Oriental Dawn: New Menu Launch at Pan Asian, ITC Sonar

As a young girl growing up in 1990s Calcutta, eating out meant only two things. Mughlai or Chinese. The Meccas of those two cuisines were Shiraz and the various restaurants in China Town (Tangra) or Park Street. Every single time we would have a family dinner the most obvious items for order would be Biriyani, Chaanp, Reshmi Kebab or Fried Rice, Chilli Chicken and Sweer n Sour Chicken. And then came the era of cable television and with the preponderance of various food/lifestyle channels, the knowledge of food started to expand. I learnt of things like Shawarma, Sushi, Tagine and Thai Curry...but couldn't sample anything because none of the restaurants in my city offered the fare in the first place.
Thank God all that has changed and with the passage of time we have welcomed in our city amazing restaurants serving authentic non-Indian cuisine. And leading the pack is ITC Sonar's Pan Asian, arguably India's finest East Asian restaurant. I was there, as part of the Kolkata Food Bloggers, to sample their new and revised menu launch, which promises to take you on an exotic culinary journey through Pan Asian's new landscape of aromas, textures and flavours.
We were greeted with a refreshing mocktail made of Sprite, Cranberry Juice and Lime and it instantly had us pepped. I was hungry by this time and as a die hard lover of Asian cuisine, I couldn't wait for the gala lunch to unfold. The expectation from the ITC group is always huge given the standards they have set for themselves, and this time too their game was top notch!

As they say, "Well begun is half done", the starters of the day set the tone of the spread that was to follow. The first ones to arrive were Yam woon sen phak (Glass noodle salad with vegetable, typical Bangkok style) and Yam moo (Traditional Thai pork salad). I have had an immense variety of glass noodle salad from across restaurants, but the subtle balance between the sweet, sour, tang and heat would make me rate this higher than my ever-favourite cold pork salad.

Following in tow were the Kushikatsu (Deep-fried Chicken skewers layered with onions and bell pepper), a popular Japanese street food and Crispy Fried Lotus Stem, and boy weren't they crispy! The chicken was crumb-fried to perfection and with four pieces in one skewer killed a lot of our appetite. But I didn't mind it at all, so it was all for the good! The lotus stem dish was a revelation, with just a touch of heat to suit the climatic condition in the colder areas.

Next in line were probably the best starters of the day....Chao Shao qie zi (Stir fried eggplant with Chinese barbeque sauce) and Lemongrass fish (Thai-style stir-fried fish hinted with lemongrass). Now, I'm allergic to eggplants (the only thing in the planet that I'm allergic to, apart from ilish/hilsa), but the crisp batter looked so inviting that I couldn't help but scrape a little of the batter and pop it into my mouth pushing the mushy eggplant aside. And wasn't it a riot of flavours! My friends and fellow bloggers kept on raving about the dish, and secretly I cursed my allergy that prevented me from enjoying the dish in its totality! But what made up completely for that loss was the Lemongrass Fish. I loved this dish so much so that I don't even remember how the Pineapple and Litchi Blue Curacao Mocktail (that was served at this point) tasted!
It was now turn for the soup and mains to make their appearance. The Japanese-style clear seafood soup or Sumashi  was served very intelligently, with the broth separately in a jug and an assortment of prawns, fish, squid and mushrooms in a bowl. As you poured the broth into the bowl the seafood and the crystal clear liquid blended to give you a flavourful soup that marks the essence of Japan.

The main course boasted of a formidable spread from across Asian countries that included Stir-fried Bokchoy, Mushroom in Soy Bean sauce, Babycorn with Spicy Tomato Water Chestnut and Onions, Asparagus and garlic-glazed bell peppers, Steamed Prawns and Glass Noodles, Muxu Chicken (Stir-fried sliced chicken with white fungus and cucumber) and Black pepper pork spare ribs, served along with Nasi Goreng ((Malaysian version of famous rice preparation with prawn chicken and dried shrimp paste). My top picks from this lot were the Pork Ribs, cooked to perfection and the Mushrooms, largely because of the hopelessly mushroom-addict that I am! What I did not like, however, was the Prawns and glass noodles dish. Somehow I could taste raw garlic and that kinda put me off a bit. But a minor glitch really, in an otherwise delectable spread.
By now we were full to the brim and ready to make a move when came the dessert, grandest of them all. ITC had surely saved the best for the last and the Kati sod ((Homemade Young coconut ice cream served in shells with coconut jelly) that was served to us stole the show. No amount of descriptive adjectives would be enough for it, so I'm not even going to try.
Pan Asian has revamped their menu which boasts of a huge variety of brilliant food other than what we sampled. To be a part of this luxurious dining experience, visit the restaurant on weekends from 12.30 pm-2.45 pm and throughout the week between 7 pm to 11.45 pm for dinner. If you're in mood for some Sunday brunch, they serve that as well!
PS: This was an invited review and the post is completely a personal account of the blogger based on her experience. No monetary compensation was involved.


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