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Flavours of Sichuan at The Lantern, Ritz Carlton

Monday, July 13, 2015Me! In words

Its that time of the year when the blog suddenly goes silent for a while. Have been buried under an avalanche of work, school has started and before you know it 1st unit exams are on as well. With visiting family and a severe chest infection thrown into the whole soap opera called life, things have been a bit hectic, to say the least. The blog is often the first to go on to simmer on back burner. 

Anyways, kicking things off this month is the Flavours of Sichuan festival currently on at the Lantern at the Ritz Carlton and underway till the 18th of July. Chef Alan Chen, Sous Chef at the Chinese Kitchen (Li Xuan), and Chef Terry Lin, Chef Du Partie Ritz Carlton Chengdu, are visiting the city and are showcasing a host of interesting dishes from the Sichuan Province of China. Visiting guests will be able to choose from an a la carte menu that is both a visual pleasure and a delight to the palate. 

For those of us who love our Indianized Chinese for its spice, this showcase is a perfect excuse for indulgence. Don't mistake me - the dishes are not Indianized at all. But what the dishes do have are heavy bases of onion and garlic and a masterful mix of a range of Sichuan peppers. A little light reading tells me that Sichuan food was primarily one of umami flavours for several centuries before the introduction of peppers, which soon became a signature that popularized the cuisine worldwide. 

Through the meal, hot, sweet, sour and spicy flavours will assail your tastebuds. And you know that the peppers are working their magic when you have an interesting, all pervasive sensation in your mouth. We had a long meal, spread over close to 2 and half hours. I usually pick only my favourites of such elaborate meals; this one proved a little hard to do. 

The meal began, progressed and ended with several rounds of Jasmine Tea. Honestly the soothing brew was something my very medicated throat needed. 

Chinese Cabbage in Supreme Soup - The golden broth is crystal clear with the Chinese Cabbage and a piece of chicken doing the tango in the bowl. The chicken is surprisingly on the bone, lending to the delicate flavour. The chicken just needed to be touched with the soup spoon and it disintegrated into bite sized bits. Bits of the bone did come along as well and played a small dampener to an otherwise brilliant soup. 

The one that really hit all the right notes was the Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup - a vegetarian rendition replete with mushrooms. Steaming hot and sour, it is just what a crying throat needed to be soothed by. The enoki mushrooms were aplenty and an absolute delight. 

Starters were split into hot and cold - beginning with the Sichuan Style Marinated Cabbage - tight rolls of tart pickled cabbage lined up on a plate and then drizzled generously with Sichuan Chilli Oil. They are quite the mouthful with each bite which explode into a juicy, first tangy and then spicy and then a pleasant mix of the two range of flavours!

A wide-mouthed glass with a selection of Mixed Mushrooms and Pickled Chilli. If you love sour tastes and pickles like I do, this one is a killer. It especially paired well with the Sichuan Styled Chicken dish you see below - though am not too sure they were meant to be paired. I chose to do so and completely loved what I was eating. 

This beautiful bowl was filled with thick slices of Chicken on a bed of softened Daikon and a generous layer of Sichuan Pepper paste - this paste had generous amounts of garlic in its. Every bite brought together the fibrous chicken pieces with the paste beautifully. Don't hesitate to include a bit of the cilantro in every bite. 

At this point we began to feel a slight tingling sensation in our mouth and a few alarm bells rang - but this was soon put to rest when we realized that it was the Sichuan peppers playing their magic. They coat your mouth in an unexpected way, only enhancing the meal at every step. 

And then came the starter I was waiting for - Sliced Sichuan Styled Pork, rolled with cucumber and served with Chinese Stem lettuce and a Spicy Chilli Garlic topping and some chilli oil. Sure, from the number of times I mentioned Chilli, you must think that this was off the charts on the Scoville Charts, but it was such a pleasant surprise - the fattiness of the pork cuts through the spice, which is mild to begin with. The Chilli Garlic on top gives it that amazing bite and crunch. 

For the vegetarians is a Wok Fried Green Beans with generous amounts of sliced and fried chillis - This is a spicy dish, inducing that mouth coating again, but a great one to indulge in. 

Among the hot starters was the Kung Pao Prawn - Completely different from the Kung Paos you may have had till now - the sauce is sticky and a balanced amount of sweet and spicy - the sweetness comes from a mix of vinegar and sugar. This was another star of the day dish. 

We had the Chengdu Special Fried Rice with Deep Fried Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken, both of which was really nice, without being as spectacular as the rest of the interesting dishes we were having. But these gave way to another star of the afternoon - Dan Dan Noodles.

These noodles are rolled into a horizontal block and placed in a meat broth that has some serious culinary ingenuity going on with it - it was a light broth but so rich in flavour that we scooped up every last drop. The Sichuan peppers played a marvelous role in the dish. 

Now the last thing you would imagine is a Mapo Tofu making a lasting impression in a meal of this nature - but make an impression it did. The spice levels are elevated on this dish and that is what makes all the difference. 

And after all this, we requested that only a small portion of the dessert be served to us - but let it be known that one bite into the Crispy Fried Sesame Dumpling and we began to eye each other to quickly stake our claims on the lone Sesame ball left. 

This Chinese meal brings to the table, quite literally what the cuisine is about - light textures, complex flavours and minimal ingredients. The Chef has brought with him several box fulls of the ingredients that go into the making of these dishes. There is nothing like partaking of this great meal if you have the time and inclination. A meal for two is approximately Rs 3500 for 2. 

Address: #99, Residency Road
Phone: 080-4914 8000
Cuisine: Chinese Dimsum
Cards Accepted: Yes
Wallet factor: Rs 3500 for two on average 
Parking: Valet

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