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Indian cuisine returns to Sea World
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More than six months have passed since a flood destroyed the lower level of Shekou’s Sea World Plaza. Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on June 10, a rainstorm erupted over Shenzhen, unloading enough water to turn the 5,000-square-meter bar and restaurant area into a lake. Water, sand and soil flowing in from Nanshan Mountain contributed to the devastation, the damage from which could not be measured in cold figures. Nevertheless, we can still try: Economic losses totaled tens of millions of yuan, 300 direct jobs vanished into thin air, and 20 restaurants and bars, the heart and soul of the area, suddenly became a thing of the past. And the question on the lips of most expats living in the area was: “Will Sea World ever be able to recover?”


The definite answer isn’t available yet, but some owners of the restaurants that were obliterated in the flooding are doing their best to recapture their former glory. Pramod Ghimire, the man behind the former Little India restaurant on the lower level of the plaza, has now built his latest restaurant on higher ground, between McCawley’s and an Italian restaurant. For those who lamented the departure of Indian cuisine from Shekou after the destruction of Little India, lament no more: Bombay Indian Cuisine & Bar is now open for business.


In fact, there’s more of Little India in Bombay than just the food. The decor is similar: The walls are in bright orange with large framed mirrors and Indian paintings, while the muted light is provided by lamps carefully placed over dining tables and hanging from the ceiling.


To cater to both Muslim and Hindu diners, Bombay (like Little India before it) serves neither beef nor pork; this would make it a popular destination for all expats, especially South Asians, with dietary restrictions.


Unlike other Indian restaurants in Shenzhen, Bombay serves almost exclusively North Indian fare, which means those looking for dosa, uttapam or other South Indian delicacies are bound to be disappointed.


We ordered a selection of appetizers to start with. The chicken pakora (35 yuan, US$4.67) was exceptional, a combination of cream, white pepper, turmeric and lemon juice. The Bombay chat (30 yuan) was a bit of a dampener. Those who have tried the tangy chickpea and potato snack on the streets of Mumbai, or any other Indian city for that matter, will find something missing in the Shekou restaurant’s offering; the yoghurt is spread too thin, allowing the overbearing taste of onion to take over.


The malai chicken tikka (55 yuan), a kind of chicken kebab marinated in creamy cashewnut sauce, is served on a sizzling plate; as a result, the cooler it gets, the less taste it retains.


The main courses were decent without being exceptional. The chicken butter masala (55 yuan), made with onion and tomato gravy, weighed a bit heavily on the tomato side, obscuring the delicate balance of flavor the chef was no doubt aiming to attain, while the paneer kadai (40 yuan), which had a capsicum base, couldn’t quite get the paneer right. On the other hand, the naan (12 yuan) was as close to perfect as one can expect in Shenzhen, crisp and solid right to the end.


Despite the minor shortcomings, the opening of Bombay must come as a huge relief to all fans of Indian cuisine living west of Huaqiangbei. With more Sea World restaurants set to open in the near future, the area might reclaim its top billing soon, and it is the establishments like Bombay leading the way.


(Shenzhen Daily December 27, 2007)

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