March 08, 2007

"Mainland China" restaurant, Bangalore

Cabbage in chili sauceMainland China is one of the most highly regarded chinese restaurants in Bangalore. Since we're seemingly on a "not indian" kick this week (Grasshopper, Blue Ginger, Smokin' Joe's, Hypnos, Noble House) we decided to try it out.

When we sat down, they brought us two little starters: one of cabbage in spicy chili sauce with white pepper and ginger - the sauce reminded me of sriracha, the second was delicately pickled cucumber and carrot side sauce of tart chilis.

We ordered Shangsi Crab Soup, Squid in Pepper and Salt, Jumbo Prawns in Hot Garlic Sauce, and Singapore Rice Noodles.

Shangsi Crab SoupThe shangsi crab soup was very nice. Subtle egg white and pale crab made an elegant presentation garnished with small flecks of green onion. The clear broth was infused with just enough green chili to wake your palate.

Squids in Pepper and Salt sauceThe pepper and salt squid was not what I had expected. I'm used to a squid that's crispy fried and served with a bowl of ground roasted szechuan pepper corns and salt. This was squid body meat cut in squares dredged in corn starch and deep fried till lightly crisp - so far so good despite a very slight starchiness to the coating. But it was dressed with an onion brunoise,, scallions, red chilis, and szechuan pepper. It was faintly sweet and tart - a traditional szechuan preparation for squid, but not "salt & pepper." Very tasty with a good balance of sweet, tart, spicy, and aromatic.

Jumbo Prawns in Hot Garlic SauceNext, on the waiter's recommendation, we had jumbo prawn in hot garlic sauce.
These were big prawns lightly breaded, tender and flavorful but served in the undistinguished sweet/sour red chili sauce that is ubiquitous in local "chinese" places. The sauce had onions and green peppers but none of the fragrant subtlety that is an excellent hot garlic sauce - the garlic was barely detectable. A shameful squandering of the promise in those delicious prawns.

Singapore style noodlesFinally we had a singapore style rice noodle. Having recently acquired a taste for singapore noodles, we had certain expectations. These thin rice noodles were cooked to a perfect texture then fried with green onions, carrots, green peppers and traditional singapore yellow curry spices. A tad heavy on the oil but delicious.

The wine list included a Grover La Reserva but did not indicate it was available by the glass. When I asked, they said that yes, it was, but when it arrived the flavor was oxidized. Perhaps almost no one orders it by the glass letting the open bottle get stale? It was unpleasant.

Also unpleasant was the music - bad chinese interpretations of cliched movie tunes, constantly repeated. I eventually tuned it out, but no music at all would have been better.

I then had the Grover sauvignon blanc which had no such defects. I generally prefer french fume blanc, and Debbie like the Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, but this was an agreeable wine, that went well with the food.

DaarshaanFor dessert we had daarshaan - crispy wonton strips in thick honey syrup w sesame and ice cream. It was very sweet, I think it might have been better with tea?

Speaking of tea, they had a very nice chinese style jasmine tea! I was pleasantly surprised, not expecting to find anything but indian teas, we drank quite a bit of it.

There was no pork at all on the menu! I know that pork is relatively uncommon on local menus, but pork is a staple chinese ingredient. The ma po was advertised to be made with mutton! (I like ma po, I like mutton, I think I may have to try it...)
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