Food fit for an emperor

Long story short: Royal China serves food fit for an emperor

Human beings are a shallow, fickle lot.

Let me tell you the tale of Mandeep. Purportedly my best friend back when I didn’t need to drink from the fountain of youth, the guy sold me down the river in ways I don’t want to describe without so much as batting an eyelid just to suit his own needs.

I was a kid back then, and an overgrown kid now, but what struck me then holds just as true now. Kids are just cold, psychopathic, mean little adults. But then, I too was quick to forget my first true love.

For the longest time as a kid, I adored Chinese. I’d like to believe I was the reason the phrase Hindi-chini bhai bhai was coined. We were inseparable, the two of us. And then I grew up a bit in culinary terms and like Kim Kardashian dumping yesterday’s fashion, I cast out Chinese food into the cold, harsh winter of the unwanted.

It was then a case of Hindi-chini bye bye as I snapped away at Red Snappers and crooned Love Me Tender to Tenderloin.

Culinary culture, much like fashion, is rife with tell-tale signs of avante garde trends that you have to be with to be one of the cool kids. But even as street food, modern Japanese, Peruvian or whatever else stays at the vanguard of this year’s culinary charge of the light brigade, the poor Chinese Dragon has been seemingly slayed.

Or has it?

I went nuts for these caramelized peanuts. So would you
I went nuts for these caramelized peanuts. So would you

Until sometime back, I felt that Chinese is no longer de rigeur, a rebound relationship to fall back on. After all, in recent times I only turned to it for takeaways or meals in a box (Hello, Silli Chilli) and never as my go-to option. However, the lacquered opulence of Royal China helped buck that trend, and how.

For one, the stuff they dish out was far removed from the relative gloop I used to associate with the cuisine as a kid. Truly, to compare Royal China with most others of its ilk is to compare the brutal savagery of a slog over midwicket to the silken elegance of a wristy flick of VVS Laxman’s wrists.

A Kiwi Margherita? Why not!
               A Kiwi Margherita? Why not!

Royal China is evolved, refined, even sophisticated and above all the service was, without question, some of the best in the city in terms of warmth and outright knowledge of the menu. Heck, I’m sure if I mentioned I needed a kidney, someone from the staff would have happily offered me theirs plus arranged an ambulance to the nearest hospital.

This stalwart of Cantonese cuisine stands tall above others in the city, and the warmth of Royal China’s soul will thaw even the coldest naysayers of Chinese cuisine, guaranteed. I’m proof of that as I live and breathe.

The Prawn Cheung Fun. Fun sold separately.
The Prawn Cheung Fun. Fun sold separately.

Right from the perfectly prepared dim sums to the staff recommendations, almost everything was spot on and wow-worthy. That’s saying something for a palate jaded by the usual, staid Chinese on offer elsewhere. Heck, even the ambience lives up to the name and is royal, with gold and black boldly staring back at you from everywhere with neat use of dark wood to complete the prelude to the great culinary experience that is Royal China.

My initiation with Royal China was with the delicately handmade little parcels of divinity known as the Roast Pork Puffs. How good was it? Let me put it this way; if there is an afterlife, and I see the light and am hesitant to walk towards it, all I need to see is a plateful of this at the end of it and I’ll go blazing away towards it at speeds I never knew I was capable of.

The Pork Puffs that I pigged out on
            The Pork Puffs that I pigged out on

The sweet, buttery, flaky pastry housed delicate pork mince done to absolute perfection and this is something I could pig out on again and again. Somewhere, 3 little piggies gave up their lives to show us the light, and I salute those 3 little piggies. I wolfed down my Pork Puff in loving memory of them.

The staff claimed the Veg Puff was a close brethren of it’s porcine cousin, but alas. It was nothing like it. Of course,the puff pastry was a joy as usual, but the filling was a bit like being promised a meeting with a gorgeous celebrity, only for you to end up face-to-face with Rakhi Sawant. Don’t get me wrong; this was pretty fine by itself, but there’s no way in any alternate universe that this would stack up against, far less outdo, the Roast Pork Puff.  

Chicken. Check. Prawns? Check. Awesomeness? Not quite
Chicken. Check. Prawns? Check. Awesomeness? Not quite

The Chicken and Prawn Suimai didn’t set my world afire, but I wouldn’t take a dump (figuratively speaking, people) all over this dumpling. I’m just not a big fan of dumplings in general and while this open faced steamy wonder didn’t rock my world, but it could have you crooning Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours in no time.

Don't duck when it arrives, else these Duck Spring Rolls will be gone before you resurface
Don’t duck when it arrives, else these Duck Spring Rolls will be gone before you resurface

For my money, the Crispy Duck Spring Rolls were much more up my alley. It’s not even the fact that it was something off the beaten path (which definitely helped its case). It was more the fact that this wasn’t your usual batter-laden, heavy on the oil spring roll. Instead, one gets to the heart of the matter by crunching through a crispy wrapper that was crafted with great care so as not to be too heavy. By way of reward, you’ll get tender duck mince mixed with the crunch of miscellaneous vegetables, a hint of ginger, chilli and soy, all of which you can dunk in some plum sauce if you so are so inclined.

The surprisingly great Salt & Pepper Prawns
The surprisingly great Salt & Pepper Prawns

The Salt and Pepper Prawns were also something I greatly enjoyed. The prawns came deep fried in a batter, but they were again shorn of the greasy oiliness you usually associate with something dunked in a great, heated vat of oil. Needless to say, I appreciated this as much as I appreciated the finely diced vegetables that formed a bed for the prawns.

I was in no mood for dessert, but we called for some cake anyways. Turnip cakes, that is, so that we could have a sweet (so to speak) and savory end to our meal. The delectable, and ever so slightly sweet, turnip cake, and was pan fried perfectly, lending it a hint of crispness that easily gave way to tender turnip on the inside. Even more than the veg puffs, this is the one dish the herbivores among us won’t want to miss.

Have your Turnip Cakes and eat it too
          Have your Turnip Cakes and eat it too

Chinese food, like the quality of some of its products, often descend into mediocrity, but that is an unfair label to affix to all Chinese restaurants and that is certainly true of Royal China. Hell, it’s more than good enough for Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, so who the hell am I to argue with food royalty? Get a slice of China on your plate as it should always have been and I promise you, you’ll come back hankering for more.

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