Pan Asian cuisine has been trending in the city of Bangalore for a long time now and everyone few months a new venture serving up Pan Asian fare crops up in this city.
I have wonderful memories of my visit to China which initially I was not looking forward to, thanks to all the ghastly stories one hears about the food there. But 14 days travelling around China opened my eyes to a world full of unique flavours, aromas and dishes which left me craving for more.
I always knew our version of Chinese cuisine is just an amalgamation of the flavours our Indian palate would accept and though I have always enjoyed the dishes, I reminisce about my experience and wonder if I would ever taste authentic Chinese food again.
Thanks to a good friend, I had the most wonderful Saturday recently when I was invited to savour a few dishes from the Mandarin Calling food festival organized by The Lalit Ashok at their restaurant OKO.
MANDARIN CALLING Menu has been specially created by their expat Chef Luo Jinhong from Hunan Province, China. Chef Luo brings with him around 20 years of experience and has created a exclusive menu from his vast experience.
While I refrain from accepting invitations that require me to travel far, I had this feeling that this one was not to be missed. The Lalit Ashok is located in one of the oldest and most beautiful areas of Bangalore surrounded by lush greenery and old Bangalore charm. Though I have visited here for functions, this was my first visit to their restaurant, OKO located on the 6th floor.
The restaurant may seem unassuming yet elegant at a glance but the view of Bangalore is mesmerizing and one cannot help walk up to the long windows to enjoy the view. There are very few hotels which provide a view such as this and this set the mood for the lunch.
The restaurant has a vast area of seating and also an additional sofa arrangement at the back unmissable with its bright red upholstery and chandeliers which I assume would beautiful when lit at night.
Our group of 7 occupied this area and began our meal with Watermelon & Coriander Cooler, a welcome respite for the ones who braved Bangalore traffic to get here. While we caught up with each other, we munched on some pickled lotus stems with peanuts and fried wontons served with a tangy chilli sauce.
Our meal began as it customary with a light Asparagus and Corn Soup followed by a Spicy and Sour Cucumber Salad. I realized that it is indeed quite a combination when I tried both the soup and salad one after the other. The flavours of salad were very different and I loved the Chef’s use of mild and spicy sauces.
Moving on to one of my favourite courses in Chinese cuisine – Dumplings.
We were treated to a veg version, Corn and Chestnut Dumplings as well as seafood one – Prawn Dumplings. When I visited China, my friends with whom I stayed taught me to make dumplings and tasting these soft and succulent parcels sent a few shivers down my spine. I recommend the Prawn Dumplings without a second thought though do not expect the usual Indo-Chinese version one is used to.
Our starters were another highlight of the meal with a wonderful array of different meats and vegetables tossed in some delightfully flavoured sauces and spices by the Chef.
The Chinese loved their vegetables and quite contrary to belief they are known for some of the best vegetarian preparations using different ingredients such as tofu, mushrooms, planktons, bok choy etc. We were in for a treat as Tofu Chilli Black Bean in Hunan Style was the Chef’s veg appetizer for the meal.
As much as I loved the Tofu, my eyes light up when I saw the different meat and seafood appetizers brought to the table.
Chong Qing Chicken with Onion and Dry Chilli was an explosion of flavours and I fell in love with this appetizer that I almost forgot my surroundings while digging in. Though not much of Lamb person, I did enjoy the crunchy Crispy Fried Lamb Beijing Style.
In my years of tasting and experiencing different dishes, I have the utmost respect for a Chef when they manage to bring out all the flavours especially in Seafood such as fish, prawns, lobster, crab etc.
Chef Luo Jinhong did not disappoint with his masterpiece appetizer of the meal – Pomfret in Schezuan Pickled Chilli sauce which made me utter a few guttural sounds of satisfaction.
While we talked about our different views and mutual appreciation of the appetizers, we were served Iced Tea Sangria followed by our main course arrived. The usual fare of Olive Vegetable Fried Rice, Chilli Black Bean Fried Noodles with Schezuan Pepper Oil along with Sizzling Eggplant in Barbeque sauce, Tofu with Leek Hunan, Slice Chicken Shui Zhu Sauce and King Prawn in Xiang la Sauce.
Though under normal circumstances, I would dig into my main course rice and noodles along with the non veg sides, I am glad I decided to give the Eggplant and Tofu a try. One of those rare moments, when I vouch more for the vegetarian side dishes. That being said, little did I know the best was yet to come when I took a bite of the King Prawns. Hands down the best dish of the laid out menu that day.
The meal ended on a simple note with a unassuming dessert Steamed Chocolate Bun with Honey Butter Sauce. Do not be disappointed with the look of this dessert as a bite of it would bring a smile to your face.
Every meal needs that special something to call it a day and the Apple & Cinnamon Mocktail was the best digestif one could ask for.
MANDARIN CALLING – OKO – THE LALIT ASHOK BANGALORE
Date : 25th August – 3rd September 2017 for Lunch and Dinner
Ala Carte menu – 4 Course Chef’s Choice Menu – Starter, Soup, Main Course & Dessert, priced at INR 1350++.
For Reservations : 9980158286