CELEBRATIONS across the globe are taking place to mark the start of Chinese New Year and where better to start the annual culinary and cultural occasion than at one of the most sparkling Asian restaurants in the kingdom, China Garden.
What I love about this annual event is that it’s not over in just one night, the Chinese really know how to party. The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, has more than 4,000 years of history and is the longest holiday of the year. Although it officially began yesterday the occasion doesn’t finish this year until February 19.
The award-winning venue, nestled on the edge of a green oasis inside The Gulf Hotel Bahrain, Convention & Spa, has welcomed visiting Master Chef Lu Yao, right, who has cooked for Chinese President Xi Jinping, to present his special culinary creations until Saturday.
It seemed appropriate to capture the essence of the cause early so I called in to get a taste of the action last Saturday evening.
The ambience is perfect and, in a strange sort of way, every time I step into The China Garden I get a nostalgic feeling and remember my late mother, Edith. I know what it is, it’s the knickknacks, she was a great collector of bits and pieces and I couldn’t help notice the little ornaments on display from the smiling fat Buddha to the sparkling tree and even a waving pussy cat at the entrance. I want that cat.
That homely feeling is encapsulated by the exquisitely friendly and prompt service provided by outlet manager Joann Q Tugonon and her team. And, the food, before during and after Chinese New Year, will be just as memorable.
The weekend’s visit also gave me the opportunity to meet up once more with one of my favourite chefs on the island, the mighty Chef de Cuisine Ding. There was a special dish – Golden fried soft shell crab with oatmeal – (BD9+++) on last weekend’s menu which was a taste sensation, a clever combination of crunchy bites and juicy joy.
Duck also played a starring role in proceedings with a marvellous minced meat filling for the lettuce wrap starter (BD4+++) and the restaurant’s signature crispy duck is a cracker, slowly marinated, steamed and then roasted before Chef Ding arrives on the table to shred it on to the plate. Absolute perfection at BD8.700+++ and with the pancake wraps were easily enough to feed our party of four.
Our friends, traditionalists when it comes to Chinese cuisine, went for old favourites crispy beef and sweet & sour chicken, but the good lady wife, Kathryn, was feeling adventurous, and so plucked for the Scallops & Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce (BD8+++) and described the dish as sublime. The accompanying fried rice, place rice and noodles soaked up the sauces with savoury style.
There really shouldn’t have been room for desserts but as we’re marking the Year of the Pig, the 12th in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs and the same symbol I was born under (strengths: warm-hearted, generally good-tempered, loyal, honest and gentle – weaknesses: naive, gullible, sluggish and occasionally short-tempered) it seemed apt to indulge a little more.
And who can resist toffee banana, deep fried ice-cream and the simple deep-fried banana (BD2.400-2.600+++) to finish off a fabulous evening.
China Garden is rumoured to have been one of the late legendary singer Michael Jackson’s favourite restaurants when he lived in Bahrain. Now that calls for a signature scream!
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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