Chinese fine-dine or take-out; pizza or pakodas – there’s something for every budget and preference this season.
Skewered Chilli butter garlic prawn
You already know you’re in for a good meal when you learn that chefs from the iconic The Golden Dragon at Taj Mahal Palace are at the helm of affairs at China Inc. The Taj Santacruz is transforming into an exciting F&B space with interesting offerings like Rivea – that serves cuisine of the French and Italian Riviera.
Livelier in décor – spot the painstakingly created dragon installation above you as you dine – but equally well appointed in every other regard as its contemporaries, China Inc gets us excited from the very beginning. Dumplings – spiced chicken, edamame and truffle and Chilean sea bass – are plump and flavourful. So are the butter garlic prawn skewers, with a slight smack of chilli. More appealing, still, are the crispy fried prawns that come in a crunchy, addictive coating of oats and curry leaves.
Soup fans, the Spicy Lemon Coriander soup is at least five times better than the clear soup we usually turn to on a chilly or rainy day. The unexpected flavours take a little getting used it, but we promise you’ll be hooked.
Mains take the tried-and-tested route, sticking with mostly classic dishes. A portion of Chilean steamed sea bass, sizzled ginger, chilli and spring onion has our heart. You’d best team that – or the excellent stewed bean curd “Ma Po” style with vegetable and chilli bean paste if you’re vegetarian – with a bowl of udon noodles to round off a filling meal.
Do leave room for a dessert we tried for the first time, and rather hesitatingly – batter fried milk cake with chilled rambutan – but could barely hold off of asking for seconds.
We love that Chef Atul Kochhar’s menu at NRI is concise, while still offering something for everyone. His new update is just as tightly edited, and we aren’t complaining because everything’s expectedly superlative. Among the few items that we sampled are the plump Methi Kele Ke Pakode and a Malaysian Chilli & Yellow Bean Chicken that is let down by the slightest extra sprinkle of salt. Pork Borewors with Chakalaka Sauce and Mealiepap are a hit at the table, disappearing off the plate in a matter of seconds.
For mains, we try two new curries on the menu – Railway Mutton Curry and a Singapore-Malay style Peranakan Curry served with Roti Canai. Both are hearty and wholesome, but our allegiance still lies with the superlative Caribbean Goat Curry and Malacca Bobra Pork off the original menu.
The dessert section remains unchanged too. We recommend the Chocolate Coconut Torte and Marcaibu Orange from the selection.
A brand new third outlet in a leafy Bandra lane serves all your favourite dishes from a tiny little space. On a rainy day, we chose to avoid dining al fresco and ordered a selection of Francesco’s specialties home instead. Start with the dependable Tuscan Bruschetta and Portobello con Polenta – delightful roasted Portobello mushrooms stuffed with garlicky polenta.
The Pear and Arugula Ambrosia Salad makes for a great accompaniment to any meal. It’s light, made with the freshest of produce and is the perfect contrast for our Caesar Salad that can be a filling meal in itself. Generous use of parmesan as well as juicy chunks of olives (a good respite from the tiny bits that so many restaurants seem to add) are plus points. The Risotto Ai Porcini is as good a mushroom risotto as you’d find in the suburbs – cooked al dente with a generous splash of white wine and creamy without being too heavy on the palate.
Peri Peri Chicken
With the bar set extremely high for the pizzas, we pick four varieties and order them as two half-and-half combos to be able to try a bit of everything. Having eaten at Francesco’s we can definitely say that while the pie tastes superlative freshly cooked and loses a bit of warmth while reaching you, it’s still among the better bets to order in. Vegetarians, we’re a big fan of keeping it simple with the Pizza Caprese Basilico that has just a hint of pesto and bocconcini. For carnivores, the Pollo Brutus is our top recommendation. It packs in Cajun chicken, the same juicy olives, a dollop of Caesar dressing and breadcrumbs that add a unique extra bit of crunch. Those who like to keep it simple might prefer the Pizza Agnello, with rocket leaves, tomatoes and delicately spiced minced lamb.
Desserts are hit and miss – while the Tiramisu disappointingly tastes nothing like one, the cheesecake (Torta di Formaggio) topped with blueberries is among the best we have had in recent time.
They’re on a rapid expansion spree, so it makes perfect sense for this chain to expand their menu offerings too. Largely known for their DIY woks – a consistent, VFM meal any time – it’s interesting to see them expand their range of sushi, baos, dumplings and our favourite bubble tea.
Wasabi Prawn Dumplings remain our favourite, but do check out the Chicken Sriracha Dumplings if you enjoy the fiery kick they offer. Vegetarians, the Sriracha Surprise Dumplings should be on your order.
Ninja Prawn Sushi
The Hot Spicy Chicken Bao is a great new addition to the menu, and makes for quite a filling snack. Chili Basil Chicken and Chilli Mushroom from the existing menu remain good options as well.
Mango Basil is the latest flavour of Bubble Tea, and one that we’re currently in love with. Repeat orders are totally justified for this one. Next on our list is the other new offering, Iced Chai, which was unavailable when we ordered.