Note: This review is from a time when I lived in Delhi (from 2003 till 2013). It may be permanently closed now. Read only for readings sake.
The Ashok isn’t the pinnacle of hospitality in Delhi, though it well might have been back in the day, when it was the only hotel in town. I might as well tell you about the time my sister a friend and I went to the Ashok for lunch at China Garden. It wasn’t anything special as I had rushed away from office during the lunch break. So basically it was a quick meal, a quick glance at the decor, and out. I remembered the place to be exquisitely beautiful, a giant statue of the Buddha right in the center, oriental tea pots adorned one side of the restaurant. A bar right in front of the Buddha, just to tempt him to break his nirvana, very well dressed and mannered staff, well the very least you’d expect from China Garden anyway. So here’s the punchline of the story, when we finished and left. I decided to hurry back to office while my sister and our friend decided to check the Ashok out for dessert. What I got to know later was that the Tiramisu had gone bad! Apparently it tasted real bad, and later the staff apologized and said it had actually expired. I’d love to swear my ass off right now about all the things wrong with getting spoiled dessert at a ‘five star’ hotel, but I’d like to move on to the actual China Garden experience.
The family felt like eating out on a Sunday night, and I suggest China Garden since I remembered good stuff about it. This time, we managed a nicely layered meal. To begin with, I had a sweet corn chicken soup with chicken while the rest of the family had soups I can’t remember the names of. I think I’ve tried sweet corn chicken soup in every single Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to, in India or abroad. I just love it. And here, I tried as hard as I could to find anything to complain or crib about, and I couldn’t. Nothing was wrong, everything tasted perfect, right down to the bloody temperature of the soup! The rest of the family loved their soup too. The thing about China Garden is, apart from the excellent service and pleasant ambiance is that you really really feel relaxed there. It’s very quiet, which is a rarity in any restaurant you go to. Not many people go here, at least during both the times I’ve visited. One can really get down to an interesting conversation, really listen to one another and not be bothered about anything. I really appreciate that in a good restaurant.
For the main course we tried a stir fried pork dish, a schezwan vegetable dish, something called ‘bamboo rice’ and a light vegetarian noodles. Again, the pork wasn’t chewy, it was beautifully succulent, juicy, outright delicious. The vegetable dish was outstanding too, I could actually make out the different types of vegetables and enjoy the texture of each one to the maximum. I felt thirsty in the middle so I got myself a fruit punch. One might think, how good can a fruit punch really be right? Well, the fruit punch at the China Garden is to die for. Well not really, but it was just so thick and creamy and awesome! I won’t describe the noodles as it was pretty run of the mill and I’m not really a fan of super thin noodles. The bamboo rice however, was pretty interesting. The rice is steamed in a hollow bamboo tree trunk. Its cooked in there along with mushrooms and got to the table in that very section of trunk. Apart from being very presentable to the eye, it tasted wonderful. The rice was really heavy though, I struggled to finish the last of it, sorta tasted like sticky rice with nice juicy mushrooms in it. Brilliant stuff.
The service is superb here, you’re pampered like an infant. Sometimes it can get a bit too much, for instance while we were eating at least 3 people asked how the food was. It can get a tad bit annoying to keep saying ‘yes it’s nice’ to three different people in under a minute. No one answered the third waiter, so I said ‘very nice thank you’ to keep the peace. Apart from that, they’re very well spoken, dressed, professional service all around. The captain suggests dishes based on what you feel like eating, talks about types of sauces, textures, flavors, I mean he knows his stuff, and that too is appreciated in a nice restaurant. At least I do.
The price for the four of us for soups and a main course with 4 dishes and of course my extravagant fruit punch came to around Rs. 3500, which is decent. I’d recommend visiting China Garden for a nice meal with the family, or quality time with someone nice.