Chinese, Indian Chinese

There is a vast array of Chinese restaurants around Bangalore, quite a few of which have multiple locations. The monikers bestowed on these eateries is amusing in and of itself, with gems like Mainland China, Aromas of China, Three Quarter Chinese, to name the well known chains. Being a Chinese food fan, and having not had the chance to indulge much in “Indian Chinese” while in the US, I am enjoying the opportunity to check out all these different places. And lets face it, when you say you don’t want to eat Indian (which I am quite apt to do, I admit), the next obvious choice is most definitely Chinese.

I do miss more authentic Chinese as ingested in Chinatown and other places where authenticity took priority over ambiance, and even the Americanized Chinese I got at restaurants like P.F. Chang’s, which had a cool decor and yummy food, consistently seen at the various outlets across the US that I visited. And I do get the occasional craving for General Tso’s Chicken, coated, battered and fried pieces of chicken with a sweetish sauce, served with a side of broccoli and white rice. Its a dish I missed living in San Diego, since that particular rendition of it that I was used to was seen only in the Northeast, from inexpensive little restaurants. Or perhaps its just that I was introduced to it and ate it a lot in my college years (standard delivery order when we’d had our fill of dorm food and had a few $ in our pockets after having done some babysitting) and thus my memories are tied to those times.

Back to the present (and Bangalore). At the Garuda Mall food court, I tried a fast food place called Beijing Bites. Too much oil and altogether too many chillies, both in the shrimp noodles and the chicken dish I ordered! I had trouble eating that meal, and will definitely not be repeating the experience. I enjoy greasy spoon Chinese as much as the next person, but this was just plain bad. I was expecting something along the lines of Panda Express, a fast food Chinese chain in malls and such in California, where I would show up when I had a craving for their famous Orange Chicken or just was feeling too lazy to cook and too cheap to shell out 15 bucks for a Thai meal. Sadly, my food court Chinese dining was a no go here. Same thing happened in Chennai too, when I tried out Wang’s Kitchen at Express Avenue Mall. Now Wang’s restaurants were a frequent choice when I was a kid, and I got all excited at the idea of their having a counter in the mall food court. Alas, the food was awful. A childhood favorite, American Chopsuey, proved to be quite inedible. I’ve also eaten at Chung’s and Canton in Jayanagar, hole-in-the-wall joints that serve up decent but nothing great fare. Though I did enjoy Chung’s Malay (flat) noodles more than expected. Canton’s fare was a tad too greasy, but their Roast Chilli Pork is actually something I can imagine ordering as a take out meal.

My next Chinese dining in Bangalore was at Three Quarter Chinese, for their lunch buffet with colleagues one Friday, and some weeks later, on a dinner date. Its as much about convenient location as anything, since there is a branch in Jayanagar, not too far from where I live. Both times, the food was decent and the ambiance quite nice, but nothing to write home about. For those wondering, the other quarter in their name derives from the North Indian food they also serve. When we were there for the lunch buffet, I found their starters (they bring out both the Indian and Chinese starters) to be the best part of the meal, which seems to be how I feel about most buffet style meals I’ve had in India thus far. There was one in particular, a honey battered chicken coated in bread that I really liked. And I really liked the fried noodles with honey and ice cream dessert. I have never seen that served in the US and its quite yummy. But otherwise, meh. For the price (not steep but definitely not economical), I expect a little more, shall we say?

When my uncle was in town last month, my mom, he and I, along with some family friends,¬† met up for dinner at the Church St. Mainland China, a chain that exists in both Chennai and Bangalore (and perhaps more places, but my exposure is limited to these two cities). It was jam packed on a Friday night, and was quite noisy, but featured pleasant decor and good service. We ordered dim sum that was done quite well, and then fried rice and some side dishes that were not memorable but perfectly adequate. For dessert we had the noodles with ice cream, the usual. There were a couple interesting items I wanted to try, but did not have the company for. I would like to check out this restaurant another time. But again, another place I think is overpriced for what you’re getting. I have already written a glowing recommendation for Red Bamboo Shoots at The Museum Inn, on Museum Rd, so will not repeat myself…I most definitely plan to go back there some time, just to eat more of their delicious and authentic dim sum served with the best black bean sauce I have ever tasted.

Last weekend, a bunch of us from work decided to go watch Rockstar (mistake, the glimpses of Shammi Kapoor in his last screen appearance notwithstanding); how a movie can go so wrong in the second half after starting off so well and setting a high standard in its first 1+ hour, is quite beyond me! Thoroughly irritated, our group then trooped over to Church St in search of a late lunch. We were not in the mood for anything expensive, and were evenly split between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and were vaguely thinking of a beer as well (those of us that drank, that is). After walking up and down the street and coming to no accord (big surprise, 8 voices to be heard and considered, after all), we finally descended on Hong Kong Hustle, an Asian eatery that has very little going for it in terms of ambiance, and could definitely use better service, but whose food and indeed, range of cuisine, was a pleasant surprise. I was sorely tempted to try their Thai or Indonesian¬† offerings, rather than good ol’ Chinese, for the names and descriptions of the dishes felt¬† authentic and likely to be good. However, that will have to wait for my next visit.

Hungry and at that stage when making choices was too hard, we all went for the buffet, which was Rs. 299 + taxes and service charges, coming to Rs. 370 a head at the end of the meal. Their starters included Gobi Manchurian, veg and non-veg dim sum, fried shrimp wantons, spicy and saucy chicken drumsticks, and a couple other vegetarian options I did not partake of. For the main course, we were asked to go over to a stir fry station set up with a range of fresh veggies, where we made our selections and handed the bowls over at the counter, and then were given a choice of 6 sauces and the option of fried rice or noodles to go along with the dish. I had a college moment again, transported back to stir fry station excitement when they had that, rather than the usual assembly line food service. What impressed me the most about Hong Kong Hustle’s offering was the spread of veggies and the four, yes, four, different kinds of mushrooms. I loaded up on them, as well as yellow and red peppers (don’t like green, which is the most common in India), baby corn, and Kai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli) and Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage) or their equivalent. And not being a vegetarian, I also requested lamb for my stir fry (to avoid offending the vegetarians and polluting the counter, the non-veg choices were added in the kitchen), with the options being chicken, fish, and lamb.

For dessert, we were all served the three choices on individual plates: crispy honey noodles, fresh fruit, and a Thai dessert that I really love and was not even aware could be found locally, consisting of sweet coconut milk with lychees and melon and pomegranate. The fruits used are interchangeable; its that delectable coconut milk, creamy and yet light and refreshing, that makes the dessert. Aside from a loud group of obnoxious women who were speaking like they were at their local fish market rather than a lunch time outing at a nice restaurant, nothing marred my experience at Hong Kong Hustle. I am already ready to go back, and next time will definitely be trying the non-Chinese offerings, and hopefully their desserts will live up to my expectations…

Natasha Ali

Natasha's first foray into food writing has been with Chef at Large. Who knew all those years spent eating food, reading about it and looking for the next restaurant to try or watching cooking shows would have left such an indelible impression?! She's back in India after having spent over a decade in the US where she studied as well as taught in academia and now works as a content writer seeing as she can write about pretty much anything. Movie mad, obsessed with the English language, and never one to turn down a glass of good wine, cup of tea, or a good book, she's open to trying any dish once, she enjoys a variety of cuisines with favorites being Ethiopian, Thai, and Lebanese. Natasha covers Bangalore for Chef at Large and can be reached at natasha.ali@www.chefatlarge.in