China Doll - Discovering Authentic China

New Delhi's Chinese cuisine loving crowd has a new place to throng - China Doll - which focuses on the authenticity of the Hunan region. Read our review to know more

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: January 22, 2013

New Delhi’s Chinese cuisine loving crowd has a new place to throng – China Doll – which focuses on authenticity of the Hunan region. Read our review to know more.

A visit to Delhi’s once most happening South Extension market has always been only half satisfying. Even though the numerous malls in Delhi have become more popular with shoppers, South Extension does see a fair amount of consumers thronging the many brand stores located over there.

What South Extension has always lacked, however, is a fine dining place where luxury consumers could rest their tired feet and indulge in some good food and ambience. The newly opened China Doll seems to have filled the gap now.

The basics
Located a little after South Extension Part 2 market on the main road, China Doll is not very difficult to spot, if you know what you are looking for. A small black staircase will lead you to a nicely done circular reception area. Highlighting the red colour (not exactly the fiery red associated with China, but pretty much close) and long bamboos covering the walls, a pleasantly smiling receptionist leads you to the equally red lift which zips you up to the third floor.

The elevator opens straight into the restaurant where another courteous receptionist takes you to your seat. As we moved inside, we were struck by the expansiveness of the restaurant. It is not only decorated beautifully, but has also amplified the area they have to give an impression of a much larger space. It is quite hard to imagine such vastness in the bustling South Extension market!

The restaurant also has a terrace lounge with low sofa seats, tables and a small bar area. In a good weather, this area assumes quite a wonderful ambience, and can be booked for private events too. However, only starters and drinks are allowed here while the rest of the meal is served in the main dining area.

After our eyes roved over the wooden high chairs decked in gold fabrics, a little tree giving a peaceful feel to the ambience and the ceiling skylight which could be opened to give you an open air dining experience, our mood and expectations were heightened.

Practice the chopsticks
Starting the lunch, we first ordered soups. The vegetarian Manchu Soup had a thick consistency supplemented by small diced veggies. Spicy and original, it had a tad bit too strong hint of ginger. But with the cold and rainy weather outside, it seemed like therapy to me! The clear, non-vegetarian Wonton Soup, with chicken dumplings, had balanced spices and was perfectly made. The dumplings had more flavour than the broth which made it that much more enjoyable.

For appetizers, we ordered Crispy Fried Lotus Stem, Salt and Pepper Mushroom, Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Honey Chicken. The Crispy Fried Lotus Stem was easily the best item we had that day! Thinly sliced lotus stems were fried to perfect crispiness as the name says. Slightly sweet and mostly spicy, we couldn’t stop taking more helpings of it. But as the dish cooled down, the lotus stems lost their crispiness and became chewy. But I guess that is something the Chef can’t avoid. The Salt & Pepper Mushrooms were cut into half and made crispy. It was, however, not as peppery as I had expected. Slightly bland rather, especially after the flavourful lotus stem!

Honey Chicken and Sweet & Spicy Chicken were almost similar according to my companion, but well-made nevertheless. We had expected the Honey Chicken to be quite sweet, which was not so, making us heave in relief. Sweet and Spicy Chicken was again crispy and balanced between the sweet and spice. Definitely must-try! The restaurant also has an exhaustive dimsums menu, which we didn’t try, but have heard good things about the variety.

Locality matters
Chef Zhu Can of China Doll offers traditional Chinese cuisine from various parts of the country. Hunan cuisine, especially, finds prominence in the menu. Managing Director, Mr Yuvraj Kohli, also mentioned that while conceiving the restaurant, he was determined not to make it like the usual North Indian Chinese restaurants dotting the city. A focus on provenance was mandatory to make the restaurant unique. To put it simply, Hunan style cooked food is characterized by spicy flavours, strong aromas and vibrant colours.

And the uniqueness was apparent on the menu! For the main course, we ordered Assorted Vegetable with Chilli Garlic Sauce, Chinese Cabbage with Hunan Pickle Chilli, Chicken Hunan Style and Prawn in Chilli Bean Sauce, coupled with Steamed Rice and Yang Chow Fried Rice.

After a few mouthfuls, the Assorted Vegetable with Chilli Garlic Sauce showed its true spicy colours! This semi-gravy dish will certainly appeal to those who like fire in their food. It is best eaten coupled with steamed or fried rice though. Well-cooked, the veggies were slightly crunchy. Chinese Cabbage with Hunan Pickle Chilli was not as spicy, but delicious all the same. The slightly hot gravy blended well with the sweetness of the cabbage.

The Chicken Hunan Style was also not as spicy, but well-made, dry and crispy, with a strong taste of black beans, which my companion found to be very palatable. But the most praise (after the Lotus Stem) came for the Prawn in Chilli Bean Sauce. The prawns were absolutely fresh and thus soft – much better than what is available in most luxury restaurants in fact – as per my companion. It was well-cooked and spicy to a good measure. The Yang Chow Fried Rice, including prawn, chicken and corn, made a good combination with these dishes.

Other main course dishes, which we couldn’t try, but sounded appealing, were Fish Water Boiled (fish boiled in oil containing herbs and spices, making the flavours seep into the fish, but served without the excess oil) and Steamed Pork Hunan Style. The Barbecued Peking Duck seemed enticing too along with the many lamb dishes mentioned in the menu.

The dessert menu is quite inspired by China too. We went for Lychee with ice cream and Banana Toffee with ice cream. The Lychee dessert was just that – fresh lychees peeled and extracted of the seed, served with ice cream. The Banana Toffee was a little more elaborate. Mid-sized banana pieces were dipped in cornflour, fried, caramelized and sprinkled with sesame seed. A little hard to cut into, the warm banana toffees paired extremely well with the vanilla ice cream. The bland banana assumed wonderful flavours! The only concern was that if left for long, the banana toffee became harder and congealed on the plate, making it difficult to have. So make sure to have it quick.

The finer nuances

The food at China Doll is excellent. It can easily be termed as one of the best authentic Chinese restaurants in New Delhi if they maintain this standard. Mr Kohli, in fact, took care to mention that each small ingredient, even if it’s a soya sauce, is flown from abroad, while the meats are bought fresh every morning.

The servers were courteous and the restaurant managers were able to explain a dish if needed. A few glitches, however, made it one point short of being termed luxury. My companion’s napkin was frayed, the back of the soup spoon displayed the maker’s logo much too prominently for a fine diner’s liking, and they hadn’t obtained a liquor license yet which means no cocktail or wines were available.

China Doll is a delightful dining place and scores well in every aspect. Resolving the few teeny-weeny problems will give it a higher loyalty factor we think.

Coordinates: 3rd Floor, D-14, South Extension – 2, New Delhi
Open for lunch and dinner

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