When we first heard that the iconic Joss restaurant had been shuttered, we were genuinely sad. For years, Farrokh Khambatta’s eatery had served patrons the best of south-asian cuisine.
So quite naturally, we treat Chao Ban, the new upstart that has just opened shop where Joss stood, with a fair bit of suspicion. We don’t like our old favourites being replaced.
It’s raining when we land up. The blue LED lighting, which bears the name of the restaurant, is hard to miss. The place is stylishly done up in wood, has high ceilings and a mezzanine floor that gives it a quaint old-world look. We go straight up to the top floor but the door is as far as we can go, as we have no prior reservations. Our server guides us to a cosy corner on the floor below instead, which is actually perfect for a quiet dinner.
We are starved and without much ado, order the Steamed Crystal Mushroom Dumpling (Rs 225) and Crispy Sichuan Pepper Prawns (Rs 350). The dumplings are mediocre, and just three of them on a plate is hardly a starter. But the prawns are cooked to perfection in a succulent sichuan sauce. Our nerves are soothed. The anger subsides.
For the main course, we go by our server’s suggestion and order Stewed Chicken with Bamboo Shoots, Mushroom and Aromatic Chinese Herbs (R450) along with a plate of Egg fried rice (Rs 395). The chicken is awesome, the best we have had in a long time. The egg fried rice is good and goes well with the thick gravy.
It’s time for some sweets, and we ask for the Trio Dessert platter (Rs 295). It comes with three signature offerings — a crème brûlée, cointreau filled truffle and a cheesecake. The crème brule is super, by far the best in the platter. The cheesecake and truffle, though, are passable.
Chao Ban is roughly three weeks old and so far, it has done well. Whether it will be able to fill the void that Joss has left behind, only time will tell.