Cuisine: Punjabi Chinese
Approximate Price for two: Rs. 800 including taxes. Drinks not served.
Address: Khan Market
Phone: 011 24618602
Summary: The Maruti 800 of Punjabi Chinese food! Cheap, no frills, reliable and utilitarian!
Eating in Khan Market is tricky. There are so many options to choose from. Most of them would cost you at least Rs. 2,000 for two without drinks. That’s not the bad part. The bad part is that despite the cost, you won’t always leave satisfied. At times, the food will let you down and if it’s not the food, it’s the service which leaves you feeling robbed and angry. Restaurants gather support based on themes, decor and other pretentious pretexts. This works because people have started deciding where to eat based on what is popular as opposed to the food itself. This is why certain places in Khan Market are packed every night despite the fact that both food and service compete with each other on the ‘appalling scale’.
In this backdrop, I personally miss the old days when you could sit in a restaurant simply for the joy of eating. No gimmicks, no fancy costumes on the waiters, no women wearing sunglasses on their heads at 9PM, no Rs. 600 cocktails, no fancy decor to justify charging huge amounts for bite sized portions and in short, no nonsense.
So if you are looking to go back in time and get a flashback of what things used to be in the early 90s (yes I sound like an uncle), China Fare is the best bet in Khan Market. I have a lot to say about this place but I’ll start with the decor. Their idea of decor is that everything should be clean and there should not be any visible cracks in the wall. Hence, you get an amalgamation of basic wallpaper, wrought iron chairs, basic tables, 2 split ACs and one tiny manager’s desk which has a view of a 1990s Govinda movie playing on a small TV at the back. Yes the volume is turned up high so that everyone can be involved in the movie! Who needs a DJ when you can listen to the nuclear fallout that is David Dhawan, Govinda and Anu Mallik! The size of the restaurant is very similar to the small Big Chill in Khan Market with barely enough space for 15 people at a time. The menus are tackily laminated. The door to the restaurant looks like it’s been in far too many accidents to serve purpose. But still, the place has an old world charm that reminds you of those dated places in Park Street in Kolkata where they refuse to change the upholstery on their ripped couches lest their patrons be offended by the change!
Now for the food. If you want drinks, don’t come here because they don’t serve any. If you want desserts, don’t come here because they don’t have any. If you want ambiance and fancy stuff, they don’t know what any of that means. If you want authentic Chinese food, they will tell you to go to China. So what can you expect here? Your standard Punjabi Chinese Hakka noodles, Chopsuey, Manchurian, Chilli chicken, fried rice, and lots of MSG!! The highlight for me is their Cherry Honey Chicken. What goes into it? Based on my numerous tastes of the stuff, ketchup, hot sauce, honey and chicken. Why does it taste good? No idea!! Everything we ordered tasted great. It wasn’t Chinese food at all but that doesn’t mean it didn’t taste good! The food is simple, nothing fancy and is full of flavour.
During lunch hours they also provide lunch packages which include soup, starters and main course for anything from Rs. 250 to Rs. 500 per meal. This is outstanding value in my book. I have sampled one of these lunches before and I must say, I was quite impressed with the taste of the food even though it was a bit overloaded with ‘masala’!
Now for the service. The wait staff was well informed. They knew the basic flavours of each dish and were able to help us select our order from a very elaborate menu. We were served water shortly after sitting down which is commendable considering most 5 star restaurants forget to serve you water and you have to ask for it. Most importantly, we ordered 4 dishes and were served within 15 minutes. I consider that quick by Khan Market standards. Once the food is served, you’re on your own though. Don’t expect them to serve you. Honestly, I prefer to serve myself so it didn’t bother me at all. I thought the service was much better when compared with the pricey joints in Khan Market which brings me to the most important thing about this restaurant. THE PRICE!
Who would have guessed that in the centre of Khan Market you can order noodles, rice, a veg gravy, a chicken gravy and a dry chicken dish for Rs. 1,400 including taxes! Call me cheap but I think that is fantastic! A similar order anywhere else in Khan Market would cost upward of Rs. 3,000.
In summary, I think that big bold flavours, good service and value for money are the 3 pillars that elevate this restaurant on a pedestal above the rest. Would I recommend it for a social occasion? Probably not. Would I recommend it to someone looking to stuff himself on a budget within Khan Market? Most definitely! This is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ things… like Marmite, like Durian, like Old Monk, like Blue Cheese, like my writing…. you get the drift.