August Moon Festival, China Inc – Taj Santacruz Mumbai

 

Having celebrated Joash’s birthday a week ago, dining at China Inc at Taj Santacruz was a perfect way to end what was already an awesome week. We were so happy to be back, this time, to kickstart the mid-autumn festivities. Interestingly, the August Moon Festival is the second most celebrated festival in China after the Chinese New Year. Taj Santacruz Mumbai have once again come up with a promotion that celebrates just that.

The menu for this festival is specially designed to showcase the seasonal ingredients with a few favourites that everyone absolutely loves at China Inc.

We started off with an amuse bouche, which gave us a preview of how the rest of our meal was going to pan out. Here’s what we had and we highly recommend you to try these too.

Vegetable and Cheese Dumpling

Spinach and Crab Crystal Dumpling

Crispy Pumpkin Roll

Who doesn’t love a box of steaming hot dimsum? This menu has a clever mix of dim sum, with steamed dumplings, deep fried rolls and pan fried options. It would be difficult to pick out a favourite as they were all equally outstanding. At China Inc, we definitely saw more refinement in the way dumplings were made than before and boy they were sumptuous! The Crispy Pumpkin Roll and the Spinach and Crab Crystal dumplings are an absolute must have!

Crispy Supreme with Lemon Sauce

Lotus Root stuffed with Glutinous Rice

Silken Tofu with Tangy Peanut Sesame Dressing

Mountain Chilli Chicken

Mushroom in Black Pepper Sauce

Turnip Cakes

Winter Melon and Morel Broth

Peking Chicken Soup

Crispy Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves

For appetizers, the Crispy Crumb Supreme served with Lemon Sauce had us weak at the knees; and the Lotus Root stuffed with Glutinous Rice left us wanting more. Both these dishes definitely stood out from all of the appetizers we tried. If you fancy soups, the light Winter Melon and Morel Broth is a clear winner. We just couldn’t stop ourselves from smiling when our favourite Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves was served, some temptations are just hard to resist! If you haven’t tried this dish at China Inc, then we just gave you another reason to visit this beautiful restaurant.

Sautéed Crab with Snow White Bean Threads

Stir Fried Udon Noodles in Burnt Chilli, Black Bean and Vegetables

Wok Tossed Sticky Rice, Marbled Egg served in Lotus Leaf

Seasonal Vegetables in Lemon Chilli Sauce

The mains were simple yet so brilliantly put together. What we love about China Inc is how they treat each ingredient and showcase it’s honest flavours without being heavy on spices or sauces. The Wok-tossed Sticky Rice with marbled Eggs served in Lotus leaf is perfumed with a hint of truffle and simply elevates eating each spoonful a pure delight. The Sticky Rice went really well with the Chilli Hoisin Chicken and the seasonal vegetables in Lemon Chilli Sauce. Another favourite of ours for the evening was the Sautéed Crab Meat with Snow White Mung Bean Threads. Sublime!

We paired our meal with a bottle of ‘Nik Weis St Urbana-Hof’ Riesling.

King Longans

Mooncake

Sago Pudding

What’s an August Moon Festival without Mooncakes?! We enjoyed Moon Cake, which was a part of the dessert trio. It was simply scrumptious; crumbly on the outside, and dense with red bean goodness on the inside. (We’ve got a soft spot for moon cakes 😀 ) The red bean filling makes it perfect for those who enjoy their dessert with just a hint of sweetness. The King Longans were nice and the delicate flavours of the Coconut Sago Pudding was just the perfect way to end our meal.

This special menu is a perfect blend of the flavours of authentic Chinese cuisine during the harvest season. Chef Vikram Milhoutra’s team have yet again done an amazing job in executing these dishes. Every dish not only looked picture perfect but tasted absolutely delicious; Rarely do we have a meal where we’ve been impressed with every single dish that we’ve eaten. QWe highly recommend you to try the August Moon Festival at China Inc, Taj Santacruz. It lasts till the 9th of October, 2017.

