Spice can be sneaky, sophisticated and sensational. I don’t just make this statement to craft a tempting Alliteration. My recent dining experience at Yi Jing, Mumbai was a scrumptious three-hour demonstration of the same. Yi Jing is ITC’s flagship Chinese restaurant, which was first incubated at ITC Kohenur in HITEC City, Hyderabad. ITC Maratha, Mumbai marks its fourth outpost (after Delhi and Ahmedabad) in the country. In my opinion, the city is more than ready for it. In a region brimming with Pan-Asian options, a specialised approach at this scale is sure to evoke interest. The crowd here is informed, open to experiences and hungry for “authentic” flavours. Can Yi Jing manage to not just impress them, but entice them to return? We find out for ourselves.
Our reservation is for dinner and we enter to find a space with gorgeous red, black and beige accents. The striking contrast and floral motifs remind us of scarlet Cheongsam dresses. Apart from regular tables, the restaurant has seating at the bar as well as live counters where guests can immerse themselves in the magic of woks, noodle-making, dim sum-shaping and more. Chinese cuisine has naturally theatrical elements and the restaurant invites you to make the most of it.
At the helm of Yi Jing is Liang Xiao Qing, who is nothing short of a legend when it comes to this particular cuisine. Armed with over four decades of experience, Chef Liang is the recipient of several prestigious accolades and has wowed dignitaries around the world with his culinary prowess. He has also served as a host and judge in various cooking shows and competitions. With Yi Jing, he gets to show Mumbai what it’s been missing when it comes to something as popular as Chinese food. Through our conversation, his emphasis on quality ingredients and subtlety of technique stand out. The dishes here are mainly centred around Sichuan and Hunan – and Chef Liang is determined to transport you there.
Let’s dive into our recommendations. If you like to begin your meal with a soothing soup, you cannot go wrong with the Vegetable Coriander Soup. Give us this simple, heart-warming broth every monsoon and winter evening, and we won’t refuse. The Sichuan-style chicken & Mushroom Hot Pot Soup turned out to be a markedly potent counterpart. While we relished it, brace yourselves for heat after ordering it.
The initial section of the menu will leave dim sum lovers spoilt for choice. We don’t just mean in terms of filling. The dim sums at Yi Jing are miniature masterpieces in terms of flavour and aesthetics. In their own way, they redefine what we expect these crowd-favourite appetisers to be. Take, for instance, the Chicken Char Sui dumplings in the form of elegant swans. We are in the habit of photographing well-plated food from different angles, and let us tell you, this one kept us occupied for a few minutes. Note the attention to detail: the crisp exterior shaped like wavy feathers, the white sesame on both ends, the eyes and the beak. After admiring their beauty, we had to steel ourselves before disturbing and then consuming their form. But on doing so, we polished off each satisfyingly crispy bite.
Among the vegetarian options, don’t miss the Sake and Edamame Dumplings, shaped like Edamame pods. These melt-in-the-mouth bites have a hint of truffle, which brings an assured balance of flavours. We have tried several truffle edamame dishes before, but this one carried a certain sophistication. The heart-shaped Spicy Carrot And Wasabi Dumplings were an instant favourite too. The texture was the champion here – we loved how the heat of the wasabi seemed almost hidden in between strands of the grated carrot. Another texture treat was the BBQ Pork Buns: cloud-like soft buns that enclosed a sweet and spicy meat stuffing. While this particular order was rather difficult to navigate with cutlery, the taste triumphed above all else.
We are not done with the appetisers. Beyond dimsums and dumplings, Yi Jing boasts several other options for indulgence before you reach the main course. For an exquisite crunch, go with the Stir Fried Water Chestnuts Wok Tossed With Crispy Chili. If you want to play it safe, you can choose the comforts of classic Cantonese-style Lotus Stem. These are not small chip-sized bites, but almost thin and crisp discs that would span an average palm. The restaurant sources them from Thailand and tosses them in their version of a sweet chilli sauce. Seafood aficionados, don’t hesitate before ordering the King Prawn In Two Flavours. Size is the king here, but so is the consistency of the perfectly cooked fish and the robustness of flavours.
