PICS: RUBY TUESDAY
While strolling down Pokhara's Lakeside avenue, I chanced upon a little joint serving authentic Chinese cuisine. There are abundant dining options along this lane, but most of them offer the usual, a little bit of everything with an emphasis on 'continental' cuisine. Even so, we were attracted by the bright red lamps and the de rigueur reddish décor at Dragon because its flamboyance and luridness stood out from the rest.
The place is very new and opened its doors less than two months ago. The good thing is that the staff was welcoming and eager to please. But the novelty wore off soon and it became apparent that staff here was still rusty in coordinating between the kitchen and dinner table. Although in retrospect, the misunderstanding must have come about due to communication breakdown between the Chinese chef and Nepali servers.
So why this full-blown Chinese restaurant in the middle of Lakeside? Like other restaurant owners, Ram Sharan Karki also assumed that Chinese food amounted to chow mein and Manchurain curries. However, after travelling to China and getting a taste of authentic Chinese flavours, he came to know his assumptions were ill-founded.
As a result of this conversation, carried out while waiting for the arrival our first delicacy, our expectations were very high. The Kung Pao Pork (Rs 380), a spicy dish of stir-fried pork with chili and peanuts, is sharp and piquant, and was a tasty start to our meal. We decided to forego other starters and jumped straight into the Mao Cai – the Sichuan style hot pot (whose price is decided by the amount of extras you want to include).
The larger tables at Dragon have a big round hole at the centre in order to set the big Mao Cai bowl with two compartments on the stove below. One part of our bowl had a red broth bubbling away, while the other side contained a light cream filled with vegetables. Platters of meat, tofu, mushrooms, fish and vegetables were then placed around the bowl. Dunking these tidbits into the flavoured broth, waiting for them to be cooked, and then pouring out ladlefuls of steaming soup on warm rice made for a most enjoyable meal, best had leisurely in large company.
We didn't know how fulfilling Mao Cai would be, and had also ordered the deep fried cat fish (Rs 480) just in case. Crispy on the outside and dipped in a tangy sauce, the fish was delectable and worth returning to Pokhara for second helpings. Later, they served us complimentary jasmine tea like at a true Chinese diner.
So if you happen to be in Pokhara, do enter the Dragon.