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    China XO at The Leela Palace promises two weeks of fiery happiness with a Sichuan promotion

    LEELA11SICHUAN peppercorns may be travelling from the kitchen to the bar at edgy cocktail stations abroad, but we prefer the spice in our dimsums and wok-fired treats. Keeping this in mind, Dharmen Makawana, executive chef at The Leela Palace, has lined up a two-week promotion at the elegant China XO. Starting today, you get a special menu of about 24 items at the speciality Chinese restaurant overlooking the Bay of Bengal, featuring both crowd pullers and experiments. From dimsums and soups to the main course, you’ll find chilli oil and the famed peppercorns used to great effect, but stopping (just) short of the tears-inducing, mouth-numbing creations some Sichuan specialists take delight in presenting.
    The chilli spot
    On the night we visit, the hotel is teeming with wedding guests — a given, what with the property’s glittering interiors and palatial theme — but the restaurant is thankfully serene. Jade lions look on (a design element from the Japanese firm, Studio Spin), as we get down to the serious business of Sichuan tasting. Cheery Malaysian Chinese chef Wong Hoi is at hand as we sample succulent dimsums, packed with bamboo and chicken — not suprisingly, they are fantastic. For those not in the know, this restaurant has an excellent dimsum selection, courtesy their dimsum chef, Soon Wah Cheong — you must try the plump prawn-pork steamed Siu Mai and the house speciality, the popular Chilean sea bass and edamame truffle dumplings. But we digress from all things Sichuan. There are pancakes — tame marshmallow-like cubes that chef Wong says are a deft mix of rice and corn paste (not potato, as the wait staff insist) — balanced with a fiesty chilli chicken that hits the spot. A robust soup that follows checks the ‘hot’ and ‘sour’ boxes and is equipped to tackle a common cold.
    Lust for spice
    The restaurant has a famous wood-fired stove for duck, but it remains silent right through our meal — perhaps because the Peking Duck needs marination for 48 hours and 45 minutes cooking time. We spend time on the wok-fired pork spare ribs instead. Flown in from Holland, and served with barbecue sauce on a regular day, it gets the Sichuan chilli treatment. Tasty and well-textured, it deserves a longer stay on the menu and pairs  well with the handmade Zha Jiang noodles that follow. The Sichuan promotion, till the end of the month, is for dinner only. Meal for two: Rs.3,000- Rs.4,000. Details: 33661234

    — Rosella Stephen

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