One day I will have good, authentic Chinese food in a restaurant in Bangalore….
But till that day arrives, Shitakke will do as well. We went on a whim to Shittake, because it was new, because it sounded interesting on the menu, and more than anything else, it was right next door and we were tired.
So we plodded our merry way to the Bangalore Central (Bellandur) and were skeptical about a fine-dining restaurant in a mall. Much to our surprise, once we crossed the threshold of the firmly padded doors into the restaurant, it was like entering a different world. The decor and ambience at Shitakke is beautiful, though perhaps a little too bright. The Buddha effigy in the centre, the delicate Thai paintings on the walls, the tables by the big glass windows overlooking the chaos of the road below - it all works and works well.
The menu tries hard to be more than just the run-of-the-mill Indian Chinese variety with some interesting pan-Asian influences. Like we do with any restaurant, we decided to try out all the ‘test’ dishes from China (having spent a considerable time there, there are some dishes we know which tell you what the cook is up to) along with Mocktails. I had a Mango Chill which was beautifully blended - I could taste the mango, the orange and the mint, and it was do delicately flavoured that it put a smile on my face.
We ordered four dishes between the two of us - a roasted tofu salad, water chestunuts in roasted butter garlic, a mapo tofu and some jasmine steamed rice. And while all of it was edible, nicely presented, well portioned and served with care, it was, at the end of the day, just another Indian interpretation of what Chinese food is.
The tofu salad was interesting but had a spice palette that was not Asian. It seemed like a regular American China Town fare, though the crispness of the salad and the texture were great.
The waterchestnuts were the highlight of our meal - cooked to perfection, crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside and tossed with a beautiful garlic butter. Unfortunately, it was served with carved carrots and lettuce and other decorative elements which had no place on that plate. If you can’t eat it, don’t serve it is my mantra for plating and so while pretty, it was sad that they couldn’t think of serving it with a korean kimchi or some pickled vegetables.
The Mapo tofu was a huge disappointment. It fell into the usual trapping of “all Chinese food is garlic” flavouring and the sauce came on too strong of the garlic and not enough of the ‘Ma’ that gives it the name. The tofu in itself was a disaster - I was craving for the smooth, flaky, soft caresses of a mapo tofu and instead got something that felt like really good paneer. This is a test dish for me, for any restaurant that claims to have good Asian food - a simple dish that requires so much care and skill.
The rice was another no-no. It seemed like a mediocre quality Basmati when I was hoping for a nice Jasmine aromatic grain cooked to the right consistency of sticky. It was ordinary and unappealing, with not even the pretence of a garnish in its presentation.
We ended the evening on a good note because the ambience is lovely - although it is a little freaky to be the only customers for two hours - and the service was nice and we were in a mood to be happy. But all in all, Shitakke, for all its efforts is a rather generic Asian food restaurant where the chefs are trained, the Maitre De informed us, under the best chefs in China. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell us which part of China, or what region inspired the menu and the cooking, and that is all that you need to know in terms of tailoring your expectations.
Would I go there again? Probably, considering that it is practically next door and is still better than the chilly-paneer variety of chinese food that the area boasts of. Would I say it is the best Chinese food restaurant in the city? No. And yet, it is a good space to find yourself on a tired evening, to have a peck at what passes of as Chinese food in most of Bangalore.
For more details on the restaurant: Shittake Restaurant: http://www.zomato.com/bangalore/restaurants/south/sarjapur-road/shitakke-52372
Rating: 3 on 5