Pan Asian @ Grand Chola

Expectation is a good thing - it keeps us looking forward to something! Sometimes when our expectations are met, we are very happy, when they aren't, we are not so happy. But there are times when expectations are neither met nor unmet, but thrown out of the window!

Pan Asian at The Grand Chola called me on a quiet Friday evening and asked to join them for their opening celebrations the following Sunday and I could not make it. 'Monday or Tuesday would be fine', I suggested. And after not being able to make it on Monday either, Tuesday it was and when friends from CFG said that they were invited too, I was looking forward to a night of exotic Thai, Singaporean (though nothing is really Singaporean) and Malay dishes and maybe a bit of Chinese here and there! The nasty traffic played it's part and I missed the 'Amuse', which was supposed to be an introduction to the cuisine. And yeah, the restaurant, a fine dining pan Asian one in a five star deluxe, one of a kind hotel (at least size wise) in Chennai was almost packed on a Tuesday evening.

A chef tasting menu is what we were supposed to have that evening. A Banana Blossom salad was served. I had no idea from which Asian country that dish was from, but the taste was outstanding - not exotic, in fact, it was rather simple, but outstanding. This was followed by Duck Carpaccio, now, I am not a fan of duck meat, in fact, I have had duck in some fancy places and I still stay away, but this duck was edible for me. The others thought it was fantastic and if I was not so prejudiced, I would have agreed. A simple but modified Thai classic salad came out next and was good, again, not exotic. Then a Sichuan style Crispy prawn - yeah, Sichuan, to remind us that China is part of Asia! Excellent, followed by the stir fried squid, which was nice too. And an excellent Wok Tossed Chicken followed suit to end the list of starters. Like the others, this had just the chicken, some nuts and a cucumber salad.

And then came the soup bowl, yeah, the soup bowl with something small in it. The soup came separately in a jar which we had to pour. The soup was simple with very mild flavours, but since the appetising was already done, I don't know how the soup fit in, but it was a break from the flavours thus far. By this time I had two mocktails already, a virgin Mojito and a chilly spice, both of which were very predictable.

A glazed salmon started proceedings for the main course, again, maybe I only like Salmon smoked, so I thought this was ok, but we soon had another excellent chicken, very similar to the nutty chicken starter - look and simplicity wise, but completely different in flavour. We then had an assorted seafood which was very nice too with Asian Greens and Teppanyaki fried rice - and what wonderful Teppanyaki fried rice. Japan is very much a part of Asia. We finished off with two excellent desserts to end what was an amazing evening. The dinner hit the sweet spot - left us full, but not stuffed.

The chef then joined us to explain the dishes, so when the dishes came we did not have someone telling what it was, but the food did all the talking - the chef only did the yabadaba doo. A meal for two should set you back by about Rs 5000, but if you want to spend more, you can ask for the Chef's table starting at Rs 6500 per person and you can go up to whatever number you want. But if you're at the restaurant and don't want to go through the menu ask for Chef Vikram and ask him to help you out. The menu has three sections - Chinese (with four different Chinese cuisines), Japanese and rest of Asia!

So, yeah, back to expectations - what to do with them? I went in expecting something, came out experiencing something completely different - simple flavours with excellent taste in a five star deluxe hotel. Quite an oxymoron isn't it? But since the meal left me quite happy, I would rate this 4.5/5. Whoa, two restaurants taking up the 4.5 in one week. I wish life continues this way.

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