Nooba has been a part of Gurgaon’s culinary scene for a long time, but it is only now that I get to visit the restaurant in the underbelly of building number 8 at the Cybercity labyrinth in Gurgaon. I am here at the invitation of Anuj Gupta, the General Manager of the interglobe group which also runs China Club and L’Angoor, at the Global Business Park nearby.
The name Nooba is the short form for “Noodle Bar”. It has dark and pronouncedly oriental interiors and a sunny and cheerful service staff. Soon we are seated. I glance through the menu that features most of the usual suspects one would find in a Chinese restaurant. Anuj notices my somewhat unenthusiastic demeanor and gets the ‘other’ secret menu for me – the one which is offered only on special request, and to the Chinese expats. One look at the menu and I know I am going to have a great lunch. I leave the ordering to Chef Ding Jiming who promises to dish out some good food.
The first dish literally takes my breath away. It is fish (basa) hot pot, spiced with dried red Sichuan chilies (Rs 750). While the dish is not a Sichuan hot pot in the technical sense, the taste is very much so. The fish has been poached in a tongue tickling broth which is a treat for all senses. Sautéed chicken with chilly black bean (Rs 540) is a good dish, but pales in comparison to the myriad sensory joys of the hot pot. Next to be served is the melt-in-mouth sautéed tenderloin tossed with home style chilly and garlic sauce (Rs 660), which is a seemingly simple dish, but one which is the most addictive of them all. Stir fried pork skin (Rs 550) is not a dish of pork crackling as I was expecting, but lean, crispy pork cooked well.
I request Chef Ding Jiming to make me a dish that I had tasted over a decade ago at the Chicago Chinatown, and have not been able to get it out of my mind ever since. The dish is a popular dish from China’s Sichuan province and is called mapo tofu. I have ordered it countless times in India, but never gotten the same experience. It is a combination of tofu set in a spicy chili- and-bean-based sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often cooked with fermented black beans and minced beef or pork. True mapo tofu is powerfully spicy with both conventional “heat” spiciness and the characteristic “mala” (numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. As per Wikipedia, the feel of mapo tofu is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: numbing, spicy hot, hot temperature, fresh, tender and soft, aromatic, and flaky. These seven characteristics are considered to be the most defining of authentic mapo tofu.
The Chef obliges and rustles up mapo tofu with minced chicken (Rs 580). The dish is good, but much too tame for it to be the real McCoy. The gravy is too dry and the use of chicken mince robs the dish of its depth. Mixed vegetable rice (Rs 370) and mixed vegetable noodles (Rs 370) are both competent. I end the meal with the not so Chinese yet delicious chocolate roulade (Rs 180).
Nooba is easily one of the better options for Chinese food. The food here is good and some dishes are mind blowingly great. With the restaurant now looking at a location in the city it will be save us Gurgaon wallahs the torture of entering cyber city and looking for parking. Whenever you do visit Nooba, do ask for their ‘other’ menu and order the hot pot.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 3.0 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Rs1500 | Alcohol: Yes | Credit card: Yes | Timings: 11Am – 11PM
Address: 8, Tower C, DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon | Telephone: 0124-4147889/ 4147008