China Club (Delhi, February 2023)

This is not my last restaurant report from our trip to Delhi earlier this year (we were there most of January and returned in early February) but it is a report on our last restaurant meal there. It’s in a genre that is not really my favourite to go eat out in India: fancy Chinese food. I do very much enjoy classic Indian Chinese food (though even that is not very high on my list of priorities in Delhi, usually) but I enjoy the putatively more “authentic” fancier places a little bit less. This because, in my limited experience, they tend to end up neither here nor there. If you have access to better Cantonese or Sichuan or whatever restaurants elsewhere, their Indian counterparts fall very short; and nor do they offer the pleasures of more masala-fied Indian Chinese cooking. That’s been my experience anyway. We ended up at China Club in Gurgaon anyway for complicated reasons—we were taking my parents out to lunch and wherever we went needed to be close to their place and easily navigable with my father’s mobility issues. Here’s what we found.

I hadn’t really known what to expect from the restaurant. For a change I hadn’t looked it up at all—merely accepted a recommendation from someone who knew the constraints we were working with. I’d sort of assumed it was going to be a regular Indian Chinese place but it turned out to be a very swanky restaurant in a fancy corporate office building. Once upon a time in Delhi a Chinese restaurant that looked like this and had these menu pretensions would only have been found in five-star hotels but Delhi has long been in a very different era of dining.

The very swank dining room was not very busy: both because it was a weekday and because we were again eating early by Indian standards: we had to leave enough time to digest so we could eat one last home-cooked dinner before heading to the airport that evening. We weren’t the only ones there, however, and by the time we left it seemed like it might get to a third full. I assume they make their money at dinner.

We sat down at a large table (we were a party of five adults and our two boys) and got down to bidness. For my parents that means starting with hot and sour soup and for me it means starting with chicken corn soup. Both were quite good. For starters we got the crispy fried prawn with ginger and the cumin flavored chicken skewers. Both of these were on the small list of chef’s recommendations; both were also quite good, the prawns better than the skewers. For our mains, the braised sole with fresh chilli and Chinese chives, the double cooked pork, and the sliced lamb with chilli black bean sauce. The sole (also one of the chef’s recommendations) was pretty good; the pork was okay; the lamb was the highlight of this round. The boys ate from these dishes too and devoured most of an order of dan dan noodles that they quite liked. The adults got an order of wok-fried noodles with vegetables and chicken fried rice. Both were quite tasty.

Neither my parents nor our boys will reject dessert if it is available—especially if cake, chocolate or ice cream are involved. All of the above were: the dessert menu is not aimed at all in the direction of China. My parents demolished a piece each of the almond honey cake and the chocolate brownie (both served with ice cream); the older boy got a scoop of chocolate ice cream, while the younger went through an alarmingly large chocolate sundae at an alarming speed. They were all well pleased with this end to the meal.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu, and what we ate, click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and to see how much all of this cost (spoiler alert: too much).

Two fresh juices and a couple of bottles of mineral water rounded out our order. (There was no charge for the spiced peanuts and tea.) Service was good in general, though it was—as is often the case at more expensive restaurants in Delhi—a bit of a struggle to get the servers to set the food down on the table and let us serve ourselves. For what it’s worth, my parents also think I’m insane for not wanting to have everything spooned onto my plate for me.

Price? Even though I was looking at the prices while ordering, I have to say I was not prepared for the total. With taxes, service charge and a small additional tip this was more than $200. Counting the boys as one adult that’s more than $30/head. Which is expensive in Delhi but is also more than we would have paid for far better versions of everything we ate in any US city with good Chinese food. We liked this meal fine but it was more than a little overpriced. Next time I’m looking for a less upscale place with hakka noodles and chilli chicken on the menu. My parents will like that more as well.

Alright, only one more Delhi report to go. That will cover a surprisingly good Korean meal in Gurgaon and will probably show up on Thursday. On Tuesday I’ll have a Twin Cities report on either our meal at Tenant last weekend or on dim sum at Yangtze (which we will be attempting to eat on Sunday before a movie outing in its vicinity). And the usual whisky reviews around the restaurant reports.


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