New Delhi: Imagine gazing out at the twinkling city lights, sipping chilled beer and wolfing down steaming hot dimsums! That's exactly what The Lalit five-star hotel in the heart of the national capital has to offer at an ongoing food festival that runs to the end of the month.
"We are offering something that is light but that is also filling and not heavy on the pocket," Chef de Cuisine Sudarshan Kumar Sharma told IANS of the two-and-a-half-month effort that went into crafting the seven-item menu for the 'Dimsums and Beer' promotion at the hotel's art-deco Woks fine diner, entering which is an Oriental experience in itself.
It's a combination of a home, a temple and a tea house with loads and loads of finely fashioned teak and bamboo and thatch, a profusion of statues, subtle lighting and even a beautifully-landscaped small but winding lake.
"We once even had fish in the lake but the diners seated next to it said they couldn't eat their fish while watching live fish," Gaurav Sachdeva, manager of the 58-cover restaurant said as a chilled pint of Corona was served up.
"We chose Corona after a great deal of thought as we found it to be the lightest beer on the market. We didn't want the beer to be heavy to imbalance the dimsums," he explained.
In fact, crafting a promotion around dimsums was an article of faith on the part of the eatery as it is widely regarded as a snack or as an appetiser.
"We are aiming to dispel that because conventional wisdom says that even if you are moderately hungry, you can put down at least 20 dimsums," Sachdeva observed.
It was then time to put that theory into practice as the first of the offerings arrived: A chicken and mushroom kothe. Hot as it was, one had a whale of a time biting down on its marinated mince chicken and spinach with Chinese spices wrapped in a just-perfect flour sheet -- and lightly pan-seared at the bottom. This was something quite unusual as dimsums are usually steamed -- or fried keeping in mind Indian preferences.
A quick sip of beer and it was time for another dimsum offering! But this time, it was with a combination of dips - sesame and soya, garlic and chilli (hot) and fresh coriander - and also with extremely tangy ginger slivers in vinegar.
"With a little bit of creativity you can really go places because there are endless combinations of fillings that you can opt for. For instance, seafood is now being used which was previously not done," executive chef Subroto Goswami said.
Which explains the festival's long gestation period.
"We took into account the preferences of our hotel guests, our regulars, Indians and foreigners," Goswami added.
Next up was a Schezwan chicken sui-mai -- again minced chicken but this time combined with spring onion, Schezwan pepper, soya and sesame oil. Needless to say, it vanished in a jiffy.
"This one can also go into a soup," Sachdeva said as he served up a fresh asparagus and corn dumpling rich in chopped asparagus and corn kernel with roasted garlic and soya sauce.
Some more beer and it was time for what could easily be the piece de resistance -- an oval-shaped chicken bao of roasted chicken cubes with honey chilli. Sounds simple enough but the devil's in the making.
The chicken filling is wrapped in a hand-sized round of dough that is wrapped up and left in an air- conditioned room for fermenting. It is then put into a freezer to stop the fermenting before being steamed till it's just fluffy and then served.
Biting into it is somewhat like attacking a jujube but it's far more delicious!
It was then time for the last hurrah, as it were.
"This is not on the menu but I'm sure you will like it," Sachdeva said as he presented a prawn dimsum, crunchy and lightly marinated in vinegar.
A perfect end to a perfect evening.
Where: Woks at The Lalit, Barakhamba Avenue.
Cost: For non-vegetarians - 10 dimsums from four varieties on offer for Rs.1,399 (plus taxes) with two pints of Corona beer.
For vegetarians - 10 dimsums from three varieties on offer for Rs.1,299 (plus taxes) with two pints of Corona beer.
The 10 dimsums can also be a combination of non-vegetarian and vegetarian.
Timings: Lunch - 12 noon to 3 p.m.; Dinner - 7 p.m. to 11.45 p.m.