Oops. Leela Palace is in Chennai! After two bad episodes (though one was made up by the hotel), I forgot about Leela Palace. The fact that it is not on my way anywhere didn't make it difficult to forget and not having heard of food festivals here made it easy to wait to make a visit! When my friend reached out to give a Chef's table a shot, I wasn't too keen. When a fellow blogger, who now works close to Leela said that things are so much better now, I thought, maybe this is a good time to give it a shot.
Any restaurant which is full on a Monday evening needs to be studied. It was after dinner that I realised what I have been missing for so long! Oh man!
So this was a chef's table at China XO for their Seafood festival at the invite of the hotel. The dishes that came out were getting better, one after the other. Take the restaurant chef's Singapore experience with the mid eastern experience of the exec chef, Makwana, China XO is THE answer to Chennai's Chinese dining scene. Maybe along with Tao of Peng (though that is far far away in Mahabs), these are the only two places I can think of that dole out high quality Chinese food. While it had Asian twists and accents, it was Chinese at heart.
It started with the Lobster with Asparagus and Truffle dimsum. Supremely wonderful. The flavours of all the three were individually palpable. When the Chilean Sea Bass wrapped with the crisp stuff came along, the previous one was forgotten. This dish was even better! The fish was melt-in-your-mouth and with the crispness, was a beautiful dish. And then the best dimsum of the day, the LAKSA. This was innovative. I've never had such a dish before. Heck, I didn't even know you could have dimsum floating in a sauce! Here was a crab and prawn dimsum, shaped like a fish, floating in unmistakably Singaporean Laksa! I wanted to laugh. Having just had one piece each, I was looking for more.
And more was an understatement. The Lobster clear soup had Morel mushrooms in them! Whoa! I checked the menu to see the price of the soup and it was Rs. 750++. That mushroom costs about Rs. 20,000/kg! The broth was so yummy that at the risk of not being able to finish the meal, I dunked down the bowl into the tummy! And did not regret it!
Soft Shell crab. The only other version I've had is the semolina or rava coated and fried versions. This was something else. Stir fried with Asian spices and crisp, this was wonderful. I was starting to look for things to nitpick. Given the history with Leela, I wanted to pick out something. Ambiance. Nope, great. Empty restaurant? Nope, it was full, so clearly only I wasn't coming here and missing out! Service? Obviously difficult to judge when the chef is with you! Privacy was amazing! So many tables have their own rooms besides dedicated private dining rooms with divans and more opulence!
Time for main course! Singapore chilly crab and fried catch of the day with greens! The Singapore chilly crab was fabulous, but the Chinese fried buns that were served along with that was even better! The fried fish, presented beautifully in a deep fried fish was super yummy! We also got some Prawns in Garlic butter sauce that were silky. Apparently the butter was a French butter! Dessert was a nice platter of multiple stuff of which the almond jelly was the best. OK, nitpick time. Dessert simply didn't live upto the amazing dinner that far!
Crap. What was I missing out for the past two years! Time to do some Leela Palace eating over the next few months!
This Seafood Festival is on till the 11th of September at China XO. A meal for two will set you back by about Rs. 4000 without alcohol! Opulence comes for free!