Fancy a desi wok in China Town?
If you prefer your Chinese cuisine with a dash of Indian inspiration, Facing East in Juhu might rise up in your Eating Out charts, soon, with the right mix of spicy flavours served in nattily-done interiors
There was a time in Mumbai when “cheap-and-best” Chinese was available at every kiosk and handcart around street corners and gullies, with fancy names like Golden Dragon or China Town. Slowly but steadily, restaurants like Jimmy’s Kitchen and Five Spice sprung up, catering to the middle-class foodie for Indianised Chinese fare with large portions and generous seasoning stirred in rich sauces.
These restaurants provide an alternative to the old-school expensive Chinese restaurants like Ling’s Pavilion and China Garden. While the food may not be particularly authentic, it is tasty and plentiful, within a budget. Somewhere in between these diverse options is Facing East. The Juhu eatery, now occupying the area that was previously Crepe Station, instantly enamours you with its well-planned interiors. Pasty walls display tasteful snapshots of Chinese landscapes and people in folkloric finery. Flamboyant plates adorn the walls. Facing East has two dining areas: an al fresco seating, complete with tapering lamps and the second is the air-conditioned interior section. Given the soft oriental music in the background, paintings of kimonos, red and black steel chairs and dimly lit funnel lamps hung low from the ceiling — the ambiance works like a charm.
As soon as the menu arrives, you expect items as diverse as the ambiance but might be disappointed here. It looks like a five-star Chinese restaurant but retains a Five Spice kind of soul. Note: it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We begin with the Virgin Lycheetini (Rs 195) that is a groovy lychee mocktail with a dash of fizz and sugar. It’s the kind of drink that sends a sparkling soda and fruit concoction down your taste buds.
The Chilly Basil Chicken (Rs 265) was the best gravy dish on our plate — a traditional Thai dish was packed with aromatic flavours. If you need a quick meal for yourself, this stir-fried chicken is just the ticket. The dish is meshed together in correct proportions of oils, mustard, soy sauce, vinegar and chilli flakes, and well seasoned with a dash of salt and bell pepper. It leaves a great aftertaste, thanks to the garlic sauce and is just as good the next day too after a run in the microwave. The fresh basil, of course, was key and didn’t overpower the dish, which was great. We wish we had been recommended Jasmine Steam Rice with it, which we realised, as an afterthought, would have complemented the salty gravy well.
The Rawas Soy Chili Wine (Rs 375) was a server recommendation but was a downer. This is an easy Asian-inspired meal that sounds like a sure-fire hit for seafood lovers. But the dish, while being healthy and steamed and of the melt-in-the-mouth variety, left us with no taste apart from the skin on top. The first few bites register the extremely mild soy wine, ginger and chilies but inside, it was a plain steamed fish with no unique flavour or taste. Bland!
The Spicy Lamb Basil Rice (Rs 255), like the name suggests, is a toss up of the good ole chicken fried rice with lamb and basil thrown in. It worked. The Chicken Burnt Chilli Sauce (Rs 285) was interesting. The dark, blackened chilies set the base for this fabulous sauce in this scrumptious, fusion-style chicken recipe that is an interesting take on wok fried chicken in burnt chilli sauce. Again, this reads desi but does the trick to bring out the flavours. Quantities are plentiful, which means extra brownie points.
At: JVPD Scheme, next to Natural’s Ice Cream, 13th Road, near Juhu Gymkhana, Juhu.
Facing East didn’t know we were there.
The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals. Follow the writer @tansworld