Saturday afternoon found us at a loose end around lunch time in Gurgaon – the wife and our 4 year old T, and I. We’d just wrapped up some work, and we’d had Thai food on our minds for some time, so out came the phone to search for options. Among the many names offered up by Zomato.com (their mobile version has quite a helpful, minimalistic interface that makes restaurant search easy for the partially decided and vaguely aware), one stood out looking fresh and feisty – Wokamama – yes, I tried saying it a few times in the martial-arts-movie way as well!
It was nearing peak hunger time, so a quick call to confirm directions (not too far) and seating and we were on our way. As you drive down M G Road towards Delhi, the left turn soon after Guru Dronacharya station (I wonder why the name – did the great warrior teacher have his tuition academy in the vicinity?), past Neel Kanth Hospital leads you down a dusty path to Nathupur village. About half a km down the road on the left stands a modest mustard yellow 2 storey ‘haveli’, with Wokamama on its terrace. Its location is quite in keeping with the current trend of hip, new restaurants opening in the dusty, old villages of Delhi.
The bright winter afternoon sun felt fabulous as we sat at our table outdoors. As we often do at Chinese or Pan Asian restaurants, we ordered dimsums right away for T, steamed chicken with celery and basil this time. The dimsums took their time to appear – but they arrived as fresh and delicately flavoured as expected.
While we waited, we ordered Huai Yang crab meat soup (1 by 2, Indian style), and holy basil Thai fish fingers with roasted chilli paste. The soup was astounding, bursting with flavour and generously laden with crab. A quick check on Wikipedia tells me that Huaiyang cuisine is regarded as one of the 4 great traditions of Chinese cuisine. Not at all a bad introduction then! The fish fingers were robustly flavoured too – fried sea bass with skin, basted with spicy paste. The stronger aromas and taste of the soup and fish though, somewhat overwhelmed the dimsums when they arrived.
So far the three month old restaurant (they opened in Oct ’10) had done nothing but please, including the service, which was attentive, friendly and helpful throughout. Ahem.. no doubt aided by the fact that I took photos right through our time there, which must have made them think I was an influential reviewer or some such thing. And in another detail, they did what many established top-tier Chinese and Oriental restaurants often fail to do – they asked if we wanted any jasmine tea. We said yes, and we had a carafe of steaming brew on our table for the rest of the meal.
For the main course, we continued in the Pan Asian vein that we had ordered in until now. A chicken in Thai yellow curry with steamed rice was combined with a Teppanyaki selection – basa fish and sticky rice with broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers and pok choi, in katsu sauce. The Thai curry was the old reliable, the Teppanyaki was the calculated risk. The portions were huge, and we wished our server had hinted at that when we ordered. The katsu sauce was a little over-salted but otherwise the plate of rice and fish and the vegetables came together very well. And the Thai yellow curry was superb, sweet to begin with, flavourful through and ended with a spicy pungent kick at the back of the mouth.
Full and sated, we almost did not mind the surprisingly long time they took over the bill. And did I mention how the menu separates the good news from the bad – by listing the dishes in evocative detail on each page but mentioning the prices down at the footer. A surprisingly satisfying discovery – and next time I really do want to check out the terrace on a cool spring night, under a full moon.