A birthday cake fashioned out of American chopsuey waited in a basement every year for this writer, where walls were printed with glossy red paper and table mats sported Chinese New Year animals. From Year of the Dragon, we’ve moved to Year of the Bore, as the old Rice Bowl at Lavelle Road has opened up again as a rather anodyne version of itself.
The restaurant has moved from the Wong Kar Wai-lit basement to the first floor – which makes the American chopsuey feel less thrilling – and the menu has new dishes that come without the Made In China label, including fish fingers with tartar sauce. The good news though, is that three main chefs from the old days decided to stay back, which means that many of the desi Chinese treats did too.
The good news though, is that three main chefs from the old days decided to stay back, which means that many of the desi Chinese treats did too.
It’s no one’s birthday today, but gifts bookend our meal – hot soup and cold cocktails. In between, to go with the clichéd Chinese lanterns that swing above us, we choose the standard desi-Cheen order, including crackling spinach with chicken, where soya sauce plays off faintly sweetened, crispy leaves. Sweet corn chicken soup is pleasantly cloudy and the dumpling platter is a crowded plate of steaming, shiny wrappers tightly stuffed with chicken and prawns, lit up by all kinds of chilly pastes. The Rice Bowl does not have an in-house bar staff, and once we glean this bit of information, the overly briny Bloody Marys make sense.
For our next course we summon all the 90s classics: mild, fragrant garlic fried rice escorted by tender pork strips in thick, fiery sauce (our favourite order of the night) and hakka noodles where too much gravy diminishes the crunch. And at the end, a glorious plate of American Chopsuey just the way Rice Bowl used to do it: crispy noodles at the base, rice mixed in a sweet sunset-coloured sauce and topped with a fried egg that appears like a party hat. Happy birthday to us!
Getting there: No 40/2, Lavelle Road, call 08049653177. A meal for two costs approximately Rs2100.
Accessibility: One step up leading to the restaurant.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Image Credit: Khao Piyo.
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