A common like amongst the four of us in the family - is 'Chinese' food. Well - the 'Indian Chinese' or the usual 'hakka noodles' 'fried rice' stuff and nothing more authentic. But for the discerning consumer, a place where even this usual stuff is found to be good, is difficult in Delhi in today's times. All restaurants seem to go through a cycle. The 'Fuyiya'and 'Chopsticks' - once the most happening place for this type of cuisine, now serve food which can be rated at best as 'ordinary'. Once upon a time, I could swear by them. But today I wouldn't waste my time and money there.
There was however one restaurant nicely 'tucked' away in a 5 star hotel, which not many people seemed to know of. This was the 'Jewel of the East' in the 'Ashoka' in Delhi. We discovered this and instantly got hooked on to it. For many reasons.
One, they had the luxury of a huge amount of space. And finding a real spacious restaurant, with a 'respectable' distance' between tables, IS a luxury in Delhi. Second - they had a live band and a dance floor. Well -we aren't exactly looking for places were we can dance. But the kids enjoyed the music. Because to them, listening to a live band, seeing musicians actually play instruments - some of them that they themselves were learning - like the guitar or drums, and most importantly - sending requests which the band promptly obliged with, were the attractions.
Service was very efficient. But the most important aspect of that experience was that the food was really, really good.
We visited that restaurant definitely on occasions like birthdays, wedding anniversary, or taking someone special, some cousin or relative visiting etc. And in between these occasions, there would be one or two of those visits which were normal family lunch or dinner.
Then one day, we discovered that the name of the restaurant changed to 'China Town' The only thing that changed apart from the name was the prices went up somewhat, on the menu. But we didn't mind. The visits continued with regularity. My family and the restaurant staff became very familiar faces to each other.
One evening, we landed up at the 'China Town' to find the place closed, and a sign telling us that they were closed for renovation. A missed opportunity to enjoy an evening was disappointing enough, but I wondered how long the closure would last.
And then a few months ago, we saw to our surprise one of those 'Page 3' or 'Page 5' articles, announcing the re-opening of the restaurant.
Once again, it had a new name ! This time it was called "China Garden" I was very very keen to visit China Garden. That fact that it was closed for more than a year, left me wondering about the magnitude of change.
Yesterday, we visited China Garden, after a long, long gap. And we were pleasantly surprised to see that the place had undergone a transformation. The huge wide area used for seating space had been cut down to size, and the number of tables reduced. There was however still a respectable distance between tables, to provide adequate privacy. The band and the dance floor regretably had been done away with. The extra space thus created had been used for installing statues and other objects to create the theme - that of a China Garden. I noticed that there were many statues of Buddha.
A lot of space was also used to create a rather nice looking bar, and a 'serving station' And of course all furniture and upholstery was new.
What surprise us most however, was the food, which in my mind, had never tasted that good before. And all for a price - that hadn't really changed since the last visit almost one year ago. That was one of the most pleasant observations to be honest. Because one could now continue to visit this eating place which is new, the food great and one which is still very much affordable. The only thing remaining the same from the last few years was the ever smiling and friendly manager and his assistant.
Going back to 'China Garden' (China Town and Jewel of the East, in the past), at the Ashoka, was like home coming - in more ways than one.