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Wine & Dine

Budget bites




Restaurants that fill you up without emptying your pockets.

Delhi | Chopsticks

It's one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in the city and one that all of us frequented before better options popped up. Chopsticks has its share of loyal fans that still come asking for its Mongolian Chicken but over the years an outdated menu ensured that it lost customers to the Pan Asian wave that swept the Indian culinary landscape nearly a decade ago. The 30-year-old restaurant, which was set up in 1983, has now cleaned up its act with a menu that now offers Thai and Japanese fare alongside the trusted chilli chicken and crispy honey chilli potatoes. The revamped menu offers you staples like pad thai and Thai curry alongside prawn and fish tempura, crispy calamari with chilli mayo and dimsums. There's even talk of sushi being added to the menu, in what is a clear ploy to appeal to the young and adventurous palate.

The lunch buffet, that we tried out, is a spread of Chopsticks' newest and best dishes. Under chef Amit Gurung, who has previously worked at Kylin, another one of the city's better-known Pan Asian eateries, the menu now sees Malayasian, Indonesian and Thai influences alongside tried and tested Chinese fare. There's more emphasis laid on presentation compared with what one remembers seeing at Chopsticks and dishes and ingredients considered par for the course at a Pan Asian eatery make an appearance on the menu.

The Tom Kha soup was generous in taste and delicate in its flavours. The prawn and fish tempura were just right, succulent flesh cooked just right and the batter thin enough. The dimsums could be a tad more juicy but the prawn filling packed in more flavour and a creamy consistency that's possible only when the crustaceans are cooked perfectly.

Chef Gurung clearly knows how to handle his seafood for the Fish with Thai Herbs was heaven in a bite. Crisp from the outside but soft inside, this single dish is worth repeat visits. But there was more to come. Ordering pad thai is usually asking for trouble since the flavour-crunch combination is often difficult to get right but once again Gurung has managed to come pretty close to what could be one of the best pad thai in Delhi. Just as good was the Thai Green Curry that had was comfortingly delicious without the cloying overpowering taste of thick coconut milk. Tofu is popular with the diners, according to the manager and Mapo Tofu Veg could be a decent meatless dish if you wanted to order one. The crispy spinach and corn isn't a bad dish and could be ordered on its own as a snack with a beer or cocktail. They have tried to get inventive with the cocktails and mocktails but you might be better sticking with something more familiar than the wasabi-flavoured green apple concoction we had. We recommend that you try the chocolate mud cake. It will leave you grinning with pleasure. Chocolate gooey goodness without the heavy handedness of a cream glaze, the hot mud cake with a scoop of good ol' vanilla ice cream is the perfect end to what is a mighty satisfying meal.

RUHI BATRA

Chopsticks, Asiad Village Complex Siri Fort Auditorium Road Khelgaon Marg Delhi Average meal for two: Rs 1200

Delhi | Yo China
The art of Chinese cooking has been developed and refined over many centuries but Indian Chinese is a strain of Chinese cuisine that's difficult to get outside the confines of the Indian peninsula. Yo! China Cafe seems to have pushed the boundary of creativity some more while keeping the popular taste intact in its latest endeavour.
The cafê is done up in a no fuss yet charming manner with interesting wood framed hanging lights, wrought iron chairs, a live kitchen counter and even a bakery with conversation game cards and a menu black board. For those who like to dine al fresco, there's an outdoor area with pretty lamps and white furniture.
As a welcome snack, the crunchy pad thai with aromatic spices and chilli sauce seems like an ideal kick start for the senses. The wide range of 25 types of dimsums have something for everyone. The chicken and peanut dumplings taste deliciously different with the secret ingredient of thinming flower from Spain lending a unique flavour. There's a Pacman dimsum, a rage with the kids. In different colours, and with sesame seeds for eyes, the stuffing is of vegetables like pakchoi, spinach and herbs such as chives. The cheese and corn dimsums look unusual with pockets that consist of bell peppers - it all seems healthy, looks exotic while teasing the palette.
The spicy orange soup with carrots - blended with shiitake mushrooms as the base ingredient gave it that rich colour - was light yet flavoursome. Considering the exotic offerings, the prices are pocket friendly with mall rats pouring in with kids in tow.
The Chicken Beijing is sure to be a hit with the Delhi foodie as it's fried, tossed in basil and seasoned with chilis. The Miso Ramen or meal in a bowl is more Far Eastern with interesting ingredients such as bamboo shoot and kabayaki seaweed, making it highly nutritious.
Head Chef Chua Kek Eng says, "Creativity is the most important thing in a menu. I like to experiment with traditional Chinese, Thai, Japanese and continental techniques of cooking and try to innovate as much as I can within Asian cuisine. " You can find in the menu Chicken Skewers with Teppanyaki Udon Noodle, made of Japanese udon noodles fried in a Chinese way with tamarind Thai sauce. Tom Kha Prawn shots where delicately sautêed prawn in butter is speared atop a shot glass are quite innovative. The shot glass is filled with a light broth with subtle Thai flavours of lemongrass and galangal married with coconut milk and cream. The shots are an experience to savour as you bite into the prawn and take a sip of the Thai concoction, one realizes how well the flavours blend together.

SHVETA BHAGAT

Average meal for two Rs 800, plus taxes Address: 307 & 308, 2nd Floor, DLF Place Mall, Saket, New Delhi, Timing: 12noon to 11:30 pm. For reservation: 91 971177538, 011-40515399.

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