Aww ! Going back to Empress of China (in Eros Hotel, Nehru Place) after a long hiatus felt like going to meet an old love – with the taste buds playing havoc in my mouth in anticipation of what was to follow. The place has a lot of fond memories for me one of them being the celebration of my 3rd wedding anniversary there and hubby rushing off to one of the shops in the hotel to buy me a leather purse (as per tradition, you apparently gift something in leather on any 3rd anniversary). The Chef had prepared a special tasting menu to introduce me and my friend to the new menu. The new menu is from the Szechuan province of China with a few more steamed and healthy dishes than before while also retaining some from the old menu. So on to the meal….
The non-veg starters were varied and well worth it. Particularly noteworthy were the Szechuan Chicken which was a melt in the mouth chicken with the fresh flavor of crushed black pepper accompanied by the crunchiness of the red Szechuan dried peppers and the Chilean Quick Batter Fried Sea Bass tossed with fresh chili and fermented black beans which gave a slight numbness from the Szechuan peppers on the tongue which I love and were soft and moist on the inside.
A very close second were the Lamb Cumin with onion and ginger which were soft succulent pieces of lamb with just a wee bit of sweetness coming from the caramelised onions, the Warm Duck Salad with cucumber, orange and herb salad – the USP of this salad was the lovely shredded crispy fried duck which retained its crunchiness even when I took a second helping after a while and the Chicken Pot Sticker which were pan fried chicken and celery dumplings with a perfect, thin and crispy outer covering and loaded with soft, juicy chicken and celery leaf.
To wash down the small selection of starters, I ordered a mud slide (Rs. 495) which I was not happy with as it tasted like a watered down Baileys with no taste whatsoever of the vodka, coffee and chocolate supposedly contained in it. My friend ordered a scotch infused with Darjeeling tea which was refreshing.
The restaurant boasts of Roasted Duck in Ee-fu-Noodles and Salt Baked Chicken as their signature dishes – the chef informed us that these dishes had been introduced in the menu on the suggestion of numerous Chinese expats. Perhaps these dishes require an acquired taste or need to be tweaked a bit to suit the Indian palate as I was not greatly enthused by them. It must be mentioned that both these dishes require pretty intricate preparation.
The Roasted Duck noodles are first boiled, then fried and then, for some reason, boiled again and cooked in oyster sauce. In the case of Salt Baked Chicken, the chicken is marinated overnight and then stuffed with Chinese herbs after which it is wrapped in a lotus leaf and baked in a salt encasing for 1.5 hours. It comes to your table with full fanfare on a trolley, is then flambéed and unwrapped, cut and served with a chicken seasoned broth and jasmine rice.
The Jumbo Prawns in Spicy Garlic Sauce was al dente and very well cooked but the sauce was not spicy (even though the sauce was described as spicy in the menu) and lacked the punch of a good garlic sauce. We met the same fate in the case of the Whole Steamed Red Snapper in Szechuan Sauce as the sauce was too limp to hold the dish together even though the fish was soft and tender. The Clay Pot Chicken, Stir Fried Asparagus with Snow Peas and Lotus Stem and the Braised Tofu with Broccoli would be nice dishes for a weight watcher to order. All in all, while the dishes in the main course were very good, they were clearly outclassed by the superb starters. The only thing lacking in the main course dishes which had sauces were the sauces which can easily be fine tuned to perk up the dishes.
I finish my meal with the dessert sampler of date pancake, Szechuan chocolate cake, fruit and nut roll, honey noodle and ice cream. I must add that by this time, we were gasping for breath as we felt like stuffed chickens ourselves. Must mention that they had alcoholic teas and coffees in the menu and more or less each dish comes with a suggestion of what beverage to order with it. We were, to say the least, very warmly received and looked after by the chef and the staff.
Will I drive all the way from Gurgaon here again ? YES ! (Already looking forward to the next drive).
Ratings out of 5:
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.0 | Overall : 4.0 Meal for two: Rs. 3,500 | Set Menus: Regal Menu (Rs. 3,495), Empress Meal (Rs. 2,295) and Prosperity Meal (Rs. 1,695) | Alcohol: Yes | Timings: 1200 hrs to 14.45 and 1900 to 2345 hours | Credit Card: Yes
Address : Empress of China, Eros Hotel, American Plaza, Nehru Place, New Delhi – 110019 | Phone Number : 91-11-41223344