A Brave New Chinese Food Voyage

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A Brave New Chinese Food Voyage

The revamped Zheng He's modern Chinese restaurant takes you on a stunningly crafted soul food journey

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Published: Thu 29 Oct 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 31 Oct 2015, 4:38 PM

We're at Zheng He's, and seated at our adjacent table is one of Dubai's most famous celebrity chefs, who runs his upscale restaurant out of DIFC. If that is not the best endorse-ment for this place, we don't know what is.
The above sentence would serve as an adequate review of the contemporary Chinese restaurant at Mina A'Salam hotel, which relaunched both the menu and interiors recently. But then, we couldn't not try out the classic-cum-innovative dishes on offer. On entering, the décor is fittingly grand, suitable to its 5-star luxury host hotel, with mandatory touches of Mandarin red, and classy Oriental latticework windows and dividers that also portion up the restaurant into different seating areas. It's engaging without being cloying, and the same can be said for the food - but that's got to be a given when the menu's USP is modern Chinese.

The restaurant twists around the lore of the famed Ming dynasty seafaring explorer Zheng He - something of an Oriental cross between Ibn Battuta and Sindbad the Sailor, and the menu is designed to be as intrepid and exploratory as the 15th century imperial adventurer. Most of the menu, however, caters conventionally in the form of starters, soups and broths, dim sum (steamed, and deep fried and baked), BBQ and oven roasted dishes, seafood, beef and lamb, vegetarian, noodles and rice, and even a complement of ethically sourced free range chicken dishes. But the eye-catching component is the specially crafted Zheng He's Voyage set menu, which can be had by two people, and promisingly seems to blend the best of the menu with some unexpected additions.
The Voyage menu looks perfectly proportioned for a duo, but the platters are as surprising large as they're well styled, not in an artisanal or beautifully arranged MasterChef-style, but the OMG-I-want-to-shovel-it-all-into-my-mouth way. Best, you seem to get a bite (or large portions in this case) of everything that matters on the menu.
Our first dish of Roasted Beijing Duck comes with accompaniments of Chinese pancake, cucumber and spring onions. We have the exciting task of rolling our own little Peking duck bites ("Beijing duck" just doesn't have the same ring to it); also, we're dangerously close to gorging on this very one and not leaving space for the rest.
That worry was put to rest when the Barbeque Honey Chicken Puff lands up along with the Chinese Soft Shell Crab, Sour Plum and Lime "Yuan Bao" Scotting Scallop Dumpling. This is where the Mandarin marries modern tastes, and each dish begins to surpass the one before it, even as we're getting progressively fuller. There's Rabbit Wonton Soup with Chinese Greens for the really large-bellied, but you could give that a skip. The staff will kindly leave out anything that you think you can't do justice to, so at least the food isn't being wasted.

Our next few dishes, also, are gratuitously proportioned, even by 5-star standards, and the Wok Fried 'Kong Pow' Chicken with Cashew Nut and Dried Chilli, Slow Cooked "Wu Xi" Beef Short Ribs in Oriental Barbeque, and Wok Fried Chilean Sea Bass, in Spicy Chilli Sauce, completely win us over. All three are doused in their own unique red sauce mixes that
render the X-factor to the meats and fish. Neither my friend or I even border on the vegetarian, but the Sizzling Home Made Tofu, with a top layer of herbs and served on an unexpected omelette base, is light and crispy to offset the meaty fare.
All this while, the concept of having mains didn't even strike us, enthralled as we were by the various dishes, but you do have the option of ordering "Yong Chow" Style Fried Rice. And finally, there's a
dessert to dock home with in the form of Steamed Bao Sliders filled with Green Tea Ice Cream, Coconut Jam. Certainly not yet-another-Tiramisu or Chocolate pudding, that. And delicious with every mouthful, even if your belly's aching by now.
The food at Zheng He's is uniformly good and worth every dirham you plonk down. And now that the weather is much nicer, you can sit on the terrace by the Madinat Jumeirah/Mina A'Salam quayside, watch the abras serenely glide by, and recreate your own bit of a Zheng He-style voyage.
Book your lunch or dinner appointment if you're prepared for something unconventional yet leaves you supremely satisfied. Like every good trip or adventure should be.

What we liked: Consistent good taste; portion sizes; high-end ambience
What we didn't like: Nothing we can put a finger on, really
Cost for two: Dh400-450 approx; the Voyage Set Menu is Dh720 Contact: Zheng He's, Mina A' Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai.  

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