Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lings Pavillion

This is probably Mumbai’s finest Chinese restaurant. Both HRH the Queen and I have been there literally hundreds of times. The restaurant is a favourite with the expatriate Chinese, Koreans and Japanese community. There are always several Asian businessmen frequenting the restaurant especially early in the evening, daintily eating with chopsticks. Later, happy Indian families turn up to order their favourite dishes.

This is a nice looking multi level restaurant. There are thankfully no red lanterns and other cliched Chinese motifs. The ceiling is rather magical.





I have not written about Lings earlier as I had no photographs. It took a few visits to build up a photo bank good enough for the blog.

Lings serves the classic Cantonese style of food that many of us who grew up in what was then Bombay, were brought up on. This is certainly not Szechuan or Hunan cooking. In fact Lings do not do spicy food well at all. I believe that Royal China [Bandra, Sterling], another classic Cantonese restaurant also does not do spicy food well at all. For spicy Chinese I suggest the newer pretenders, China Garden, China Gate, Mainland China and 5 Spice et al. These restaurants specialize in a mish mash of Szechuan, Hunan and Indian Chinese. Nothing wrong with this, but, it’s just a different style of cooking.

The most unique aspect of Lings Pavilion is that it is family run. The family has been running Lings and its earlier avatar Nanking for the last 66 years. It’s now owned by two brothers affectionately called Nini and Baba, and, at least one of them is always on premises. Their wives chip in too. Baba’s son successfully manages the outpost in Delhi. This means that produce is procured and checked by the owners, bookings taken by them and their eagle eyes rove the restaurant constantly. Standards are always maintained. Each time we go there we are amazed at how hard both Baba and Nini work. No holidays. No time-out. Sassoon Dock at 5am to net the freshest catch. On their feet right through every lunch and dinner service. And always ready to pitch in and take orders when the restaurant is super busy. I don’t envy their lives and as Nini rightly said, “the restaurant business is not for the faint-hearted”.

One slight problem at Lings Pavilion is, they are fairly understaffed. There are just not enough Captains taking orders. Stay calm, as this may result in slow or erratic service. The long standing star Captain, the delightfully eccentric and rather energetic Johnny, presumably in a fit of pique, resigned in December 2011. He will be missed.

All the food is good. Their spare ribs are to die for. They are real spare ribs not pork chops. You can have them in two styles either Honey Pepper or Chilli Garlic. The other good starters are Salt Pepper Prawns, the Sui Mai and the extraordinarily good Fried Corn Curd. 

Spare Ribs with Chilli & Garlic
Sometimes they have Bombil on offer, either crisp fried or soft fried Rs 200 + tax . Ask for it, Bombil cooked in this Chinese way is different. Here is the crisp fried version. Delicious with a dash of Soy Sauce drizzled on the fish. The crisp coating contrasts delightfully with the moist soft fish.

Crisp fried Bombil
Another very popular starter is their Sui Mai. These are open dumplings. They are rather well made at Lings with a thin wrapping and they are full of meat. Sui Mai are served with a very sharp English Mustard. Personally I like to add a dash of Soy Sauce to the Sui Mai before adding some Mustard.


Sui Mai

We also had an unusual starter the other day. It was Prawn, wrapped in Spinach, dipped in batter and deep fried.  Absolutely delicious. The Spinach protected the prawn from the intense heat of the oil and the result was a perfectly cooked juicy prawn. I must caution you that this is a bit pricey by relative standards.


Prawns wrapped in Spinach

One of the more unusual starters at Lings is their Fish Spring Roll. Here fish is made into a Pate or emulsion, some carrot and spring onion added as an internal garnish and the pate is stuffed into Spring Roll wrappers and fried. Very nice.



If you have a vegetarian diner with you be sure to order the Tempura Spinach. Yes it is simply Spinach Bhajjiya but its delicious.




Truly sinful, Bacon coated with batter and deep fried.
The mains are diverse and delicious. You get all manner of fish, shellfish, beef, pork, lamb & chicken here. The stews of the day [ask for them] are really astounding. These are large helpings and you get either Beef with Radish, or Chicken and Potato or Pork Belly with Tofu and Shitake Mushroom or Oxtail with Peanuts. This is a prime example of a restaurateur using cheap cuts of meat to make money.  

