Majestic Stuff: Royal China

I must write about this awesome dinner which I had at a restaurant called Royal China at Turner Road, Bandra. I think they have a branch in South Bombay too and I also think that I read somewhere that they are a part of an international chain.

I have read about this place in the past have wanted to go there for a while. We went finally went there on Monday night to celebrate Kainaz's promotion. She was treating me so a Chinese place seemed apt as I am quite fond of Chinese cuisine.

Everything about Royal China smacks of a special occasion place - the ambiance, the food, the prices (!). The entrance is a like a separate section which is tastefully done with little Chinese statues - the dragon, laughing Buddha - the usual suspects and little red benches. You then enter the main section which has nice classy tables, a muted decor and dim, romantic, lighting. There is enough space between the tables unlike, say, a China Gate where you are almost sitting on each others laps.

Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera. So for once, as Kainaz put it, we could have hot food. So you will have to depend on my words to get an idea of the food. I really missed my camera though. I have written in the past about how most Chinese places, unlike the Italian ones, don't spend much time on decorating the food. Well, Royal China, was different. Each dish brought to the table was a visual treat.

We started with a salt and pepper spare ribs. The spare ribs were arranged in a nice criss cross pattern and were tastefully garnished with finely chopped bell peppers, deep fried onions and little red and green chillies. This garnish was like a crown placed in the centre on the ribs and added to the beauty of the dish. It looked like a woody, Van Gogh.

The pork was done just right. It was deep fried and yet juicy and very, very succulent. And there was just a hint of fat, which was really sensuous, and added to the taste. If the fat left a soft, seductive taste, then the fiery chillies of the garnish would suddenly pop in between bites like can can dancers. I was amazed by the speed at which they got it after we ordered the dish. Which was good as we were both hungry.

The dish was magical. It went really well with my red wine. Kainaz had a pineapple and vodka based cocktail which left a celebratory feel to her evening.

We followed this with a roast duck in Cantonese sauce. The duck was served on a brass tray and was sliced the way one has seen it in the Far East or on Kylie Kwong's show. So you had a fillet like portion which was neatly cut into big French Fry like slices, in two rows. A bit like two sets of piano keys. The sauce was lovely and the duck had been flavoured in it. There was very little, light reddish, sauce in the tray. This is the way Kainaz and I like our side dishes. We don't like an excess of gravy (which most Chinese restaurants in India tend to serve) as we feel that this takes away from the taste of the meat.

How do I describe the taste? At the risk of offending the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, I must say that the closest analogy is that of a tantalising striptease. The first bite was that of the skin which was crisp, crinkly - crunchy, but not tough. The next bit was into soft, plying, meat which was tender and wonderfully flavoured. Just writing about this makes me feel like shedding my jammies, pulling on a pair of Jeans and heading back to Royal China right now.

We had the duck with crispy noodles with vegetables. This dish brought back memory of the Cantonese Chinese dishes of Calcutta restaurants, which was cooked up by the China Town residents. The noodles were crisp the way I like my noodles. In fact I try to get this crisp touch when I make noodles at home. Mind you, when I say 'crisp', I am referring to a pleasant, full bodied crispness, and not the wafer/ bhajia like crispness of what is served as Chop Suey. And, on this crisp noodle, bed was a mix of vegetables with a hint of a white, corn flour based sauce. It went very well with the roast duck.

The dish reminded me of the noodles I had had years back at Delhi which my would be uncle in law's, mother made for me. She is a very good cook and I still remember the restaurant like Chinese and Biriyani that she had made (on separate days). And, I am talking on 1992. So you can imagine how good it must have been.

Coming back to Royal China, I finished the meal, with a chilled, slightly glassy, jelly like Mango Pudding. Kainaz didn't like it. But I did as it cooled my palate after all the fried stuff.

As for me, I loved the treat!

The service was friendly, prompt and the person who took the order guided us well when we had questions on the dishes.

It is on the expensive side with drink ranging from Rs 250 to 500 (USD 6 to 12) a glass and the dishes ranging from Rs 350 to 650 (USD 8 to 16) a plate with some exotic dishes like the Peking duck hitting Rs 1000 (USD 25).

At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest Royal China is like Beethoven's 9th symphony in comparison to the more Bally Sagoos like 5 Spice

What followed was a feast was a feast of classic, authentic Chinese food.

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