Finally in Goa and Up to the Mark we assumed a reservation would not be needed on a Sunday night at Mainland China. For one, the place is new. Second, it’s not super easy to find despite its prime locatiovn at Calculo Mall. Third, how good can a chain restaurant really be? Plus it’s not… Read more »

Mainland China

by Goa Streets

Finally in Goa and Up to the Mark

we assumed a reservation would not be needed on a Sunday night at Mainland China. For one, the place is new. Second, it’s not super easy to find despite its prime locatiovn at Calculo Mall. Third, how good can a chain restaurant really be? Plus it’s not like there’s any shortage of Chinese food in Panjim.

Boy, were we wrong.  This past Sunday at 8 pm, there was not a single empty table, and the wait outside was 15 minutes. Still, the fact that pretty much everybody and their mother had decided to dine this night at Mainland China did not necessarily mean the food would live up to the restaurant’s own promise of offering “the most authentic of Chinese cuisine.”

Among the diners at our table were people who do know what real Chinese food is supposed to taste like – having eaten it extensively (and very contentedly) in places like Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and San Francisco. So when the first course arrived, a delicately prepared dish called “Jiang’s Soya and Chilli Chicken”, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste very much like its counterparts in yes, mainland China, but it tasted like its counterparts in some of the better establishments of the Chinese world. Remember, China, too, has its share of mediocre food.

So we were clearly on a roll. The upward trajectory slowed somewhat, however, when we tried the Prawn Hargao, traditional Chinese dumplings. There’s was nothing wrong with the taste, to be sure. But it certainly didn’t put us back in Beijing, either. It also reminded us that despite Mainland China’s stated Unique Selling Proposition of eschewing “Indianized” Chinese food, there is no beef or pork on the menu – a decidedly un-Chinese decision.

At this point, diners were hankering to get back on the roll and were not disappointed. Next came the Sichuan Chicken with Smoked Chillies and Peanuts. A little bit of background here. This is a dish diners at our table have ordered often in many places around the world. It can be very good and it can be so-so. It’s a deep-fried dish but not deep fried in a fish-and-chips kind of way. Rather, it’s a delicate, lightly coated deep fry. Mainland China’s version of this plate was as good as any we have had anywhere in the world. And it’s the main reason we will be returning often to Mainland China.

Next up was the Chicken Shaoxiang with Cashew Nuts. At this point it was clear we were dealing with high-level Chinese cuisine, so our feeling that the dish was a bit too sweet could have been due more to a raising of expectations by the restaurant’s earlier offerings than any actual shortcoming. And when we tasted the very good Fukien Crabmeat Fried Rice, any remaining doubt about Mainland China evaporated.

This is Goa’s first Mainland China, though there are many others, including one in just about every major Indian metropolis. That’s in addition to all the other restaurants run by Speciality Restaurants Ltd, including Oh! Calcutta!, Haka, Flame & Grill and Machaan.

Generally speaking, chain restaurants come with their own set of pros and cons. Some chains start out great, and then somehow lose their way, either because there’s no one on hand with a big enough stake in its quality or because of the difficulty of marrying excellence with mass production. Fortunately, these ills do not plague Mainland China. Instead, its status as a chain seems only to enhance its bearing. How else could the establishment, just three months after opening, run like clockwork, with glitch-free food and service, while serving hundreds of people on a Sunday evening in Panjim?

 

Food: Authentic, as promised

Ambience: Crowded, but this is the price you pay for eating at one of the country’s most popular chains

Something Special: Sichuan Chicken with Smoked Chillies and Peanuts

Price: Moderate. Many dishes under Rs 300

Where: On the 4th Floor of Calculo Mall, Level 5 (tip: enter through side of building rather than through mall’s main entrance).

Phone: +91 2233370/71

Food: Authentic, as promised

Ambience: Crowded, but this is the price you pay for eating at one of the country’s most popular chains

Something Special: Sichuan Chicken with Smoked Chillies and Peanuts

Price: Moderate. Many dishes under Rs 300

Where: On the 4th Floor of Calculo Mall, Level 5 (tip: enter through side of building rather than through mall’s main entrance).

Phone: +91 2233370/71

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