Lured by the urge to discover and re-discover restaurants in Mumbai, I set out to taste the menu of Worli’s China Bistro this time. I was invited by FBAI to partake in an amazing Food Bloggers’ dinner there. It was a group of 12 foodies, seated in a special room equipped for big groups, such as ours. China Bistro in Worli has simple décor, but a seating of around 140 people in Mumbai is impressive. What didn’t impress me was the walk through a somewhat lonely, long corridor as you enter China Bistro, and it gives you an impression that you have mistakenly entered the restaurant from the wrong side.
Do not expect cheeky, frivolous Asian delicacies here, but rustic and comforting Asian food that will fill your tummy and treat your tongue with different flavours. They do serve huge portions. I think it would have been better if we were served small portions of starters. By the time we finished our starters, we were extremely full and hence, could eat very little portions of the main-course dishes.
Before I proceed with the dishes we tasted there, I would like to suggest you that if you are in and around Worli, just pop by China Bistro for some gorgeous drinks! Yes, we loved the cocktails. All the drinks served to us were quite good. The Bellini was perfect for the occasion. My picks at China Bistro were the Green Apple and Basil Martini, the Classic Margarita, the Cucumber and Wasabi Mojito and of course, the royal Bellini. The delightful Bellini prompted us to experiment with more kinds of cocktails. The drinks made our day!
After we rattled off our drink order for the second time while sipping on the wonderful cocktails, we had a look at the menu, neatly rolled up on our plates with pretty golden and silver ribbons. There were two separate sets of menu for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. China Bistro served delicious Vegetarian Chinese food that day and I was impressed to see that there were enough options in the vegetarian menu. The non-vegetarian menu was equally interesting. In the special non-veg set menu set for us, there were seven starters, one soup, six dishes in the main course and two kinds of desserts.
The vegetarian Som Tam Salad was a refreshing and piquant start. The crunchy green papaya dressed in a tangy, sweet, sour and spicy Thai dressing was a hit among the bloggers. I loved it too, although it obviously lacked the boldness of fish sauce, as it was a vegetarian salad. If you are a vegetarian, you won’t mind the absence of fish sauce in it anyways. Go for it, as the Som Tam in China Bistro is packed with punch!
Mumbai is now opening up to the bao-culture, which are steamed, meat-filled buns that originated in China in as early as third century AD. A popular Asian breakfast and snack, these baos are eaten in different avatars across Asia. There are a few restaurants in Mumbai that have their own versions of Baozi now. China Bistro has mouth-watering vegetarian and non-vegetarian Baos. The Barbequed Chicken Bao was absolutely yum, with beguiling textures of spicy chicken and fresh greens reclined on each pillow-soft bao buns. The Barbeque Pickled Bao (vegetarian), on the other hand, was good, but needed little more filling.
The moist and plump dumplings were soul-satisfying. Both the Chicken Basil Dumplings and Vegetable Basil Dumplings were very flavourful, and those four sauces that they serve the dumplings with, made the experience better. I loved the Sweet Chilli Sauce with these dumplings.
Among others, I also tasted China Bistro’s mind-blowing vegetarian starter: the Crispy Lotus Stem with Black Pepper and Curry Leaves. This dish is a must-have, whether you are a vegetarian or not! I loved the balance of flavours and the happy, homely feel that curry leaves impart to the dish.
Watch out their BBQ dishes, dear foodies, as these are loaded with sultry flavours to die for! The Korean Barbequed Chicken came smoking hot on a mini BBQ grill. The taste was just right to fall in love with barbecued dishes once again! But wait, do taste their Fire-Roasted Mandarin Chicken, which looked somewhat similar to the Korean Barbequed Chicken, but tasted different. I loved both, but if given a choice, I would pick the Fire-Roasted Mandarin Chicken for its boldness.
Vegetarians, if you love tofu, try the Pan-Grilled Tofu with Black Pepper and Pak Choy. And if you love seafood, get smitten by the Mango Mustard Sea Bass and the Singapore Chilli Prawns. Both these dishes were good, but the Sea Bass dish was pleasingly punchy! The pungent mustard combines with sweet and sour mango puree in a unique sauce which definitely makes the dish Mango Mustard Sea Bass as one of the best dishes to try in China Bistro, Worli.
