“We serve authentic ‘Dumplings’..while most of the others serve ‘Momos” proclaimed Chef Dharmen Makawana the Executive Chef of Leela Palace. I was there at the ‘XO China’ for the ‘Seafood by the Bay’ festival which was curated by Chef Makwana along with Chef Soon.
The dumplings did indeed set the tone for the evening. The first one being the Lobster and Asparagus dimsum infused with with truffle oil drops followed by another innovative dumpling which was shaped like little fish filled with a crab and prawn which was served floating in Laksa paste. The combination was mouthwatering and in some ways was the reflection of the culinary roots of the Chefs from Singapore and Malaysia respectively. The relatively bland taste of the steamed crab and prawns were enhanced with the ingredients of the Laksa like the dried chillies, lemon grass, ginger, prawns, galagal amongst other ingredients.
We were served a third dumpling which was innovative in the presentation ‘Chilean Sea bass’ which was wrapped in Kunafa pastry from Egypt and served with the greenish Wasabi Mayonnaise. I noticed that here again there was a throwback to the ‘Egyptian’ roots of the Chef Makwana with him having spent considerable time there.
We were then Served the two Appetizers which were the
- Crispy soft shell crab in dark soya garlic and onion sauce
- Lotus Seafood fritter with Piquant sauce.
I was very surprised with the width of the lotus stem and discovered that the lotus stems were not sourced locally but were imported, though the crabs were sourced locally.
The Lobster wanton soup with Morel Mushrooms and Mustard root. The soups are usually the silent non descript players in a meal, but this particular clear soup was definitely 'different' in a nice way, in both the ingredients and the taste. While the lobster Wanton is passe, the Morel mushroom reflected the 'opulence' of the hotel and the restaurant and the mustard root lent the soup the characteristic pungent sour taste.
- Steamed crab meat with egg white sauce. The preparation was interesting in that the mixture of the crab meat and egg white were served in the Crab shell and garnished with Roe on top.
- Crispy ‘Catch of the day’ served with Laksa Sause..The presentation and the taste was just fabulous. You just cant go wrong with freshly prepared Laksa.
- Wok Fried Butter Prawns served with Garlic sauce. After tasting the prawns, the first thing I noticed that the butter was a lot more creamier than what we usually encounter. The chef clarified that the butter used for the dish is imported from Franc which gives the dish the absolute creaminess of the butter
The last of the main was the absolute show stopper,
- The Singapore styled chilly crab’ which was served with Mantao Bun. I am not sure wether it was my ‘indianized’ palate which was craving for something spacy after the steamed crab and the butter crab, but this dish just hit the perfect spot. And a note to the readers : If you have to enjoy the Gigantic Crabs you will have to get your hands messy and use both of them.
The Leela Palace has a distinct disadvantage amongst most of the other five star properties in Chennai in that the location of the hotel does not permit it to be visible while commuting around it Chennai. While it does have the most stunning views amongst any hotel property in Chennai, it does run the risk of the 'Out of sight : Out of mind' syndrome. I should admit that it was the case for me too, until I started doing my surgeries (Yes I do have a day job as an Orthopedic and Sports medicine surgeon ) at the Apollo Spectra hospital across the road.
After this meal I have to accept that Leela definitely serves one of the best Chinese Cuisines in Chennai if not in the country itself. The ambiance, service and the taste was exquisite and a diner cannot ask for more.
The Seafood Festival is on till the 11th September.
Open for dinner only at China XO
For reservations, contact, +91 44 33661234