Pork Belly & Shitake Mushroom Stew
A dish which is rare to find in a Chinese restaurant in India is Beef with Bitter Gourd and Black Bean Rs 250 + tax . This is a classic Chinese combination. The Black Bean is supposed to reduce the bitterness of the Bitter Gourd [Karela to you and me]. This method of preparation is follows a different approach to tackling the bitterness. In Indian food the accompaniment to Karela is sweetened, here there is no sweetening but the introduction of a strong tasting ingredient, Black Bean. Be brave and try this.


Beef with Bitter Gourd and Black Bean
The Pork Meatballs with Bamboo Shoot and Pak Choy Rs 250 + tax are another out of the usual Chinese dishes available. Nice.


Pork Meatballs with Bamboo Shoot and Pak Choy
An outstanding dish which we had recently is Mandarin Fish Rs 450 + tax as of March 2012. Here you get batter fried fish with some strips of chicken and Bamboo Shoot. The earthy Bamboo Shoot enriches the dish and the bland Chicken and Fish add meatiness and texture. A truly wonderful dish.

Mandarin Fish
For a good vegetarian dish I recommend the Aubergine with Chilli Garlic Rs 200 + tax as of March 2012. Its also served with Black Bean sauce bit the Chili Garlic is, in my view, the best.


Aubergine with Chili Garlic

If you like fish and sea food, do have the Crab with Singapore Sauce which is quite different. My favourite is their Pomfret cooked dry with only Chilli Garlic is a lesson in Wok cooking but watch out, you get a whole promfret but it could set you back by an eye watering Rs 1000/-. Prawns in Mustard are nice too.

Mustard Prawn
On a recent visit, in early June, just before the monsoon arrives, Clams are at their best. A special on offer was Clams with Chilli Garlic. We got a portion and it was fantastic. The liquor was just so tasty and flavoursome. Probably the best version of Clams I have ever had.


Clams with Chilli Garlic


Grilled Pomfret with Lettuce 


The meat dishes are different and delicious. The Mongolian Beef with whole Red Chilli is nice as are the Steaks fried with dry spices. My all time favourite is their Roast Pork cooked dry with a hint of Chilli. The sweet of the Roast Pork and the heat of the raw chilli is a winning combination.

Roast Pork cooked dry with a hint of Chilli

Mongolian Beef

Steaks fried with dry spices
Another variation on Pork is something called Special Roast Pork Rs 300 +tax as of March 2012. This was thinly sliced Roast Pork dressed with a red sauce that had a sweet undertone. It was not spicy at all despite the scary colour. Leftovers of this make a great toasted Pork sandwich the next day.


Special Roast Pork
The various pot rice dishes [Prawn & Bacon, Pork mince and Egg] are absolutely fabulous. Please do me a favour and do not eat the silly Bamboo Rice. This is a ridiculous dish. Fried rice is stuffed in a Bamboo and served to you. The Bamboo has no addition to the taste whatsoever, you just pay more for a Fried Rice. The Shantung Noodles Rs. 250 + tax as of March 2012 are another favourite. These are thick noodles stir fried with mixed meat, Celery and Bean Sprout. The Steamed Chinese Bao Rs 100 + tax as of March 2012 are delicious to soak up the sauces.


Steamed Bao


Rice with Pork Mince and Egg


Shantung Noodles
Stir Fried Bok Choy
The food is otherwise reasonable priced with most dishes being in the Rs. 300/ – Rs. 400/ range provided you stay away from the luxury items like Crab, whole Pomfret, and jumbo prawn. Alcohol is very reasonably priced and the food portions are generous to large by normal Mumbai standards. 

Go there if you have not been, don’t order spicy food and I am sure you will eat very well.

7 comments:

  1. Lings rock! Food is delicious and these photos are very appetizing. Thanks for sharing this, next time I am there(whenever that is) I am going to try Roast Pork cooked with a hint of Chilli and pork belly & shitake stew.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sadashiv VombatkereJanuary 30, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Great!! Yes, Ling's is the Best Chinese REstaurant that I have been to... Thanks to both of you... I will try the Roast POrk the next time we go..

    ReplyDelete
  3. Is this where you and HRH took me a few years back. It was delish!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beef with bitter gourd. Bombil. Augergine. Next time.

    Awesome post. Thanks for introducing lings to me 10 years back. Life has changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome boss. Let me know when next in Mumbai. We can certainly go to Lings.

      Delete