If you love one-bowl meals and want to order just one dish at China Bistro for a no-frills dinner, I would recommend the comforting and filling bowl of Burmese Khao Suey, which comes as a coconut-milk-based curry soup bowl, with different kinds of toppings (including boiled rice noodles, boiled eggs, fried onions, etc.) served separately. Do squeeze a wedge of lemon or two and sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves for a yum bowl of Khao Suey!
If you still did not fill up on drinks and starters, try the elaborate main course. We took a short break after the starters, as we were quite full. We were offered palate cleansers: Popsicles of Lychee sorbet that were simple and extraordinary. We felt like a child, licking the popsicles off, in which the subtle flavour of lychee muddled so well with black salt and crushed black pepper! Palate cleansers can also be addictive, and this is what we saw in China Bistro.
Our cheerful host, Mr. Nikhil, kept us entertained with the Chinese folklore of Terracotta warriors and stories of the first king in China, Quin Shi Huang (260-210 BC). He even showed us a picture of the Terracotta warriors, which were buried with the king with the belief that these will protect the king in his afterlife. After we chit-chatted on Chinese culture, we welcomed the main course dishes, which looked very tempting. We tasted the Thai Green Curry Chicken with Jasmine Rice, which has its vegetarian version as well. The Thai Green Curry here is creamy and delicious, and is well-presented in a well of steamed Jasmine rice. It was very satisfying and one plate would easily satisfy two hungry bellies.
Stir-Fried Asian Greens with White Garlic and the Steamed Fish with Greens and Garlic were among those few dishes that were comparatively non-spicy. I loved both the dishes and devoured every last smudge! The Vegetables in Mahlak Sauce was, however, okayish.
The Lemongrass Fried Rice was outstanding. We took time to luxuriate every morsel of the Lemongrass Fried rice. The rice was cooked perfectly, and although stir-fried, it did not have extra oil. The aroma of lemongrass was prominent in the rice, and the dish was mildly spiced. I generally avoid rice during dinner, but this Lemongrass rice was so good that I had to stop myself after I took a third helping. This is undoubtedly one of the best dishes here.
The Screwed-up Noodles in Pixian Bean Sauce is avoidable, unless you love pasta to such a crazy extent that you get your pasta tossed up with Asian sauces.
As I love lobsters, I was looking forward to the Lobster in Hot Bean Sauce. It came in a huge plate is really value for money, with a good number of bite-sized morsels of lobster batter-fried and later served with a hot bean sauce. The lobsters were very flavourful, but once I tasted the sauce, I was disappointed. The Black bean sauce was tad salty. Black bean paste, the core ingredient for this sauce, has to be used very carefully in gravies and sauces, as it itself is salty and fermented. I think, if the chefs at China Bistro reduce the salt content of this sauce a bit, the dish would taste awesome.
We had no complaints about the Indonesian Nasi Goreng Rice: another one-pot meal that tasted fabulous! Beautifully stir-fried rice, with all the essential ingredients cooked in right proportions, this dish is a feast to the eyes as well!
I skipped the Chilli Garlic a la Italiano as I was full. So no comment on that! In order to satisfy my voracious sweet tooth, I saved room for desserts. When I tasted the first dessert (Caramel Sponge Cake with Toffee Sauce), I was quite dissatisfied as the sponge cake was very dry, although toffee sauce was served along with it. The toffee sauce was good, though. The very idea of this dessert on an Asian menu did not appeal to me.
The second area of concern was the portions of the desserts being served. While the cake was served in big wedges to each one of us, the Thai Guava Ice Cream was served in two super-small wedges. I am still figuring out, why two entirely different desserts with flavour profiles that are poles apart, were served together on the same dessert plate! The Guava ice cream started melting soon and got mixed up a bit with my toffee sauce!
The Thai Guava ice cream tasted good, but with the sprinkling of chilli powder on top, it tasted more Indian that Asian. I loved the fact that they experimented and made something different for the dessert menu, as we all know that Asian desserts can be very challenging to please Indian tastebuds.
I enjoyed hearty Asian noshes and libations here at China Bistro. Some of the dishes were packed with outstanding flavours. Although I relished most of their dishes, frankly, for a few of them, I was expecting a bit more in terms of presentation and flavour. For those who love to eat “spicy” Asian food, China Bistro will not disappoint. For those like me, who love “bland” Chinese flavour notes, there are a few options, but I am happy that those taste great. It has great vegetarian Asian dishes too! Overall, the food and drinks were very good, but again, the desserts definitely need more innovation and research to create ripples in the Mumbai foodosphere in 2016.
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