Vantage point

Monday, November 27, 2006

House of Nanking

Until yesterday my main complaint with Chinese food, as much as I love it, was that it lacks variety. Yesterday I realised that I was as wrong as someone would be if he ate at all the desi restaurants abroad and complained that Indian food lacks variety. Just like desi restaurants here primarily serve Punjabi food, keeping other cuisines well-concealed, I guess Chinese restaurants too serve food only from certain provinces.

The food I had at House of Nanking in San Francisco downtown was unlike any Chinese meal i have had before. It was not sauce-based, but was dry-ish. It used different vegetables. And the spices used were decidedly different. I will leave the technical details of how the food differed to Madman-like knowledgeable people.

One peculiarity about the restaurant is that the owner personally attends to you. And if you are not Chinese, then the menu cards provided are just ornamental. The guy orders on your behalf. You just tell him what vegetables and meats you like and don't like. And he decides what soups, appetisers and entrees you should have. We didn't try to overrule him, but legend has it that resistance is futile. Once the guy says "I take care of you", he has the final say on your order.

He started us off with flaming rice soup. The rice was still quite crispy and full-bodied and not soft like in other rice soups. There were peas, eggplant, and a couple of other vegetables I now forget.

Next up, the appetizer was onion cake. It was a bit like onion kachoris you get in Indore, but not entirely. It was flat, and cut into 6 slices like a pizza.

The entrees were fish-and-eggplant-fry, deep-fried-beef-with-beans and an all vegetable dish with 7 different types of vegetables. What set the food apart was the seasoning which was completely unlike any food I have tasted before. And it was divine.

Needless to say, we attacked every morsel of the food with an enthusiasm matched only by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937.