Mainland China, Church Street, Bangalore

Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 4/5; Vegan-options available: Yes; Value for money: 3.5/5, Quality of cooking : 3.5/5; Ambience : 4/5; Service: 4/5 ;Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Ph: + 91 80 25597722

Mainland China in Bangalore, which serves a somewhat Indian-ised take on Chinese food, has been a family favourite for over a decade, and yesterday we visited it to celebrate the birthday of my aunt's sister and two other family members. In typical Indian extended family style, there were 17 of us at the table, ranging in age from 6 to 60, including a couple of friends of the kids' who had been invited at the last minute.

We had pre-booked earlier in the evening to give the restaurant some time to think about how they would fit in the hungry horde that was about to descend upon them. However when we arrived, I noticed that the reservation said 7 rather than 17. When I flagged this, they rushed into action and we waited in the lobby while the staff scrambled around to get us a table. But soon enough it was arranged and we were all comfortably seated at a mammoth table.

The setting was quite posh - dark wood and marble floors. Guests were typically upper middle-class Indians tucking into their meals with uninhibited gusto.

After a short wait, we received our complimentary pickled cucumber and kimchi {hot (chilli-hot), fermented cabbage}. The cucumber was crunchy and the kimchi was fresh ( and therefore, not quite right as it had not been properly fermented).

Then the soups arrived - a gentle and mild sweetcorn vegetable soup with tiny flecks of carrot and pepper, and a hot and sour soup, which was a delectable blend of spicy and sour flavours.

Next up were the starters. First a crispy, golden sweetcorn - tiny, crispy droplets of battered deep-fried corn tossed with spring onions; then, portions of vegetarian spring rolls - yummy by themselves but could have done with a suitable dipping sauce; and finally, some steamed vegetarian dumplings filled with shredded cabbage and served with a mouth-watering green peppercorn sauce. Given the number of people around the table, these starters ran out rather quickly and we then ordered a couple of steaming baskets of the house vegetarian suimai - little cabbage wrappers shaped into purse-like portions and filled with minced vegetables - YUMMMMMMM Yum YUM

Our main courses included a mixed vegetable fried rice which was simple but unbearably plain and lacking in any flavour, although it was served hot, and looked delicious, and a Schezwan fried rice, which was rendered red by the spicy sauces it had been cooked in - spicy hot but not much else in terms of flavour. Both rice dishes were rescued by ladling on an outstanding accompaniment of vegetarian 'balls' in a chilli-garlic-soya sauce. For those of you familiar with Indo-Chinese food, this dish is very similar to the vegetable Manchurian (and even better, if that is ever possible). We also had a portion of pan-fried crispy noodles in a white sauce and here I could finally see some vegetables and I thoroughly enjoyed the blend of textures and flavours - the crispy noodles intermingled with the soft ones drenched in crunchy vegetables which had retained their flavour and texture in the mild yet more-ish sauce. We were all far too full to order puddings thereafter. So the meal began to draw to a close.

I really enjoyed the experience; the service was unobtrusive and fairly reasonable, the food was filling, good quality and on the right side of "reasonably good". One thing that bothered me a bit, though, was that all through the meal, the waiting staff were perfectly pleasant but did not seem particularly at-ease or self-confident and I, for one felt like an army of mice was scurrying around us rather than the bunch of cool, competent staff that I would expect at a posh restaurant. But to be honest, I'd rather have this than someone snooty who can't be bothered to make guests comfortable.

Oh and lest I forget, last but not least, we were sent off with an unexpected mouthful each of complimentary pudding - just as we were about to leave, the waiting staff arrived with a large bowl of darsaan - honey glazed thick crispy noodle clusters served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. Having been told it was a birthday celebration they provided us with their customary complimentary pudding for birthday party tables - they had stuck little candles in the darsaan and ice-cream combo, and while one of the waiters strummed a guitar, the whole table sang happy birthday - mortifying for the birthday "girl" , but jolly good fun for everyone else !

Verdict - Mainland China has served as the setting for many pleasant family memories. It's a nice place and I'd happilly recommend it to a friend. I'll certainly be back at Mainland China next year when I next visit India and in the meanwhile, when I am at home in London, on rainy English evenings when I am yearning for a good portion of Indo-Chinese food, I will lust for their vegetarian suimai and the chewy yet crumbly garlic-infused vegetable "balls".

PS. Given the melee at the party yesterday, I didn't get a chance to double check the cross-contamination type questions that I generally plague the waiting staff with. UPDATE - Checked and no, they say they are very careful that they don't !

14, Church Street
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560001, India

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog! Please write more reviews on restaurants in France and India.

    Your ardent fan,
    Kriti :)


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