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Fa Yian opts for a menu list that comprises of nothing but absolute gems
Source: "Voyage"
January 1995

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Old Connaught Place hands would know that till not so long ago, behind the former British Airways office in A block, bang opposite Dhoomimal Art Gallery, there used to be a fairly successful travel agent. This shop, like many other retailers around town, has now reopened as a 36-cover Chinese eatery called Fa Yian.

Shops are not easy to decorate in a manner appropriate to restaurants though Delhi has its share of ingenious ideas. Fa Yian is not one of them. Mind you, there is nothing unpleasant about the place: the monotony of white plastered walls is broken by building lazy arches six inches deep. The simplicity of the plain wooden tables and plank chairs is offset by Chinese paper lampshades and a profusion of potted plants hung along one wall. But there is no solution to that peculiar and very linear shop look-perhaps the resultant loss of seating space was unacceptable.

Fa Yian makes two significant contributions to the evolution of contemporary Chinese restaurants. First, and foremost, it does without Bhutia/Nepali/Sikkimese waiters-no phony mood statement here. The doorman is a huge bouncer with a moustache to rival Tehsildar Singhs, and the help inside seem to hail from Uttar Pradesh. But second, and this is very important, Fa Yian opts for a menu list that comprises of nothing but absolute gems. The whole sour-hot, sweet-sour, garlic, ginger, sauce and tarka (saut) mentality is dispensed with. This is niche marketing at its finest: everything is unique and everything is chosen because its assumed that diners would want something new. There is no great regional focus either. Dishes have been picked because they are good and the menu changes a bit over dinner, with higher prices too!

Let us look at what the dinner menu has to offer. On call is a 10 course appetizer list with, golden prawns, drums of heaven, spring rolls and wontons apart, offers the absolutely fantastic nuek shong ku, steamed mushrooms with meat stuffing, steamed egg with chicken mince, and sui chiao, a dumpling variation (all Rs.60).

The soup list is equally long, offering, apart from the regulars, the Fa Yian hot pot (Rs.80), designer-cooked to order and the truly outstanding mahmee soup (Rs.45), a prawn, rice, noodle and vegetable clear soup. Fa Yian lists its specialities separately and these include stir-fried prawns (Rs.180),steamed fish (Rs.90), whole prawns in blackbean sauce, the spicy but delectable honey chicken (Rs.90), served stir-fried with cherries, and Australian fish with capsicum and garlic. Each of these is a gem and is strongly recommended.

Specialities apart, Fa Yian carries a 30-item main course list and it would take a little book to eulogize about the lot. However, very briefly, there are three fairly predictable options each of prawn, fish and lamb. Chicken gets a lot of attention here (Rs.65-80): of the nine options, the moi moi and the Singapore are very good.

Vegetarians have a choice of 10 main courses (Rs.50-65), with mixed variations of baby corn, mushrooms and bamboo shoots plus eggplant in black bean sauce and Fa Yian red eggs.

Consistent with the main course, Fa Yian?s rice and noodle list is both comprehensive and rich in Unique Selling Proportions (Rs.35-65). Especially recommended are the pineapple rice with fried chicken balls.

By the way of dessert, this restaurant offers a choice of four: sundae special (Rs.50), lychees with ice cream, vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and tutti frutti Rs.35, but no date pancakes.

     Copyright 2007, Fa Yian

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