A dining experience at the House of Ming at the Taj Mahal Hotel in the national capital, which reopened on May 2, is much more than mere food. The sheer beauty of the space sets the mood for the experience with delicate, pendant chandeliers, bead artworks, mandarin, teal and white colour scheme, a shuttered glass wall and an eye-catching painting of a Ming princess that provides inspiration for the restaurant’s name. The story goes like this. A young Indian painter caught a glimpse of a mysterious Ming empress in a market but could not look at her face. All he saw was a beautifully tied hair bun decorated with intricate pins. This obsession of the young painter led to a painting of what he saw. A designer’s impression of the mythical painting is reproduced at the restaurant and becomes a conversation starter.
The food that follows dominates the rest of the evening, a combination of Sichuan, Cantonese and Hunan cuisine. Chef Arun Sundararaj, director of culinary operations at the hotel, explains how he has toned down the chilli quotient in some of the dishes to suit Indian palates. The menu introduces a roasts and fries section, which is the first for any Chinese restaurant in the country. Think Peking duck or roasted chicken in rose wine soya, mala roast cumin goat, pork belly chilli spiced slow roast, sweet and sour chrysanthemum fish… The meal begins with the most delectable dim sums, delicately wrapped and with as many options for vegetarian as for meat and seafood. The pickled vegetable option with beetroot, purple potato and Chiniang caviar is a huge winner, as is the black pepper crabmeat or the crystal chicken. The crispy morel as a starter can win over any mushroom hater even with its sharp flavours and textures, and the jellied corn in a butter chilli sauce offers something very innovative to diners. Baked crab in its shell with a garlic butter sauce is as much a delight to the eyes as to the palate. The main course puts diners in a dilemma to choose, with seven different dishes of chicken alone. The braised pork belly, however, is a good option—succulent and flavourful. The Sichuan eggplant is worth trying for vegetarians. The visually striking Citron, a lime crémeux with an orange centre and cheese mille-feuille, rounds up the meal perfectly. For those with a penchant for chocolate, Elements, a chocolate marquise with caramelised pineapple, orange gel and pineapple filo, is the perfect sweet ending.
Always to know the pulse of diners, the chef has incorporated flavours that are sure to be a hit with diners. For the private dining spaces, carving stations have been set up for interactive experiences. A chef’s choice menu with 17 courses, designed exclusively for the private dining rooms, is another option for an immersive and elaborate dining experience. A live tea trolley that offers several courses of tea during the meal and eclectic cocktails that balance the five elements of nature— wood, fire, earth, metal and water—complete the experience that is the House of Ming.