What’s better than going to a restaurant for the first time and finding that it’s worth revisiting? Going with somebody with whom you share a lot in common. Someone who pretty much likes the same things as you: the same type of food, the same movies, the same actors and actresses, the same songs. A soul sister, in fact.
Fellow blogger and friend Bollyviewer is in town for a couple of weeks, and asked if I’d like to meet up. Of course I would, and we agreed to get together for lunch at Khan Market on New Year’s Eve. (Yes, you read that right; for lunch on New Year’s Eve. I am no party animal, and 31st December or not, I am in bed before 11). I had recently been reading a good review of Mr Choy, and since I knew that Bollyviewer (like me) likes East Asian and Southeast Asian food, I suggested we try this out.
Mr Choy sits on the first floor in the middle lane of Khan Market (if you enter from near Bahri Sons, this will be on your left). Going up the stairs, we entered a pleasant and smart dining area (no, no obvious clues to the cuisines here; no laughing Buddhas, no koi swimming around in pools, no red and gold paint). Instead, there are bright blue bar stools acting as chairs for some tables. There’s a striking mural of a face, up close. There are interesting lampshades hanging from the centre of the ceiling.
And the menu does the entire Far East, all the way from Japan down to Singapore. Not a menu so vast that you spend half an hour reading through it all and another fifteen minutes wondering how any chef could hope to get all those dishes right. (This is a common grouse of mine whenever I am dragged off by someone to one of those multi cuisine restaurants: a place that serves everything from Mughlai to Chinese to South Indian food is unlikely to be fantastic at everything it dishes up). But, back to Mr Choy. The dim sums, the salads and soups and ‘small plates’, the signature mains and noodles and rice: all of these were a manageable number, providing just enough choice without swamping one with choices.
Despite that, it took me a good bit of time to finally make up my mind about what I wanted. I dithered between a pork adobo with rice, a non-vegetarian bento box (the one with steamed pork in honey sauce sounded right up my street), and—when Bollyviewer suggested we share a starter—leapt at the idea. Eventually, we ended up ordering a gyoza (filled with prawn, basil and kaffir lime leaves, though there are other filling options available as well) to share. As a mains, Bollyviewer ordered the pork adobo with rice, while I—having changed my mind once again—settled for a sizzling chicken with egg and butter and sundry other delectable-sounding ingredients.
While we sat and chatted about Korean dramas (Bollyviewer was the one who started me off on watching these in the first place), Hindi films from 2016, and Anu’s skills as a cook, we also checked out the array of condiments at our table. Besides the larger glass jars of chilli condiments, there was a chemistry lab-like test tube stand, complete with test tubes full of other fascinating sauces. I didn’t taste these, but they looked good.
The gyoza arrived soon after, four crescents of thin pastry, steamed and partly cooked in oil to produce that lovely slightly chewy texture I like so much. The filling was fabulous, too: the prawns very fresh (and cooked till just the right degree). I especially appreciated the fact that the basil and kaffir lime leaf was in very judicious quantities, just enough to scent the meat, not overpower it.
Our mains arrived shortly after we’d finished our gyoza. Bollyviewer’s pork adobo with rice came in a bamboo steamer in which was placed a large bowl, with a bed of rice topped with the adobo. I had a taste of this: the pork was tender and well-cooked, and I was very impressed by the gravy—it had a wonderful garlicky flavour that I fell in love with.
My sizzling chicken, served on a hot plate and sizzling away like mad, consisted of diced chicken cooked in a rich, buttery sauce. Scraping around, I found a sheet of cooked, crispy egg at the bottom: delectable. The chicken came with a side of sticky rice (which, sadly, arrived after several minutes, by which time the chicken had gone relatively cold).
Both Bollyviewer and I agreed that while both our mains were excellent, the meat-and-rice combination needed some form of vegetable side to balance it out. Even a little heap of sautéed spinach, or a small salad, would have done the trick.
The need for some fibre was what prompted me to order a Filipino fruit salad from the dessert menu; Bollyviewer decided to order a coconut caramel custard. These arrived soon after, and were a surprise. The caramel custard, which looked perfect, with a little half-slice of caramelized (merely charred?—I didn’t taste) lemon and a scattering of dark raisins, was tiny. My fruit salad, on the other hand, was a substantial portion of mixed fruits (I could identify raisins, pineapple, and lychees, though there was other stuff, too) served in a quaint old-fashioned sundae glass. There was another surprise for me, too: my salad came with a liberal garnish of fresh corn kernels.
I’ll admit I approached my salad with some trepidation: I hadn’t expected an Asian salad to come with a creamy dressing (I should have, I supposed, considering this was a Filipino dish, a cuisine known for being influenced by European and American cuisines). And the corn?! But it worked. It worked very nicely indeed, the corn fresh and mildly sweet, just enough to lend a crunch to the salad without being a very obvious presence in terms of taste. The creamy dressing too was good when complemented by all that fruit. Good comfort food.
Bollyviewer’s coconut caramel custard was nice, even if small. The flavour of coconut (I’m assuming this was made with coconut custard, rather than having coconut grated into it) was very subtle, and there was a mild graininess to the custard that set it apart from the usual dairy-based crème caramel.
And yes, there were fortune cookies too. One which I hope will not just mean one of those many well-meaning African ladies who keep offering me the chance of becoming a millionaire because someone left me a fortune.
(Our meal cost Rs 2418, inclusive of all taxes, ceases, and service charges. Note that we had nothing to drink other than regular water).
75, Khan Market
New Delhi – 110003