Yi Jing prides itself on its duck offerings and is featured in nearly every category on the menu. We liked the Crispy Cantonese Duck Cigar Roll served with plum sauce. But, in hindsight, we felt that the other starters left more of an impression. Nevertheless, the most memorable part of our meal was digging into the Beijing Duck from the Chinese Barbeque section. This dish is an experience in itself, and Chef Liang guided us through the different stages. The duck is served with several sides: one trio consists of hoisin sauce, garlic paste and fine sugar. The other consists of rice pancakes, spring onion and cucumber. As directed, we dipped the crispy skins into the sugar first. Our palette was thereafter ready for the next experience: the combination of the other pieces with the sides in the form of a wrap. This medley was a hit: we loved the freshness of the greens, the tenderness of the meat and the salty-sweetness of the hoisin.
Before we move to the main course, a brief about the cocktails at Yi Jing. The refreshing concoctions from the bar menu are inspired by the four seasons in China: Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn. We highly recommend Shangai Rose (a gin-based cocktail with lavender, rose syrup, elderflower and a hint of cranberry juice). If you’re a fan of the pineapple and passion fruit duo, go for the Ocha Sour, made using Roku gin. You can also ask the mixologist to customise a drink specially for you, with a base of any spirit of your choice. On selecting vodka, we were treated to Sea Breeze, also featuring blue curacao, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and soda.
After the delights of the Beijing Duck, our expectations reached a notch higher. The Chengdu Style Sliced Lamb With House Special Chilly Powder was one of the delicacies we had been waiting to try all evening. We had learnt that it’s one of the menu’s key dishes that features Chef Liang’s favourite Sichuan peppers. He sources them by hand during his frequent travels to China. The fiery gravy was served with sticky jasmine rice. In most other restaurants, a popular pairing would be fried rice or hakka noodles. But what we appreciated about the choice of jasmine rice was that it allowed the distinctive aroma of the peppers to stand out. The dish as a whole was thus a symphony, not a cacophony, of spice and heat. The lamb, sourced from New Zealand, was juicy and succulent.
If you’re looking for a chicken option, go with the Stir-Fried Shredded Chicken With Preserved Chilli Sauce. This is also a spicy gravy that packs a flavourful punch. We recommend relishing it with yet another Yi Jing speciality: hand-pulled la-mian noodles. Don’t forget to snag a seat at the live counter and watch the chefs create this delicacy from scratch – relying on culinary techniques dating back 4000 years. The noodles themselves are so wonderfully wholesome: they made us reconsider the ones we had been eating to date.
To end our feast, we first tried Yuzu Mascarpone Cheesecake, Hibiscus Scented Fresh Seasonal Fruit Compote. It didn’t quite hit the mark: the cheesecake was not as creamy as the mascarpone in its name would suggest, and the tartness of the sorbet was rather overpowering. What we liked better was the Peanut Marquise, Ginger-Pineapple Ice Cream & Five Spiced Caramel. This is a decadent delight perfect for those who have reserved space in their tummies for dessert. But if you can’t handle something too heavy, simply order the homemade Ginger-Pineapple sorbet separately. This was expertly balanced: you are first hit with the earthy flavour of ginger; just as you expect the pungency to kick in, the tangy sweetness of pineapple comes to your rescue. We would return for this.
Yi Jing shone a different light on Chinese staples, as well as the kind of spiciness and aromas we expect from them. We were impressed with the balance of subtlety and robustness in every dish we tasted. Whether you enjoy Chinese food, like to explore Asian flavours or want to indulge in a lavish gastronomic feast, Yi Jing promises an incredible experience you should not miss out on.
Where: Yi Jing, Lobby Level, ITC Maratha, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Mumbai, Sahar, Andheri East
When: Lunch – 12:00 pm to 2:45 pm; Dinner – 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm; All Days of Week
Cost for two (approx): INR.5000 plus taxes
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