For over two decades Tea House Of The August Moon at the Taj Palace Hotel was one of the finest Chinese diners in the national capital’s diplomatic enclave. It inexplicably closed down in 2009, leaving a huge hole that has now been filled by the newly-opened Spicy Duck.
The restaurant is elegantly simple, in shades of white, brown, gold and bits of blue. It captures the contemporary vibrancy of the space combined with the authenticity at the heart of the cuisine.
Led by the expatriate chefs Cheang Chee Leong and Chee Kuai Oon, Spicy Duck is sure to retain the authenticity of original Chinese dishes and will manifest comfort and yet offer luxury dining to patrons through its unpretentious presentations.
“I have visited quite a lot of Chinese restaurants in the city but unfortunately, the food they offer is extremely different from the original cuisine,” Chef Cheang told IANS.
“I surveyed and figured out what is it that these restaurants lack and thought that people of Delhi should try a new taste.”
“Use of homemade concoctions and infused oils for cooking, with minimalistic use of condiments imparts lightness to the preparations at the restaurant kitchen. Most of the ingredients and raw material, including spices and vegetables, are sourced from the country of origin to keep the offering most authentic in nature,” according to the chef.
His handpicked ingredients from Chengdu in China, combined with home-infused oils and aromatic spices, will be the central feature of his signature creations.
It was now time for some serious eating.
For starters, there were crispy spring rolls with what didn’t seem to be an exciting filling of mushroom and milk in truffle oil but was actually a very tasty blend. The most delicious among the starters was undoubtedly the pan-fried chicken, Guo Tie, that consisted of ground meat wrapped in thinly-rolled dough, sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping.
The starters that didn’t impress were vegetable dao su and stir-fried chicken, cooked with bamboo shoots, mushrooms in Szechuan chilli paste. Too many steamed vegetables make them tasteless.
The best among the appetizers were the chicken Szechuan soup and stir-fried prawns. The soup was warming and comforting with chunks of chicken, cabbage, tofu and soya. The Szechuan chilli bean paste was the perfect accompaniment to the palatable and juicy prawns.
The restaurant also serves a variety of distinct beverages like Tsing Tao beer from the Shandong province of Qingdao and numerous cocktails carefully crafted by a team of “liquid chefs” using Oriental ingredients.
For mains, the two-course Peking Duck is the most sought after. The first serving of sliced skin rolled in spring onion and cucumber and sauteed in plum sauce was not all that interesting to eat as the viscous, sweet and sour taste of the condiment took away the essential taste of duck.
The second serving of stir-fried shredded duck, vegetable and black bean sauce was a delight to feast upon with the delicious chicken fried rice.
The meal ended with the lovely Pomelo mango sago dessert served with vanilla ice cream. The sticky date cake that preceded it was not as desirable as it sounds.
“There were two reasons for us to open a new Chinese experiential dining restaurant. One was to recall the long lost legacy of Tea House of August Moon,” Taj Palace General Manager Gaurav Pokhariyal told IANS.
“The second reason is that in our endeavour to be innovative and keeping up to the changing times, we needed a cuisine shift from Vietnamese to a cuisine widely accepted and experimented with, by the Indians.”
(The hotel had briefly hosted a Vietnamese eatery in between the two Chinese manifestations.)
“We aren’t really calling it fine dining as the objective is to make the restaurant very unpretentious, comfortable and relatable to the people who like Chinese across the city. And we plan on raising the bar by offering the most authentic cuisine in the most contemporary, modern and metropolitan way,” Pokhariyal explained.
Where: Taj Palace, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi
Timings: 12.30 p.m. – 23.45 p.m.
Meal for two: Rs 4,000 (approx)
(The writer, Mudita Girotra, works with IANS. Her visit was at the invitation of Spicy Duck. The views and ideas expressed in this article are her own She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)