Slightly jaded of Chinjabi cuisine (we’re sure it’s a temporary affliction) yet being in the mood for Oriental fare, the easiest on summer appetites, we saunter over to Crystal Jade, recently opened in Gurgaon. The restaurant is elegantly simple, in shades of white, brown and gold, and split over three levels. The music is the soft-stringed affair one naturally associates with Chinese eateries of a certain calibre.
The menu is as authentic as it gets: no Manchurian maladies or American Chopsuey here, thank you very much. Pork is in abundance as is bean curd for the vegetarians with a few crack regiments of poultry, seafood and a sprinkling of beef filling up the rest of the ranks. Most of the dishes have an accompanying picture so you know exactly what you’re getting into, while the friendly, knowledgeable service staff is happy to field any additional queries.
Impressed by all this authenticity we decide to follow suit, ordering Chinese staples: a Double-Boiled Pork and Lotus Stem Soup and the Multi-Flavoured Xiao Long Bao. The soup screams, er, steams comfort food, a clear warm broth that will have you wishing for winter. The kaleidoscopic Xiao Long Bao, essentially steamed buns with mixed meat fillings, are served in bamboo baskets and could have been made for an Instagram picture or for the set of a psychedelic film. Rainbow-hued, petite and steaming, they are as good and as delicately-flavoured as they look.
Next up is one half of a Roast Peking Duck, which is carved a la gueridon (table-side) and served in either rolls or sauteed in a sauce of your choice, or both. Greedy pigs that we are, we naturally select both duck rolls and the remainder served in a ginger-spring onion sauce. The duck arrives glossier than a lifestyle magazine with a well-lacquered, crackling skin. Our server carves out half the meat, and then efficiently rolls it in a pancake along with sliced green onions, cucumber and a rich plum sauce. The dish is magnificently balanced, a composite of flavours and textures, the crisp and meaty duck, the sharp spring onion, the calming cucumber and the luscious plum sauce all happily gambol into our mouth in their pancake playground.
For our penultimate course, we have the Braised Pork Belly served with steamed buns, and are we glad we still have space. The belly is among the most decadent we’ve had, and given our porcine predilections, we’ve had belly aplenty. The pork is served on a ceramic candle case, cut up table side with a pair of scissors and muddled with the gravy before being served. The belly is exquisitely layered like a Christopher Nolan film with a velveteen gravy that would put those shiny paint ads to shame, continued…