China Garden, Chinese Cuisine, Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Kathmandu
Designed by Nelson Wang, world renowned leader of a “dwindling breed of original Chinese Master Chefs,” China Garden is a multi-award winning outlet, praised for its superb hygiene standards, service and cuisine, and too acknowledged as the best Chinese restaurant in all of Nepal.
Dark wood, subdued lighting and Chinese folk tunes bequeath the restaurant with a classy yet traditional flare. Patterned wooden room dividers marked with golden Chinese characters, and box shelves holding ceramic pots and bowls, not only carve out intimate dining spaces, but too boost the overall character.
After drink orders are taken, a quartet of sauces arrive along with an unexpected appetizer of Korean inspired kim chee and pickled cucumber. As evidenced by hubby’s crunching, vegetables are fresh and crisp to the bite. I find the marinades slightly addictive with a perfect balance of sweet, tangy and spicy.
I’m loving that the menu is divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarian options: something we’ve found a common practice throughout the hotel. With over 300 dishes to choose from, including some interesting twists on Thai, Korean and general Oriental, everyone should find something that they like from this wide selection.
Tiger Prawns (Rs. 1250) stuffed, fried and then braised in Szechwan sauce arrive first and have our mouths watering with their sweet and spicy aromas before we’ve even laid eyes on them. Our gracious waiter serves one each directly to our individual plates, and continues to do so with each new dish that arrives. As usual, before I’ve even bitten in, hubby is moaning and groaning and declaring his approval. I better get in fast. Turns out his exclamations are well founded. This plate is full of flavour. A thick sauce varnishes the entire firm springy prawn in a well-balanced see-saw of sweet and spicy. And, to mimic hubby, ‘amazing!’
Vegetable Shanghai Dumplings (Rs. 680) are almost bursting at the seams with filling. Steamed and then pan-fried, they come with a mustard sauce, which we soon find is delicious (you only need to dip the tips of a fork’s prongs to get enough flavour), but not necessary as the oval shaped parcels are rather tasty all on their own. We love that the veggies inside are finely chopped, but not mashed, so we can distinguish their individual textures. Another ‘wow!’
Roast Duck Hakka Style (Rs. 1690) is immediately recommended by our waiter – who by the way has been rather fabulous in explaining in great detail the dishes and answering any questions. It’s local duck breast sautéed with garlic and green chillies with a lavish touch of premium soya sauce. Evenly browned all round and rich in the marinade, we’re both glad we took this suggestion.
Spicy Ginger Pork (Rs. 975) showcases prime cuts of meat slices marinated in ginger paste and quickly stir fried in its own rich juices. While the menu indicates this a spicy plate with two chili symbols, we find the heat comes from the ginger, rather than chili, gifting it with a different style of kick that we find delightful.
One of China Gardens’ signature dishes is Yu Nam Vegetables (Rs. 850). The freshest market picks of the day are stir-fried Yu Nam style with black shitake mushrooms and served on a bed of baby pak choi. We’ve been celebrating Nepalese veggies since we’ve arrived. Because farming is still primarily a family industry, not reaching industrialized proportions, the majority of produce is organic and grown locally. You can’t beat it for flavour, freshness and nutrition. The sauce on this dish is light enough to allow nature’s talents to shine through, but viscous enough to coat each slice with a thin coat.
Another signature is found in the Fortune Rice with Black Mushrooms (Rs. 630). A mound of fluffy steamed long-grain rice is mixed with fleshy mushrooms and flavoured with the chef’s secret blend of spices. Star anise, we discover is one of the ingredients, but are unable to detect the others. Rice is soft. Seasoning is subtle. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to the main plates.
Date Pancakes with Vanilla Ice Cream (Rs. 520) are hubby’s choice. Thin crepe like pancakes are rolled around a soft sweet date mash, deep-fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds. They’re good on their own, but even better with a tiny spoon of creamy vanilla ice cream. Delish!
Our original plan of choosing one dessert and sharing is soon foiled by our waiter’s recommendation of Honey Noodles with Ice Cream (Rs. 520). He says they’re something unique that we might not have tried before. So, in the name of expanding our palates, we agree for a sampling. Crisp flat noodles are glazed with a sticky honey, reminding me of a favourite childhood treat – Honey Jumbles (basically cornflakes coated with honey, butter and put in the oven until lightly golden). Ice cream proves a flawless mate, and this treat leaves us both cheery in its sweet simplicity.
Quality of food and service has been outstanding. Without doubt, we’ll return again upon next visit to Kathmandu. China Garden is a fantastically satisfying dining experience all round.
Reasons to visit: first-rate service; excellent selection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes; duck, prawns, rice, desserts and dumplings are all very satisfying but we recommend asking the knowledgeable staff for recommendations – every single one was spot on.
Crowne Plaza Kathmandu-Soaltee
PO Box 97
Tahachal Kathmandu Kathma