Golden Dragon, Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai and Ming Yang, Taj Lands End Mumbai are also celebrating this festival with a special menu.

China INC, Taj Santacruz

Our first visit to Taj, Santacruz left us awestruck with its modern yet palatial decor with splashes of vibrant colors. Each restaurant here is uniquely designed keeping in mind the overall architecture of the hotel. Interestingly, the whole hotel celebrates light with chandeliers that are found in various shapes, sizes and colors throughout the building. We were thoroughly impressed with the double ceiling and the massive hand blown glass chandeliers at the lobby; it’s the first thing you notice the moment you walk into the hotel, and it made us go “whoa!”

We immediately reached for our phones to snap a few pictures. 🙂

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When you enter China INC, you are sure to be mesmerized with the Dragon that is suspended from the ceiling. Made out of hand blown glass bulbs, this piece is already finding it’s way to every selfie that is clicked at China INC. The restaurant surely has great lighting and the warm tones of yellow sets a nice mood. We were seated in the private dining area that had round tables. We were warmly welcomed by Executive Chef, Vikas Milhoutra and Executive Sous, Chef Nitin Minocha. We also met the General Manager Mr Pankaj Sampat. After a brief introduction we were shown to our table.

The theme our dinner at China INC. was to celebrate the flavours of Sichuan, known to be one of the four great traditions of Chinese cuisine. The prominent traits of Sichuan cuisine are best described as Spicy, Hot, Fresh and Fragrant. And our dinner reflected just that.

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We started off with a tall glass of IL Grigio Spumante that paired superbly with the dimsum and appetizers that were served. China INC has some signature cocktails that really complement the flavours of Sichuan cuisine. We tried a Rum based cocktail that had whole Sichuan pepper corns it; the hint of pepper made it irresistibly delicious. Even the wines that were served were paired keeping in mind the Indian palate and how it reacted with the cuisine. We had the Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso (red wine), Tenuta San Guido – Scaia (white wine) that the Sommelier recommended for our meal. It was impressive seeing an Asian restaurant pair wines so brilliantly to enhance an eating experience; even their signature in-house cocktails are flavoured with Asian spices and ingredients and complement the cuisine well.

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We were then served some delectable and lipsmacking dimsum and appetizers that created a riot of flavours and textures in our mouths. We absolutely loved how the food served had authentic Sichuan flavours yet were contemporary and modern. The menu at China INC sings of Cantonese & Sichuan flavours with dishes primarily from the Xiao Bao region of Shanghai. We loved the Chilli Butter Garlic Prawns and almost all of the of dimsum that we tried. We were impressed!

Two dishes that were definite stand-outs were the Edamame and Truffle dumpling and the Chilean Sea Bass dumpling. We also had Spiced Chicken dumplings and fluffy Spicy Coriander and Vegetable Baos. Good stuff. We then had a Chef’s special preparation called Crispy Fried Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves; created to add in a new dimension of flavour, we felt it kinda missed the mark as an item on the ‘China INC.’ menu simply because the inclusion of curry leaves in an Asian dish felt quite out of place. But we absolutely loved it as a dish; the prawns were cooked perfectly and the oats made it super crunchy.

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Another crunchy appetizer to die for was the Calamari that was served with Roasted Garlic. Absolutely yum. The beautifully cooked Shimeji Mushrooms with Green Beans and dried Red Chillies would melt any mushroom lover’s heart instantly. We love subtle flavours that hero the main ingredients in a dish and this did just that. Even Chef Nitin Minocha mentioned how the food industry is progressing towards enhancing flavours in such a way that the vegetable or the protein used is showcased to its truest form. Every dish reflected that. The stories of his culinary journey and his insight about the ingredients, techniques and the cuisine spoke volumes of his rich experience at Taj.

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The next dish was Spicy Lemon & Coriander Soup; delicious, light and flavourful. The fragrance of lemon and coriander was refreshing and the balance of flavours was to the t. The oh so subtle hint of spice was comforting, and we really enjoyed the bold textures of the black and white fungus, pearls of edamame beans and goji berries with each spoonful. Perfect for a rainy day. We did notice that the Mantou Bun that was supposed to come with the soup was missing though.

