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    The Golden Dragon gets a menu update, with golden lotuses and hot peanut butter soups stealing the show.

    Whatever happened to shark’s fin soup?” I ask aloud, as I dip my ceramic spoon into the clear stock with pale button mushrooms and green floaty mint leaves. “May I present you with a filament of shark’s fin?” a good Chinese host was supposed to ask a revered guest, spearing it with his own chopstick. The white filaments were supposed to contain “qi” or energy that enhanced the beauty of a woman’s skin and the vitality of her companion.
    “No decent person talks of shark’s fin,” my companion of the evening rebukes me. “It’s on the endangered species list.” He belongs to the seaweed and kale brigade.
    “You like steamed fish in banana leaf?” asks chef William, the down-to-earth Hong Kong-born chef who has been practising his skills at the Golden Dragon since 2010. The seaweed champion is looking happier, if a little greener.

    Dainty does it
    He sends a tongue tickler of two tiny asparagus spears and pale slices of pear in vinegar on a graffiti of black sauce scribbled on a white disc. Each of the starters that follow, accompanied by side dishes of sliced radish and pickled cucumber, appear like images on a Chinese scroll. The ‘scrolls’ are made of slates of black graphite. The chicken dumpling is a golden sphere in a crisp shell of taro skin. It is paired with a transparent silken dimsum potli with shredded spinach inside, while the carrot and radish roll is a succulent morsel wrapped in Chinese puff pastry. Enoki mushrooms fried crisp spring out of a golden lotus flower cup, edible of course.
    He has created his own version of sauces. There is the Lao Han Ma and the Mala sauce along with the fiery orange-red of the chilli-infused sesame oil that he uses to create small Chinese-like characters on the side of the plate. The steamed fish is dragon’s tongue hot basted with pepper and ginger.

    Spread the warmth
    After the starters, the main course is more conventional. We whiz through the spicy vegetable fried rice and noodles, a delicious bean curd with the green beans of the soya family, as we can’t wait for the desserts. “From the streets of Hong Kong, hot peanut butter soup,” exclaims chef William. It’s a bowl of melted warmth, rich and sweet as a Chinese emperor’s silken sash. They did invent silk didn’t they, so why not this silken peanut soup? It’s gorgeous.
    Meal for two at Rs 4,500. Open for lunch and dinner, at the Taj Coromandel. Details: 66002827

    —Geeta Doctor


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