What does a Chinese meal comprise for you? Does a delicious portion of asparagus lightly battered, deep fried, and then tossed in spices and topped with a generous amount of red chilli, which looked very intimidating but didn’t hurt, hit the spot? We were confronted with this question at Yi Jing, ITC Maratha’s Chinese restaurant which is set to open to the public towards the end of this month.
Acting on its name, which translates to ‘to change the classic’, the 96-seater restaurant aims to look at Chinese food beyond the usual.
A glance at the menu throws up regions from where a particular dish or cooking style is borrowed, say Sichuan, Hunan or Chengdu.
“Till some time ago, a group of four would typically order a portion of noodles, rice, a chicken or fish gravy and if they are in a mood to indulge then maybe dim sums, partly because the portion sizes of Chinese food are also significant in size,” shared Shivneet Pohoja, executive chef, ITC Kohenur and brand custodian of Yi Jing restaurant, adding that they noticed a shift in this pattern from 2016.
Acting on it, Yi Jing was launched in 2018 at ITC Kohenur, followed by its arrival in Delhi, Ahmedabad and now Mumbai. “The new generation is well travelled, they have tried Chinese food in China and they want the authentic version and they want more options. To meet this demand we have curated a menu featuring a wide range of dishes across dim sums, appetisers, main courses and a delectable dessert section. We want people to order six to seven dishes and have a variety of flavours and textures,” he added as food started arriving at our table.
First comes a series of dim sums, each boasting a different shape — the creamy edamame is designed like an edamame pod; the carrot and wasabi, which fell short on the pungency we were expecting from wasabi, is designed in heart shape; and the most gorgeous of all are the chicken char sui dumplings that look like a group of swans.
What made for a delightful surprise is that the latter with its crunchy outlet layer and generous topping of sesame wasn’t a treat only for our eyes but also for our taste buds. Giving it good company were BBQ pork buns, which were so delicate that they were crumbling.
Moving on to the appetisers, the lotus stems tossed in Cantonese sauce offered a good crunch, complementing it was tender tofu lightly coated, fried and tossed in Hunan style mix of spices, and wowing everyone were the asparagus sticks we spoke at the beginning.
From the non-vegetarian section, we liked Sichuan-style crispy prawns, which came with a flavourful mix of finely chopped bell peppers, chillies and onions. The pairing worked very well for us.
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The restaurant spread across 4,250 sq ft also boasts a dedicated space where one can watch chef Wang Peng making hand-pulled noodles, a technique that is said to be 4,000 years old, live. It is meditative. The noodles, served with Sichuan vegetables, were chewy and thick as they were supposed to be, but something was amiss in the dish overall.
What we absolutely loved was Chengdu-style sliced lamb with house-special chilli powder. The broth with peppercorn and chillies was delicious, and when paired with Jasmine rice, it offered a comforting meal. It is not fiery but someone who is not used to having chillies might find the taste unusual. Another good dish we sampled was fried rice topped with garlic. However, the soy and garlic vegetable gravy that accompanies it didn’t alleviate the rice.
What also should be mentioned here is the attention to plating, most of their dishes made us take our phones out. The element of theatrics, as with chicken dumplings and Chendgu-style sliced lamb which was served in white chinaware, added to the experience. We rounded off the meal with a velvety Madagascar milk chocolate and a soft cheesecake served with poached pear, fresh fruits and a fruit compote.
Price for two: Rs 5,000 plus taxes.