There must be an oriental connection in Chennai because every other restaurant you visit will have Chinese dishes on the menu – even the quintessential Sangeethas and Saravana Bhavans of Chennai manage to include a schezwan fried rice or chop suey.
One of the most popular pure Chinese restaurants in Chennai is Stix, located in the lobby level of the Hyatt Regency on Anna Salai. Stix is unique in that the kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant so you get to see your food being prepared live in front of you.
To further cement its place as the number one rated Chinese restaurant in the city, the Hyatt has Chef Sun, a sichuanese seafood expert, and resident chef for Stix. He is visiting the local fish markets each day and preparing a custom fish menu based on the day’s catch.
Now since living in India, I must confess that I’ve developed a taste for grilled fish. Whether it’s from the shacks on the beaches of Goa, the pomfrets of Kerala or the red snapper from Mahabalipuram, I’ll try it all. What I hadn’t come across until now was Chinese style grilled fish, so I was very keen to find out how it matched up to the Indian options.
The seafood festival at Stix runs for the next week at Hyatt Regency until 2nd July. The limited period menu is all sea food and includes prawns, grouper fish, halibut, sea bass, lady fish, crab and squid. All the dishes are szechuan and done to your requirements.
No Chinese dinner is complete without momos, so I kicked things off with crab momos. One of the things I love about food festivals such as this sea food one is that I get to try things that I wouldn’t normally consider – I guess we all get stuck in our ways, choosing the things we’re comfortable with time and again. Crab momos are one of the things I wouldn’t have chosen normally, but it was on the menu so I gave it a whirl. Verdict? I don’t know why I didn’t order them before!
With a splash of soy sauce, four momos were enough to whet my appetite for the main courses that were to follow. From the menu options, I chose the grouper fish in a don ban jiang sauce. Again, not sure what it was when I ordered it, but later I found out that it’s a paste made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and various spices. Who knew?! That’s why I love these food festivals, it’s an opportunity to step right outside your comfort zone.
Accompanying the fleshy fish I had the Chinese fried rice. Fish, fried rice and the don ban jiang sauce? Beautiful! My wife, a vegetarian, couldn’t resist trying some of the fish sauce, and I may have noted a hint of jealousy that she couldn’t try the whole dish 🙂 Instead she went for a mushroom and fried rice dish. That’s actually one of the great things about restaurants in Chennai. No matter what the cuisine, vegetarians are well catered for, something we miss when we travel abroad.
I thought the grouper fish was all I would have room for but the Stix waiting staff insisted that I try the prawns as well. Again, not something I would have done normally, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m seriously limiting myself when I stick to the same dishes again and again when I go out. The four large prawns were exceptionally meaty and went well with the fried rice. On reflection though I think I would choose a more robust sauce next time – nine years of spicy food has played havoc with my taste buds!
To close out our meal, we chose two signature desserts from Stix. The first was a creme brulee and second is something pretty unique: fried ice cream. It’s regular ice cream that has been deep fried. How do they keep it frozen in the middle when it’s placed in the deep fryer? A trade secret apparently.
And yes, just to prove that it really is frozen on the inside, here’s the same dessert after I had cut into it.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. What Chinese meal would be complete without an endless supply of jasmine tea? I think I may have a new (healthy?) addiction as I drank so much of the stuff. Oops 🙂
About the Chinese Sea Food Festival
The food festival is on for the remainder of the week until 2nd July. Reservation is recommended because even on the Monday night that we were there, it was completely packed – and full of Chinese expats, which is an indication of how good the food is.
HYATT REGENCY CHENNAI
365 Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600018, India
Tel: +91 44 61001234
Mob: +91 9176633310