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CHINA HOUSE, GRAND HYATT MUMBAI

A waitress rolls a tea trolley towards the table and pours me a glass of green tea after asking my preference from the variety of tea leaves on display. I pick up the glass of tea encased in a steel holder, bring it to my nose and breathe in its aroma—the fragrance and flavour linger long after the glass is emptied. Yes, tea is a welcoming gesture at China House where I am having luncheon with their celebrated executive chef Hermann Grossbichler.

 

Now, I've visited Grand Hyatt several times as it's been the venue of Lakme Fashion Week for years. I loved spending time at Gourmet Store, indulging in truffles and sandwiches, while penning show reviews in a quiet spot there. The lounge at China House is dubbed party central as it's 'the' place to be in terms of ambience, music and star-truffled guests! But this afternoon it was the first time I was indulging in Sichuan cuisine it's celebrated for. So, walking past tables under pagodas, I opened the large wooden doors at the entrance and walked into the dining area with private rooms, interactive kitchens and an lounge. I put my culinary excursion in the hands of Chef Hermann and he ordered an assortment of dumplings to begin with. Now, dimsums translates as "to touch your heart" and that's what these delicacies did! I was both surprised and impressed by the variety and added a dollop of soy in a bowl as the live interactive kitchen sent out a procession of baskets beginning with "steamed prawn dumplings wrapped in spinach" and "crystal vegetarian dumplings". It was delicious!! "Cantonese prawn siu mai" and "pot sticker with pork mince and spring onion" was beyond sumptuous. Everything we had seemed to emit flavour and freshness and we ate from basket to basket ending with "Shanghai Soup Dumpling" with ginger-infused vinegar — served on a soup spoon. Now I had been warned it may be hot to handle in one bite.. but I did and while it was fiery.. there's nothing I've had quite like it! It was artistically compelling and flavourful. There were more enticing dimsums to enjoy here but we had to pace ourselves for the next course.

 

Once we moved on to heartier dishes I was amply rewarded. The imagery of watching chefs roast "Peking Duck" in the live kitchen taunted our appetite. The duck was plump and golden, sumptuous enough for a poultry portrait!! It was carved table-side, the slices fanned out on a plate ritualistically, and then Chef Hermann kindly took over the assemblage. The pancakes were packed with standard ingredients: meat, hoisin sauce, shredded cucumber. Then it was rolled and wolfed down in no time! Both lean meat and crisp skin were excellent. The pancakes were delicate and fresh. Oh!! It was gustatory pleasure and I can now appreciate why diners return routinely for Peking Duck, arguably the best in bay. Up next was "spicy Sichuan assorted seafood" served with a portion of fried rice with smoked bamboo shoot and spring onions." I loved the aroma and portioned some out onto the fried rice on my plate. The first forkful was heavenly as I'm a sea-foodie and I quickly went in for seconds!! 
 

I also discovered that no matter how full I am there's always room for dessert particularly when Chef ordered what I now describe as 'Heaven In A Bowl' — "banana fritters with coconut ice-cream". It's awe-inspiring how a simple dish can be so delicious; nothing beats the combo of hot banana fritters with cold, creamy ice cream! Reminiscing over the luncheon, the maxim "build it and they will come" certainly applies to China House. Every new diner has been astonished by its magnitude and beauty. What I found remarkable is emphasis on quality and detail right from the design aesthetic and maintaining tradition to presentation of the dishes. What most people don't know is that they can escape here to indulge in a slow elaborate meal. I use the word "escape" because that's what you do to get away from the commonplace; try it and you'll soon discover the difference between regular and exceptional! Thank You, Chef Hermann! Bon Appétit. 

— JASMEEN DUGAL

 
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