chose to pay a visit to The China Kitchen, the Hyatt
Regency's newest restaurant, after Robert Bath, Master
Sommelier and the man who conceptualized the Wine
Spectator restaurant awards, couldn't stop praising
it at the Rick's Bartending Competition.
Bath had spent the previous night at the CK, that has
emerged out of the ashes of Djinns, the nightclub that
once rocked the city before becoming a flea pit, after
he'd had a rather disappointing meal at My Humble House,
Maurya's rooftop restaurant. He isn't the only one who
has had that experience – after a meal at My Humble
House, Rocky 'Old Monk' Mohan was left wondering why
the Maurya had aligned itself with a restaurant chain
that has had a patchy record in Singapore, Beijing and
The news is good so far on both fronts for The China
Kitchen – its competition is facing the same issue
that The Pavilion, the Maurya's all-day dining restaurant,
confronted when it re-opened at the same time as the
360 Degrees at The Oberoi.
Then, 360 Degrees became the darling of the city's
movers and shakers. Now, The China Kitchen is the talk
of the town, especially because no one has done Peking
duck better in the city's gastronomic history.
I pulled out the editor of this e-newsletter, Subhash
Arora, from another champagne dinner being hosted by
the Hyatt, to share the pleasure of savouring authentic
Sichuan cuisine served in a no-nonsense style (sorry,
you won't get foie gras with a Singapore spin, nor chicken
pepper and salt).
Sitting in a private corner, one of the many the restaurant
will become famous for, sipping Canard Duchêne
Grand Cuvee Rosé champagne, enjoying the unobtrusive
lighting, music and service (you must give it to the
Hyatt – they don't believe in making a production
out of hospitality, they let you be), I started the
evening digging into an assortment of appetisers –
steaming-hot Prawn Siew Mai served out of dim sum baskets
that trap the steam without making the contents soggy;
Crispy Prawn Spring Rolls with not a drop of unwanted
oil; wholesome Fried Crab Claws that'll beg you to have
more; memorable Pancakes with Sauteed Lamb (this speciality
from Muslim-dominated Xinjiang is uncannily similar
to the Bengali Mughlai parota, but it manages
to be crispy because it doesn't come smothered in oil);
and Steamed Spinach with Mustard and Sesame Sauce –
simplicity at its heavenly best.
That was a formidable beginning but the acid in the
bubbly was working its magic on the gastric juices.
We had to have the two specialities of the house –
the classical Peking duck and Beggar's Chicken. The
sleep-deprived team behind The China Kitchen –
Hyatt's General Manager Roger Lienhard and his second-in-command,
Prasanjit Singh – went to great lengths to procure
the duck-feeding machine and then they sent the owner
of the farm that was to supply them the ducks to China
for training (and no, it wasn't the French Farm's Roger
Langbour – he had trouble following the exacting
You can taste the love and care that has gone into
bringing the Peking Duck up to the standards of the
most demanding palate. It doesn't have a dollop of fat,
it melts in the mouth, the skin is as crispy as it can
get, and there's no ghastly odour that has put us off
homegrown ducks in the past.
The same care to ensure authenticity has gone into
the Beggar's Chicken, which comes in a clay shell that
has to be hammered open to unveil the beauty wrapped
in lotus leaves. The chicken is sensuously soft (it
simply slips off the bones like negligee off a woman's
back), redolent of the wine in which it's marinated,
and a palate teaser. Truffles, they say, smell like
bad sex; in that case, Beggar's Chicken is like Viagra
in a clay pot, waiting, like a bottled genie, to unleash
its gustatory charms.
In the tradition of Chinese banquets, the procession
of goodies didn't stop at our table. We took advantage
of the break to study the work of the Japanese design
powerhouse, Super Potatoes – from the strategically
placed open kitchens to the minimalist chic all over
(the walls are made with antique roof tiles, classical
teapots in wall panels and woodwork that exuded an old-world
charm without being too overpowering). The focus clearly
was on food – even the lights have been so arranged
that they focus on the food. Here, food is the celebrity.
The main course comprised Sichuan Chilli Crabs served
with Fried Coriander Buns and Sizzling Seabass with
Green Onion and Spicy Tomato Sauce. The crabs were soft
and meaty, the gravy made a great combination with the
buns, and the fresh-as-fresh-can-be seabass melted into
a medley of delightful balanced sweet and sour sensations.
Subhash couldn't stop talking about the seamless match
between Canard Duchene Rosé and the dishes that
went back empty from our table. I couldn't stop admiring
the collective talent of Jack Ao Yeung, the man who
has conceived the idea, and his powerhouse of eight
Chinese chefs from Chengdu, Sichuan's culinary capital.
He was trained to be a Continental chef with Hyatt International
but Jack chose to delve deep into his cultural roots.
He travelled through Sichuan to understand its cuisine
and learnt the recipes from old masters – not
surprisingly, the spread at The China Kitchen (and The
China House in Hyatt Mumbai) is rooted in Chengdu's
gastronomic culture, which is fed by a stretch of geography
the Chinese describe as Tianfuzhi guo, which, translated
literally, means 'the country of heaven,' or more often
as 'the land of abundance'. This land of abundance has
nurtured a super-abundance of talent. Finally, we can
savour a taste of their breathtaking creativity.
The reviewer, formerly with the Indian Wine Academy,
is the Executive Editor of the Sunday edition of the
India Today Group's morning newspaper venture. Opinions
expressed in this review are entirely his-editor.
The next time you spend your Holidays from TravelMatch.co.uk, visit the China Kitchen at Hyatt. For sure, you will love the authentic Asian cuisine that they serve. You will also enjoy the fusion of both authentic/ traditional Chinese flavor and modern development of the savory taste of Eastern food.