China Town: Ambience takes the cake

Restaurant that gained popularity in Islamabad opens its doors to Lahore.

Momina Sibtain July 12, 2013
The hottest selling item on the menu is the Mongolian Fire Pot. PHOTO: PUBLICITY


Housewife-turned-restaurateur Nadia Tahir has opened the doors to her Islamabad-based sensation, China Town, in Lahore. One of the most popular mainstream Chinese restaurants in Islamabad, China Town is most popularly known for its Mongolian Fire Pot (popularly known as Hot Pot). After almost 25 years of operation in Islamabad including, five years of tutelage under Tahir, the restaurant comes to Lahore with its sleek and contemporary Oriental aesthetic.

“We wanted to give it a very modern fine dining look,” says Tahir. “When I walk into a restaurant anywhere in the world, the first thing that I look out for is how the interior is done. It was very important to me that this space impresses people when they walk in.”

The hottest selling item on the menu is the Mongolian Fire Pot. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

For this very purpose, Tahir hired Lahore’s renowned architect Rashid Rasheed to remodel the space. The restaurant has a Buddakan NYC meets Paris feel to it. The Asian influence of the cuisine is also translated in the décor with high vaulted ceilings and Japanese style dining cabanas. While the interior is impressive and does not compare to anything we have seen in Lahore, the food still needs to match the sophistication of the ambiance.

With a highly selective menu, touching on the main flavours of the Schezuan cuisine, the most notable items on the menu remain to be as follows:

Chicken Mushroom Soup

This extremely light, frothy soup comprises chicken and shitake mushrooms with a hint of peanut oil infused in the flavour. While it might be slightly bland for the Lahori taste palate, it is well-composed. The large chunks of chicken do overpower the presence of the light shitake, but overall, the flavour is complimentary.

Mongolian Fire Pot

The hottest selling item on their menu in Islamabad is the Mongolian Fire Pot, which remains to be the best entrée in Lahore. An entire meal in itself, there is only one other restaurant serving Hot Pot in Lahore and that, too, has a Thai flavour to it. “It is a new experience for Lahore and we want people to try it since it has the best of everything we have on the menu,” adds Tahir. Glass noodles, peanut sauce, prawns, squid, chicken, and vegetables — all immersed in this piping hot fire pot, this meal can be cooked to each individual person’s spice level. Tahir also tells The Express Tribune about the rather unusual home delivery service that the restaurant will soon offer. “We are planning to start a Hot Pot home delivery service whereby one of our waiters will go to the respective house and cook live Hot Pot at the table.”

Wasabi Prawns

Like frozen yogurt, wasabi prawns have also taken over almost every restaurant since the advent of Noodle House in Lahore. The flavour of wasabi prawns at China Town is very accurate with the right amount of spice, however, it lacks the crispness that wasabi prawns require.

Dim Sum

The dim sum is an utter disappointment because the quality of flour is too poor. Rather than being light and sticky, both the steamed and fried dumplings are doughy and have a very thick texture that completely ruins the flavour of the filling.

Juha Fish

This is a must-try Beckti fish, lightly dipped in tempura batter and cooked to perfection. It simply melts in your mouth. Glazed lightly with a tangy sweet and sour sauce, this has to be one of the most innovative entrées on the menu.

The hottest selling item on the menu is the Mongolian Fire Pot. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

While the restaurant fine tunes its teething problems, the ambiance, strict dress code and no smoking policy is impressive. “We have turned away customers who walked in wearing shorts and flip flops,” says Tahir. “We want to ensure that this remains to be a fine dining experience and a place where people want to dress up and come and enjoy a meal with their friends or family and enjoy the ambiance.”

While it is not the best Chinese restaurant in town, it most definitely stands by its unique Schezuan flavour and its secret Hot Pot recipe.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.

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Miss S. | 10 years ago | Reply

After reading all these reviews convinced my mother and husband to come along for a light dinner we ordered 4 appetizers and hotpot, each appetizer was good, hotpot was excellent, a must try restuarant.

Irfan | 10 years ago | Reply

Finally visited chinatown last night .. first of all love the name makes me feel like i am going to Chinatown in montreal.. when we got there it was a surprise upon entering the place as it looks so discreet from outside, the floor plan of the place is fantastic. it is a good place to have a fine dining experience with family and friends. we did notice nice little attention-to-details, loved the spicy peanuts and the hotpot. Soups and Wasabi prawns were superb. Ambiance is unique and very laid back and relaxing. Prices not too heavy on the wallet.Will try other items on menu with time.

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