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The mains arrived with a bang! Make some noise for the Chilean Sea Bass. It was perfect. The fish, served on a bed of fragrant red sauce, was steamed to perfection. Another favourite was the Stir Fried Sliced Lamb made in Yunnan style with Red Chillies and Chinese Celery. What a brilliant dish! The lamb just melts in your mouth, and your palate is coated with heat from the Chillies and you then taste the chinese celery which has very distinct flavour. Even the vegetarian dishes shone brilliantly, be it Seasonal Vegetable with Black Pepper Sauce or the Stewed Bean Curd “Ma Po” style with vegetable in Chili Bean Sauce. Packed with flavours and textures, these surely are definite must haves. You cannot leave China INC without tasting the Kai Lan, a chinese vegetable similar to Broccoli, also know as Broccolini. It has thin long stalks. The dish that was served to us was Kai Lan stired fried with chillies and garlic. It was treated so beautifully and carefully retaining all it’s natural flavour so that one enjoys the vegetable without it’s flavours being dominated with heavy sauces or spices. It was simple yet absolutely delicious. We were served Clay pot cooked rice with Assorted Mushrooms and Five Spice. So happy to taste our favourite Morels with a hint of Chinese 5 spice with the smokey rice. The Udon Noodles made in-house was strictly OK.

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For dessert we had Batter Fried Milk Cake with Chilled Rambutan and Condensed Milk. The milk cake was deep fried to a lovely golden brown color, was super hot and did manage to shock our tongues with the heat, but as soon as you tuck into the juicy and fleshy Rambutan that is chilled, you understand what the chef is trying to achieve. It has contrast of textures and temperatures; combine all three and you would taste a beautiful balance and intensity of sweetness. It was a clean neat dessert.

China INC truly celebrates the Land of the Dragon. Being fans of Asian food, this tasting was surely a treat to our senses. The courses definitely had a rhythm to it, balancing flavours and textures that hit the perfect note with every dish that was served. There were a few misses but can be completely ignored as the other dishes were simply mind blowing. The importance of treating each ingredient with respect and executing it in a way that showcases their true flavour is something that the chefs have achieved at China INC. We had a wonderful time and will definitely be back for more.

Fifty Five East, Grand Hyatt

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Right off the bat, we’d like to say, the Sunday Brunch at Fifty Five East is one of the best brunches in the city. Everything at Fifty Five East exudes brilliance and promises complete satisfaction.

We were there for the Longest Brunch on the 15th of August. Fifty Five East celebrated Independence day by hosting the longest brunch Mumbai has ever witnessed. They usually have just a Sunday brunch, called the Big Brunch which is priced at Rs 2855 (plus taxes) but as it was Independence Day on Saturday, they made it extra special. Starting as early as 11am, it went on till 11pm.

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The entrance to the restaurant was decorated with balloons and it was fun to see the staff dressed in traditional Indian attire, the theme ofcourse being tricolor. They had something fun and interesting for everyone who came to the restaurant. Huge red color dice ready to be pushed down the stairs. The fun part was, whatever number shows up, (multiplied by 10) magically became the discount you were entitled to on your total bill. There were table flags with percentages mentioned, you had to pick your number up and head to your table. As we walked down the stairs, we saw welcome drinks, swirl lollipops, bowls of gummy bears, jelly beans and mints, all sort of giving everyone a glimpse of the fun time that was in store for them.

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We were escorted to our table and every table was adorned with the Indian national flag. It was a beautiful sight with the tables well set; and then you look around and see the wide variety of food available to kick start your weekend. There were more than 150 items on the buffet (the ones that had a name card on), not counting the live chaat, the waffle/crepe station.

