of Chinese priests (as told by our server). The ambience is somber, with muted lighting, comfortable seating and Chinese light music playing.
Chinese artifacts adorn the walls and ceiling. There are about 30 covers (I assume), with plenty of space to move around. The buffet was neatly arranged on to one side, with the appetizers and soups served on the table. The menu of the day (picture) had a good number of options. The Chicken Sweet Corn Soup was better than the vegetarian Eight Treasure Soup, though both had an overdose of corn flour. I liked the Chicken Sui Mai and Chicken Bowl Hunan Dry in the appetizers. The Prawns Black Pepper Sauce and Fish in Hubei Sauce were the stars of the non-veg main course, and I had at least two helpings of each. The Pan-Fried Greens (Pok Choy, Babycorn, Zucchini, Garlic, Spinach in a mild, thick sauce) in the vegetarian main course was nice and easy on the palate. As is usual with buffets, the food tends to lose its flavors and consistency of textures by being kept on the burners for long periods, the noodles and rice were dry, and thus lacking the flavors.
The desserts weren’t anything great, though were basic and remain the same every time I’ve gone there.
Some pluses- the food here (both the buffet and ala carte) is not overpoweringly spicy- they try and maintain a delicate balance, especially in their dishes served in clay pots. The service is attentive, courteous and people know their menus. The seating is available for all group sizes- from 2 to 20. They readily accept any variations that the customers might ask for. The minuses, and a big one, there’s no rest room inside the restaurant. The ones located in the corners of each floor of the mall have to be used, which are not really clean and hygienic. Another- they don’t accept reservations- as is the case with almost all restaurants in Gujarat. They, however, do get panicky when there’s a full house and people are waiting outside, and that’s when the service suffers.
I’ve tried Mainland China in other cities too, and they have somewhat maintained the consistency in taste and service levels. Till Ahmedabad doesn’t get a better place for Chinese, my loyalties towards Mainland China will remain.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 3.5 | Ambience: 3.5 | Service: 3.5 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Weekend Lunch Buffet @ at INR 519 AI per person | Alcohol: No | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12:30 PM to 2:45 PM (for Buffet), 7 PM to 11 PM|
Address: Mainland China, 4th Floor, Gulmohar Park, Near Fun Republic, Iscon Crossroads, Near SG Highway, Ahmedabad | Telephone: + 91 79 4901 0880