Chap Chay, Rain Tree

I have never thought too much about the food at Rain Tree hotels, but after Up North and now Chap Chay (pronounced Chup Chai), my opinion has changed dramatically. Specialty restaurants are finding their place in Chennai and I love it it that we are moving away from a singular Chinese Restaurant concept when China is much larger than India and therefore there has to be a difference like how Idly Sambar is different from Aloo Paratha. If you have tried the 'Mongolian Kitchen' type restaurants in the USA, this is very similar. Chap Chay positions itself as a Chinese/Thai restaurant with a focus on Stir Fry.

Chef Peter Tseng, the executive sous chef invited me over and I was shocked to see a specialty stir fry restaurant in Chennai and was kicking myself for not trying it out earlier. I simply dismissed this place as 'another Chinese joint'. It was packed on a Wednesday (Thursday was Independence day) and after being seated, we were served their classic Tom Yum Soup, which I thought was perfect - just the right amount of spice that gives you the aftertaste. The Prawns in Phyllo Pastry was an amazing dish with the crunch on the outside and super prawns inside. The lotus stem was also nice, but only then I realised that Chef Peter was the man behind, Lotus @ The Park, which remains one of my favourite restaurants to date.

But at this restaurant, if you stuff yourself with starters and soup, you will not be able to do justice to the concept of Stir Fry and the starters and soup are not-out-of-the-world-enough to prevent you from skipping straight to their specialty main course - the STIR FRY. While they have a proper menu with everything from starters to dessert, but humble opinion will be: Skip it all and dive straight to the stir fry. The stir fry is priced at Rs 699 plus tax and they have 16 vegetables, 8 meats, 4 noodles and 16 sauces and even attempting to see the permutation/combinations available will need a super computer (OK, regular computer). The best part - it is unlimited and you can visit the stir fry counter any number of times and try out any number of combinations - it is almost like a do-it-yourself-buffet.

Take the bowl, fill whatever you want, give it to the chef, add a choice of egg, choose your sauce and will be stir fried and served on your table. Two of the tables had 'Chinese/Korean' guests and I saw one of them do something unique - he had a bowl filled with only vegetables, one with only meat and one with noodles all separate! We however stuck to the routine and filled our bowls with noodles, meat and veggies, but next time, I want to get more creative. Literally you can create your own starter and main course. The meats available were chicken, chicken sausage, mutton, beef, basa fish, tuna fish, prawn and oyster.

I asked the chef for a dessert platter and it was happily served. I loved the desserts - a very usual but well done fried ice cream, chocolate ganache with lemongrass sauce (I think it was lemongrass) and water chestnut, but both red and green - the green ones were soaked in kiwi syrup.

Chef invite or not, this is a place where your creativity will decide the outcome of the meal or you can call the chef and ask him to toss up the stir-fry. They have a regular menu, but they refuse to serve 'Chicken Manchurian' and I like that the restaurant has that focus.  A meal for two should cost you about Rs. 2500, but if you stick to the Stir Fry and dessert option, you could reduce the damages to about Rs.1800 for two.

Chap Chay is at the basement of The Raintree hotel, St. Mary's road.