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If we had to talk about the cuisine, the buffet had everything from Indian to Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean and South East Asian. It had a lovely collection of cold cuts with cheese and an amazing selection of salads and veg/non-veg appetizers. It would be hard to miss the bar that stirred up every soul in the restaurant with their crazy concoctions. It looked spectacular with bottles of Jacob’s Creek wines and huge martini glasses with fun colored drinks, while the Chandon chilled on a section covered with ice. What was also interesting was there was their selection of beer, there was a huge Kingfisher barrel and three beers from Gateway Brewing Co that were available on tap – White Zen, SummerSault and Doppelganger.

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Now let’s talk about the food. While Joash enjoyed the stir fries and prawn crackers, I couldn’t keep myself away from the cheese and fresh cold cuts. We enjoyed the appetizers, our favourite was the lightly seared Salmon crusted with sesame seeds in soy sauce. We also loved the Parma Ham with grilled Peach and Arugula.

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I always love having Sushi at Fifty Five East; it is always fresh and delicious. We even tried the Prawn Sioyaki and the Miso soup with Garlic Fried Rice and we just couldn’t stop ourselves from having more.

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The Kheema Pav was a must have, kheema that almost melted in your mouth, with hot buttered pav, served on a banana leaf platter just won us over. It was rich and flavourful, lightly spiced and delicious. The kebabs looked beautifully cooked and the most of the curries were yum!

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We also tried the freshly made pizza. Our pick was the Parma Ham and Arugula and it was sooo good. Loved how the chef topped made sure there was a generous amount of Parma Ham. It was truly a treat.

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There were handmade pastas too; it was a lovely sight to see them hung on a wooden rack. The Fontina Cheese Ravioli which looked more like a tortellini was cooked perfectly with gooey cheesy lemon rosemary sauce enveloping it. They also had layered mixed vegetable lasagna. The Baked Fish with Tomato Salsa stood proud welcoming each guest with its lovely aroma. The guests could enjoy fresh pasta with sauces of their choice with a side of Boulanger Potatoes or Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant with Parsley Garlic Confit.

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There are so many dishes we haven’t mentioned in this post purely because there is no way we could have covered and review each item on the menu in one visit. We were stuffed beyond measure, and we hadn’t even been to the dessert counter yet.

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The mouth watering French pastries, cakes and tarts sort of made it simply irresistible. The tall chocolate fountain had virtually every kid at the restaurant gather around it with marshmallows and brownie pieces, waiting to dunk it in. Even we had a go! Once! Twice! Thrice! It was just so yummy. I never thought we’d say this but the waffles at Fifty Five East are now our favourite in Mumbai. I didn’t want to dress it up much, so went simple and got em with butter, maple syrup and whipped cream. Every bite was heavenly. The whipped cream was light and fluffy, not too sweet, letting the maple do its thing with the soft and warm waffles. They were a bit crispy on the edges, just the way we like it. We promised ourselves to start our brunch with this, the next time around and we could only imagine how the crepes tasted based purely on how perfect they looked. There were also quite a few traditional Indian sweets for those who wanted an extra dose of sweetmeat laden with dry fruit and ghee.

A few other desserts we tried were the cheesecake, the bailey’s chocolate tart with crunch, the brownie and the fresh melon tart, which was particularly very beautiful. Sigh! The options seemed endless.

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The ambience has always been great with really good hospitality; the staff were attentive and entertaining. Yes you read it right, they were entertaining too. In the middle of the brunch, when everyone was busy serving themselves, the entire staff broke into a dance where they all gather together and danced to Gangnam Style! It was fun to see even the chefs join in. They did this a couple of times and we saw even the guests enjoying and dancing with them. It was indeed a celebration, a celebration of freedom and some great food. We see Fifty Five East as one of the finest restaurants in Mumbai with food quality that is top notch and great service. Even the kids had their own play area with balloons and toys with staff who were specially assigned to baby sit them while the parents enjoy their meal.  We loved the buffet, and it’s an experience that you would most certainly enjoy. We really enjoyed our time at the longest brunch, though food defeated us, and we left at about 7pm, we saw everyone having fun right up until the time we left.