The Art of the East- Memories of China

Think of one of the most popular cuisines; Chinese cuisine is sure to pop into most people’s minds. You see them almost everywhere and that is a fact. They are given changes according to where they are found to suit people’s palate; Indian-ized, Western-ized. So much that at the end of the day you really have to ask yourself, “What does real Chinese food taste like? Have I ever had any?” Well let me assure you that in most cases the answer would be ‘No’! It was such with me till I walked into ‘Memories of China’ at Vivanta by Taj at MG Road.

 

We were greeted in by Murali Babu, the senior Restaurant Manager and he made our whole evening one of absolute pampering. I had to just think of something and it was served. The staff made you want to lounge, relax and they help you enjoy every nuance of the food and drinks served to you. The ambience was quietly elegant and had a chic charm. The gold leafed roofs, the shimmering white walls, the exquisitely engraved window panels; the clichéd idea that all Chinese restaurants were done in red and gold with elaborate fan decorating the wall was completely done away with. Wooden structures warmed the white and gold deco and the delicately designed modish deco did justice to the restaurant that saw influences of ‘The Paris of the East’; Shanghai.

 

We sat down and the mysteries of the East unfolded in front of our eyes. It was a true Odyssey into the best Chinese that I have ever savoured. Paired with some delicious Chardonnay which I was surprised to experience suited my dishes, every bite was sheer pleasure.

We started with the Amuse Bouche, an ensemble of honey chilly lotus stem, asparagus and black fungus, pan fried silken tofu with black bean dressing. Each section was so beautifully arranged that I almost felt sad to dig in; but dig in I did. This was followed by a Crab Meat soup that I saw my husband tasting with his eyes completely closed in delight and a hot and sour vegetable soup for me; properly thick, with the right tempering of the two flavours. The vegetables used really worked its magic on my taste-buds; the highest quality of ingredients that were so fresh that you could hear them crackle in freshness with each bite.

 

We tried a few different appetizers, but I will mention the Crackling spinach. Now this was a recipe I have tried unsuccessfully to master in the past and I was envious at the perfection with which it was cooked here. Chef Thomas personally came out to chat and explained the secret behind the recipe. This was an aspect of service I really enjoyed at Memories of China; personal attention which made all the difference to our evening. I saw the chef having a quick chat at every table and asking people for personal preferences in taste. How many times have I gone for a meal and struggled to order only to be left disappointed. I felt here that each dish was customized to my taste, and it was.

 

The main course was food made in heaven. I had the burnt garlic fried rice, mapo tofu, wok tossed string beans and spicy Schezwan noodles. The tofu was buttery and perfectly cooked. Juicy and full of the most amazing flavour while the beans were fresh and tender. But the Peking duck stole the show. I am vegetarian, but seeing the wonder on my husband’s face, I have to give points to it. The chef, Amar Daimari, prepared it in front of us and it was quite the spectacular moment of the evening. Having specialized in Cantonese and Schezwan cuisine, the deft artistic way he put the dish together was quite the sight. The duck, imported from Singapore, had been tempered and seasoned for a whole day. It was cut into tender slices and rolled in soft rice pancakes and served with fresh veggies and a sweet red bean sauce. Each slice of the duck had a crispy golden skin, but what amazed me was the sight of the inside, soft and tender and almost like butter. The other highlight on my husband’s plate was the stir fried king prawns and scallops in ginger oyster sauce.

 

And all this royal food was rounded off with chocolate mousse, baked cheese cake and Madeline’s. Perfectly crumbly pastry with soft, rich filling inside. The evening couldn’t have been any better. Great food can be an art that comes with perfection. But what makes Memories of China stand out is the magic they create with the ingredients at hand that is customized to suit their guests. A twist here and there and it is the most perfect morsel to have ever graced your mouth. The care to details and attention to guests was remarkable. I saw a lot of people sitting around and treating the place like their home. The repeat guests are here for one reason; to experience the truly remarkable evening that memories of China offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The death lock of confusion!

If you are one of those people who have been living away from home on your own for a while, and if you can be categorized as being one of those who have a great relationship with your folks and like being home, you will completely understand what I’m talking about. Let me lay out your story; you wake up grumbling about work, you skip breakfast, finish up your morning chores at breakneck speed while still half asleep, rush to work and are fully functional only by the afternoon, wait for the evening when you are back home, come home and finish up chores and bathe, maybe head out to meet someone but otherwise stay home and watch tv and nibble on some junk food or other completely unhealthy but great on the palate food, watch something on your laptop or read a book till it is almost dawn and then fall asleep grumbling about the next day. Weekends are what you live for; you love the fact that you can wake up late, that you are in no hurry for anything or anyone, you catch a movie, you head out for an evening of fun; the whole weekend reeks of relaxation and happiness and the sheer joy that accompanies laziness! Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of single women, living alone away from home. You like this life. It’s not your long term plan, but for now it’s great because you hope that the ‘settling’ will eventually come and till then this is just what you need; independence, freedom…all that you dreamed of (though truthfully, you did think it would have been more glamorous; damn sex and the city and their great clothes and shoes 😦   )

Then you head home for a break; a few days at the most. Life is blissful. No cooking, no cleaning, no washing, no buying groceries, no worrying about bills, no travelling in autos; in fact nothing is the key word. The days are an epitome of LAZY amazing days. You have been missed, so you are pampered, you catch up on family gossip, you eat all the great food that tastes that way ONLY if your mom cooks them, even your beds are made in the morning and glasses of juice and tea appear magically when you reach out for them!!!

Now comes the tug of war created in hell. When you are on your own, you miss being pampered, having things done for you. You wish you were with your parents, you are convinced that your life is boring, that you should have never left home…The conflicting thoughts are endless. Then you head home. For me, the biggest problem is how much I miss my cats, hate the fact that I have left them behind, the endless guilt, the worry that no one else can clean my house the way I do, the constant worry of what’s happening there, missing out on all the evenings out and the latest movies, wondering what’s happening at work…A common story eh? So this is the death lock of confusion that prevents bliss. But this is so essential in life because it makes you appreciate the other side even more. Know what you have going for you and makes you realize that you wouldn’t exchange places with anyone else in the world. (Though it would have been easier if everyone lived together and was happy, but that’s another stream of thought!!!) So here’s to home, parents, family, friends, pets, independence and dependence. Love the whole package.

26 for few more hours!!

I sit and think about what I should do tomorrow for my birthday. I remember the excitement that used to build in me when I was younger on the eve of my birthday. The happiness of having a birthday party, for being the birthday girl, for having my mom bake me the most amazing cakes in the world, all the kisses and coddling I get. I wonder when that feeling went away. What is it about birthdays that make you want to be happy and have as much as fun as possible? Its like all the good things in the world should be crammed into that one day. So what about all the rest of the days? Why are they not each as special as the birthday? Are you allowed just this one day a year to feel good, to be happy, to be special???

My friends are coming from Chennai and Pune to be with me, I was given a gorgeous, to die for dress as a pre-birthday gift from another dear one, I know tomorrow I’ll feel special and loved when everyone I care about will call me and try to be there to spend the day with me. The evening out is definitely going to be fun. And as I put on the dress, and get ready to go out, a little bit of that lost excitement I felt as a child will creep in. Everyone will wish me good health and cheer and happiness. And I’ll love every bit of it. But what I will wish for the most is that I’ll feel special every day for the rest of the year, that I’ll be happy and in good humour for the rest of the year, that I’ll be blessed with good health for the rest of the year, that good things will happen for the rest of the year; and most of all that I can make everyone I love feel special and happy and proud for the rest of the year. And next year on my birthday, I’ll wish for all this all over again.

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