ITC Grand Chola’s newest Chinese chef tells us about his plans for Pan Asian
t’s chef Liu Wen’s day off but he’s graciously agreed to put off his exploration of Phoenix MarketCity to chat with me. The 27-year-old from Beijing moved to Chennai three months ago to head the Chinese kitchen at ITC Grand Chola’s Pan Asian. The restaurant’s menu is having an overhaul and he’s come from ITC Dwaraka to add Sichuan and Hunan flavours to the new menu here. “Sichuan is spicy and has many different flavours. Hunan is spicier still,” he grins, while chef Ashish Singh, who heads Pan Asian, delights in some gentle ribbing of his colleague. Wen is learning English, so communication can sometimes be a matter of charades or Google translate, but the common language of cooking frequently takes over.
Take your pick
Wen offers us a chicken starter with fresh chilli and a piquant, juicy prawn in chilli garlic sauce. Both dishes offer slow rising heat that hits the back of the throat, but doesn’t reduce you to tears. What Wen wants then, is to showcase an ostensibly familiar (to us) style of Chinese in a more nuanced form, though the restaurant is open to customising dishes to suit guests, if needed. What he really adds to Pan Asian, however, is his expertise in dim sum. The prawn dim sum especially, is a succulent delight, and worth a try. Wen, who came to India about 18 months ago at the invitation of his master, chef Liang at Pan Asian, ITC Maratha,
interestingly is married to a dim sum chef. He copes with living away from family in a different country by sampling the local food and checking
out the malls. He’s also the rare chef who cops to a sneaking fondness for fast food. New at the resto
Meanwhile, Singh draws our attention to the overhauled sushi and sashimi menu, with fish coming directly from Japan and details real foodies would care for — like upgrading to the premium koshihari rice and sourcing their chillies from Sichuan. Having also worked with Wen on fine tuning existing dishes, he recommends the range of dim sum, lobster in XO sauce and roast leg of lamb from the Chinese menu, and the wasabi prawns and grilled Chilean seabass from the Japanese menu. New ice creams and sorbets have been added, and we love the raspberry with black pepper ice cream and the mango and chilli, as well as the beetroot and ginger sorbets.
Meal for two at Rs 4,500 plus tax. Details: 22200000
— Ranjitha Gunasekaran