Restaurant Week is a week of indulgence for me. But excesses of the excellent variety are always welcome in my books! This is the second year for the Citibank Restaurant Week India (RWI) in Bangalore (23rd Sep to 2nd Oct) and reservations open for Citibank customers today. Everyone else will have to wait till the 18th of September to get a chance to dine in the finest restaurants of Bangalore – think Olive Beach, Szechwan Court, Dakshin, Caperberry and a whole lot more! RWI runs twice a year in March and September, simultaneously across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The prix fixe menu allows the restaurants to showcase their signature dishes in each category and diners get a chance to experience this at an unbelievable price of Rs.750/-++ in Bangalore. You need to make reservations online before you can dine – so having a fast broadband connection and the gumption to beat the hundreds of others vying for a dinner slot helps.
I was offered a preview dinner for RWI at the Szechwan Court a week ago and I gladly accepted. The Oberoi in my opinion has no equal when it comes to service and I have always been a fan of their award winning restaurants. I had offered a step motherly treatment to Szechwan Court in favour of Rim Nam and Le Jardin on many occasions. So when RWI put Szechwan Court on the list – It was my first choice. We strolled in for our 8:00 PM reservation and were promptly taken to our seats by the window. The restaurant is a subtle mirror of the orient with red and gold hues. With large windows looking out to the garden and soothing music playing in the background you can sink into the comfortable chairs and await a truly five star experience.
We were offered hot towels to refresh our weary selves (he he .. ), while they poured us a cup of hot Jasmine Tea. It was raining cats and dogs that day and the jasmine tea was just what the doctor ordered. You can choose to order drinks to go with your food or even some fantastic wines or just beer like my dear companion did. (Additional cost from RWI prices). I chose to stick to the Jasmine tea because I was designated driver!
A bowl of fried noodles arrived to keep us company while the waiter arrived with our soups. I tried the Lemon Coriander Vegetable Clear Soup. The broth was light and lemony and the addition of mushrooms and sliced veggies made this appetizing and just perfect to kick off the evening. My companion ordered the Hot and Sour Chicken Soup – which lived up to its name. This is a thick soup with chicken and bean curd and can be quite filling.
The Appetizers arrived next. The Chicken Dry Chilli (which sounded quite pedestrian to me) was actually quite a revelation. The Chilli was the insane hit of the Szechwan pepper tossed with some wood ear mushrooms (tiny crunchy fungus) for texture. If you like your adrenaline rush – definitely order this. The single portions are quite large and I felt the starter could have easily been shared by two people.
The vegetarian appetizer was a choice between Spring Rolls or Salt and Pepper Vegetables. By now I had learnt my lessons – don’t let the simple sounding names fool you because the final dish is anything but! We were veering towards the spring rolls but our waiter insisted that we try the Salt and Pepper Vegetables. He claimed everyone who came to the restaurant ordered it and loved it. So ofcouse we indulged him and he delivered to his promise. The Salt and Pepper Vegetables were a medley of different veggies from Carrots, aubergine, Orka, Babycorn and peppers coated in a light batter and deep fried. The surprise was how great it tasted. While not very different from our Bhajjis, I can vouch that no one makes orka taste this good!
The RWI menu offers you a choice between Soup or Appetizer. If you are two or more diners, definitely get the appetizers. Totally worth the extra calories.
There are four choices for main course (2 veg and 2 non veg) and Szechwan Court lets you pick two main courses! So if you are two diners you can pretty much cover the entire menu! The Braised Tofu in Black Bean Sauce is pure protein for the vegetarians. The black bean sauce is slightly sweet and has bits of the bean itself. Tofu is something that has a neutral flavor and pretty much picks up the flavors of what it is cooked in. So if you love Black Bean sauce (I do!) this is a must try.
I noticed that most of the dishes came in a simple white plate with no frills or fancy garnishes. The chef explained the ‘Wok to Plate’ concept. Chinese food is meant to be eaten piping hot. The dish is cooked in a very hot iron wok for a very short period of time. This is just enough to bring all the flavors together and cook the food. Once it’s done, it’s transferred to a plate and immediately bought to your table so that no flavors are lost in translation! The focus is clearly on the food here and it shows.
The Chicken in Black Pepper Sauce was another excellent entre with succulent pieces of chicken and green peppers in a pungent and spicy black pepper sauce. The sauce is tasty enough that you might be inclined to ask for more of it. That I realized, was a typical Indian request! We love to douse our rice or noodles with ‘gravy’ as we call it. But typical Chinese cuisine has very little sauce and it just serves as a backdrop for the meat and not the other way around. Your local Chinese restaurants take the easy (and cheaper) way out by resorting to the latter.
You can choose to accompany your main course with either plain Steamed Rice or Vegetable Soft Noodles. We opted for the latter and it was a pleasant enough (if not amazing) accompaniment. Let me warn you that the single portions are quite large and after stuffing my face with the appetizers I had to struggle to make room for the main course.
I washed my meal down with another cup of Jasmine Tea (bliss) and scanned the dessert section. By now we were thoroughly pampered. (Oberoi service I tell you – they make you feel like you’re the most special person in the room!) My companion chose the easy (boring) way out and got himself a never fail Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream. It was great but which brownie has failed to score browine point ever??! I wanted something with an oriental twist and coconut appealed more than lychee that day. So I got myself a Coconut Ice Cream. The softest, most creamy Coconut Ice Cream I have tasted, garnished with a beautiful sprig of mint. Most Coconut ice creams leave me underwhelmed because a. they are grainy, b. they taste like they were made from Dabur Coconut Cream and c. they leave a itchy feeling in that back of your throat when you are done. This was superlative because it resulted in none of the above and actually made me lick the bowl clean. Perfect.
So for noveau Chinese cuisine and exceptional service – head to the Szechwan Court this restaurant week. You’ll come away with completely different expectations on what Chinese food should taste like. If you have a group of 8 people, lucky you – they have a private room paneled in silk that you can reserve in advance.
The Oberoi, Bangalore
39, M.G. Road,
Bangalore – 560001
Ph: 080 2558 5858/ 4135 8202
Parking: Valet Available
Cost: Rs.750/-++ for the special RWI menu from 23rd Sep to 2nd Oct