Address: Krasnopresnenskaya nab., 12
Metro: Ulitsa 1905 Goda
Tel: +7 (495) 967-0586, 967-0617
Open from 12:00 until 15:30 and from 18:00 until 23:00
China Garden Surprises: Frogs Legs Kung-Po Style
By Alice Babington Hill
In my opinion, any restaurant within a hotel, shopping centre, airport or similar, is inevitably at a disadvantage. There is just something faintly depressing about the whole experience of being so very inside. How do you create a quirky or comfortable atmosphere when your guests are always transient, and when there is hardly any interaction with the outside world, not even in the form of a view from the window. Rather surprisingly, despite being situated in the Mezhdunarodnaya World Trade Centre, we were assured that the majority of China Garden's patrons were local regulars. Perhaps even more surprisingly, judging from the clientele present, this seems to be the case.
The first thing to hit me about China Garden was the unlikely and extraordinary sight of Chinese Lanterns hanging a stones throw from the Reception Desk of the Mezhdunarodnaya Hotel. But any element of astonishment was quickly dispelled with the welcoming smell of prawn crackers. Natasha and I were presented with an extensive menu with an exotic but rather intimidating choice. We quite enjoyed hunting out the most unexpected-sounding dish. I think the winner (on the basis that it made us laugh the most) was Frogs Legs Kong-Po Style (690rbl).
Feeling rather less adventurous than that, we opted for Spring Rolls (light and fresh) and Sesame Prawns on Toast (predictably oily) (200rbl each) to start, and accompanied this with Tsingtao Beer (210rbl). It was insisted that we tried the house speciality Duck with Pancakes (various prices) which were assembled for us at our table by the waitress. They were certainly very good and fresh, but after many experiences of a similar kind in London's China Town, I didn't rate the said duck event as anything particularly special. Natasha, who grew up in Kumchatka and is therefore a crab meat connoisseur, sampled the Crab Meat with Shark Fin Soup (680rbl) which, despite its colourful sounding ingredients, was apparently a little plain, although I am told it improved extensively with the addition of soya sauce. I then tried the Sweet and Sour Pork (550rbl) the texture of which was slightly chewy, and as a side had Egg Fried Rice (220rbl). Natasha tried the Fried Bamboo Shoots and Chinese Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce (430rbl). The bamboo shoots had a very distinctive after taste, as if they'd been marinated or canned, which rather distracted from the overall enjoyment.
We finished with coffee which was rather unusually poured from teapot, and were encouraged to try the caramelised toffee apples which were beautifully soft and squidgey on the inside and inevitably rock-hard on the outside, resulting in a struggle to get the little blighters on our forks in an elegant fashion without accidentally shoving them off the plate onto the table.
I do not wish to be unfair about China Garden. In its defence, the staff were immaculately attentive yet discreet and unobtrusive. There were many little details which enhanced the overall experience, such as the provision of prawn crackers to munch while we read through the menu, and the generous array of sauces provided throughout the meal. The atmosphere was calm yet the restaurant was fairly full and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I enjoyed myself too, but the prices are restrictive so unless you have a particular craving for a Chinese, you can probably spend your money better elsewhere.