In our minds, all of Mumbai must have started resembling plops of shiitake mushroom - especially its southern tip - considering how South Asian restaurants seem to be sprouting in the city. Another joint that has recently sprung up courtesy the Global Kitchen Group (think Irish House and Serafina) is Chao Ban.
Supposedly serving Chinese fare, this fine dining den bears a Vietnamese signature meaning welcome. Our arrival was anything but pleasurable barring the townie lemurs who will just have to prance to the place being a skip and hop away. After being much rumpled in our black-and-yellow taxis, the heritage precinct evoked the best of our epicurean selves.
We couldn’t hold our delight when we stepped into a cavernous space that was extremely cosy - a rarity. More often than not, these places end up being intimidating and in common parlance frou-frou that one usually shudders from. Walking in at eight on a weekday evening could be perfect for a date as the selective lighting and a soothing textured water wall lilted us into a reposed stance. The showcasing of blue pottery vases and a two-storeyed seating space incited a great many spots for a privy dinner.
Smugly setting ourselves in front of the relaxing water wall, we dived into a curious spread that had three pages dedicated to dumplings. From steamed to soaked, the place offers options galore with a variety of fillings including exotic. Our eyes hankered after Soaked Chicken Dumplings and while our smiling attendant kept on prodding us for the spicy sauce, the Yunnan sauce was our out-of-the-box choice.
Soon, we got too greedy and Stewed Chicken with Bamboo Shoots, Mushroom and Aromatic Chinese Herbs (Rs 450) and a Balinese Fish (Rs 750) beckoned an Oriental soiree. We filled our plates with a portion of vegetarian Sticky Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaves (Rs 250). The giant pandas lurking underneath could have never leapt for more joy, for the dumplings surprised our palates with lushness unknown.
Plus the Yunnan sauce with its cheesy oomph can astonish the cultured, too. The dishes arrived on time. Our poultry main course with the whiff of star anise and succulence of chicken was a mouthful of approbation. The bang-for-the-buck mindset yearned for a more refined execution, though. The fish was flavoursome with its coconut milk gravy and red chilli tinge moving towards the sweetish.
The sticky rice with interspersed grams, mushrooms and ginger also had a sweet undertone that we were duly warned about. Our poison for the day was a Shandong Mary (Rs 450). A beer cocktail and an explicit, Chao Ban exclusive, the Shandong Mary ended being the only letdown - it won’t bode well for beer drinkers with its tomato-Tabasco concoction. Into a week of it’s opening, this place is inviting many for a sup. A weeks’ worth of saving makes this place perfect for a refined do, we say!