Restaurant Review: Chao Ban, Kalaghoda – Downtown Dim Sum At It’s Best!

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An opportunity to check out a new Pan Asian restaurant is something I rarely pass on. And when said restaurant is in one of my favourite precincts in the whole wide world—Kalaghoda, you can bet your bottom dollar, that I will magically apparate there like a foodie version of Harry Potter, before you get the chance to say “dim sum!” Now, Chao Ban, the six month old replacement to one of my most loved restaurants, Joss that was housed in the same premises (albeit owned and managed by a totally separate team) is a delight to step into. Classy, subtle hints of the Orient greet you as you enter its lemongrass scented foyer, while your eyes take in the majestic sweeping staircase that leads to the intimate mezzanine area done up in rich mahogany with delicate trimmings and oriental paraphernalia like silk screens and bird paintings.

Chaoban Interiors
Chaoban Interiors

The lower level, which was where my lunch date and I were ushered into is a large, spacious area with a feature wall hosting a gurgling waterfall that provides the soundtrack to your meal here. Our late Sunday meal started off with a quartet of Glazed BBQ Chicken Skewers perched on a tiny ceramic grilling box that we were expected to tend to ourselves. We loved the tasty morsels of divinity as much as we had fun turning them over every now and then to get all that honey on them nice and caramalised over the flame. The Vegetable Soaked Dumplings were a treat with their soup-y goodness, yummy to the very last slurp. Still on Dim Sums, next up was the crispy Prawn Rolls served with a choice of four sauces like the Peanut Paste, Soy Chilli, Yunnan Cheese and the Bandung Dip. All epic.

Steamed Dimsum at Chaoban
Steamed Dimsum at Chaoban

According to me, no self-respecting review of any Dim Sum restaurant can ever be complete without, what I consider the ultimate tester i.e. a Char Siu Bao. Unfortunately, the Pork Char Siu Bao here had a too thick dough-y skin with very miserly portioned sweet stewed pork filling that didn’t taste fresh either. Disappointing to the very core. Pun intended! Also lack-luster was the Prawn Har Gau had the right skin texture but a very boring and bland prawn filling that was crying out for some intense ginger-garlic action to oomph it up.

The drinks that we tried were highly below average and need to be worked upon a lot. I really didn’t like the Lychee-Vodka version of a Piñacolada that I was told had canned coconut milk in it.  I mean, hello? Why not use freshly made coconut milk given that it is so easy and relatively inexpensive to make? My date on the other hand likened her Chili Martini to spicy, fruity cough syrup and I have to second her opinion!

Balinese Vegetable at Chaoban
Balinese Vegetable at Chaoban

For mains, we opted for a fluffy blanket of superb Egg Fried Rice to cover our plates, while other dishes like the Chicken with Chilli provided additional foodie comfort. While we agreed that the taste of the Balinese Fish Curry was awesome, the texture could have been a little less thick and gluggy. Ditch that corn flour/arrowroot bulking up agent I say, as I would have preferred a more herbaceous, thinner sauce. Now, very rarely does a vegetarian dish stun me silent. But the Four Spiced String Beans accomplished that feat with élan. They were so good and more-ish that I couldn’t resist asking the chef Lao Kou Jung, a third generation Chinese for his family recipe.

For desserts, the Honey Fried Noodles with sesame and vanilla ice cream was so 1980s and took me back in time when that was the ultimate Chinese dessert to hit Bombay! Though perfectly edible, Chao Ban’s version was very pedestrian, clichéd and showed zero innovation. Even a jasmine or green tea-flavoured ice cream served alongside it would have jazzed it up a few notches. Faring far better on our very demanding taste chart was the wonderfully plated (just see the picture alongside!) Chocolate Ganache Mousse. Though I wish it had some Asian element like candied ginger on top, or a wasabi/lemongrass center referencing the restaurant’s genre.

I just have to say this: Chao Ban is the kind of place that seems to want to please its diners and tries its level best to do just that. And I have no doubt that in the months to come, it will be a place to reckon with. Trust me!

WHERE? 30, K Dubhash Marg, Near Chetana Restaurant, Kalaghoda, Fort. Call, 022 49150050/55

HOW MUCH? Rs 1,750 for two without alcohol.

WHEN? 12pm to 5pm and 7pm to 1am

WHAT’S HOT? The attentive, yet unobstructive service and the large portions.

WHAT’S NOT? The very disparate and inconsistent pricing. I mean, while Rs 250 for a modest dim sum is perfect, Rs 2,500 for a roast duck is what I would expect to pay in a five star restaurant, not here.

SHOULD YOU GO THERE? Hell yes!

Pics courtesy: Chao Ban

Post By Raul Dias (102 Posts)

Lists travel, food and luxury as the tantalizing trifecta that defines him. When he’s not travelling, eating or getting pampered at a spa, you'll find him assaulting his notebook's keyboard with a feral vengeance, churning out what he hopes are intelligent, informative and entertaining stories.

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Raul Dias

Raul Dias
Lists travel, food and luxury as the tantalizing trifecta that defines him. When he’s not travelling, eating or getting pampered at a spa, you'll find him assaulting his notebook's keyboard with a feral vengeance, churning out what he hopes are intelligent, informative and entertaining stories.