Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flavour that 'Ling' ers

Lings Pavilion

Lings Pavilion (source Burrp.Com)

There are very few places I would call home besides my own & Lings Palace is one of them. Located in the lane adjacent to Regal Cinema, Lings is now a part of the culture & heritage of South Mumbai or SOBO. Almost like a landmark of South Mumbai like you have The Gateway of India, The Taj Mahal, Regal Cinema, Lings Pavilion and now Leopold (famous due to the 26/11 attacks). Lings along with Golden Dragon (Taj) and Nanking (now shut down) formed the early Chinese restaurant culture in this part of town. 

Frequented by SOBOites (a name given to people like me- born and bought up in South Mumbai), if you see the demographics of its patrons there would typically be grandparents mostly in the age bracket of 50 – 80’s then the children in their 30’s – 50’s and then the grandchildren from new born to the one’s in their 20’s.  Hence I use the word 'patrons', Lings enjoys three generations of patronage. Typically you will see these families celebrating one of the important family days – birthdays, anniversaries or their weekly meal outside. If you see the younger generation sitting there, my bet is they have been introduced to this place by their grandparents if not atleast their parents. Lings Pavilion therefore in it’s true sense is a family affair. Again, I would call it an affair and not a restaurant because too many of us who have been going there since 'time without beginning’.It’s much more than just a restaurant.

There are three main factors that make this place so special 1) consistency – the food here tastes the same since forever. From the barbeque chicken to the friend rice – pure, delicate, appetizing in short Soulful. 2) the staff  - friendly, courteous and again have been here since really long, if not there is always Johnny, long would be an understatement to describe his tenure. He has been the maitre d’ since my grandfather frequented this place 3) the familiarity – if you’re a SOBOite (yes I am quite proud of calling myself that. If you’re not one you probably hate me by now, if you are one then you’re probably nodding your head away to this. However just bear with me I promise you this is worth it) you are bound to meet a family friend or your cousins (hence don’t get your date until its official) or a school/college acquaintance. If not there are always the fish. Right next to the entrance there is a small pond with baby sharks and other fish with a overhead bridge. These fish are my acquaintances, I have been watching them since I was 10 while I used to walk sometimes run up & down on the bridge. They still fascinate me like they used to when I was 10. Over the years the fish have become less. I wonder if that’s cause the Shark fin soup on the menu :).

I can go on and on about this place but there is one key factor or warning if you allow me to say - Don’t come here if you want to see your food while eating it! Yes you read that right.  Lings is a very dimly lit place and you can hardly see what you arer eating! I think it’s just a part of the ambience or the comfort the patrons already have with this place.

Now getting down to the food – I am a huge fan of soups so that’s what I always start with – it’ a family tradition ;). The Chicken Hot & Sour soup is great. It’s delicate & peppery, the right amount of sour and also finely chopped cucumber. Heaven. There is also the Clear Noodle Soup for the health conscious & vegetarians. It’s a kind of clear soup very light and yet delicious. Those of you who like black mushrooms can ask them to add it. They also serve khimchi which unlike the tomato sauce and cabbage one at Five Spice is delicious.

For appetizers I have the Barbeque Chicken served with grated cabbage khimchi style and peanut sauce. I used to like the barbeque chicken when they used serve it on a miniature grill. Johnny says they stoped it because people cribbed about the smoke  :(. It’s good now but earlier it was something else. The Peanut Sauce with it is simply amazing. Together it makes a great a combination. 

There is also Concurd for the vegetarians – crispy on the outside & soft on the inside served with a sweet honey like sauce. I prefer to eat it with the peanut one. The Chicken Wantons are great both fried & steamed. The steamed ones are topped with garlic & spring onions. Again both go really well with the peanut sauce. So if you’re not having the Barbeque Chicken order a peanut on the side it goes well with any starter. The prawn starter that is amazing is Prawn Chilli Garlic. Delicately spiced with garlic and chilli, it is stir fried. The perfect blend

Moving on to the main course – I have tried 4 types of rice here and all of them are great! First there is the usual Fried Rice. Besides the usual veggies it has peas. Don’t cringe am not too much of a vegetable fan too but this actually tastes great. Then you add a bit of spice to it and make it Schezwan Fried Rice, not for the faint hearted though. For a more authentic experience I would suggest trying either the Pot rice or the Bamboo shoot rice. The pot rice come in earthenware topped with mushrooms (you can skip if you don’t like that) vegetables and chicken if you would want to add. The bamboo shoot rice comes in a huge bamboo stick shaped wooden cylinder and waiter would take this fragrant rice out from the cylinder and serve it to you, steaming hot. If you love authentic Chinese sticky rice, both pot rice & bamboo shoot are great. 

For the main course,  I personally love the bland Chicken in Three Mushrooms, it’s intricately flavored with soy & the juices of the mushroom. For spice lovers there is Hong Kong Chicken, a red gravy with shallots, peppers and cashew nuts. There is also red cooked chicken again red gravy, it’s pretty spicy, with shallots and chopped chilly pieces. Note the red cooked usually comes with shredded chicken. If you’re not too much a fan of that you could ask for diced chicken instead.  Then there are the usual Hunan, Cantonese, black bean etc. 

For vegetarians there is the pure & heavenly Buddha’s Delight, a bland preparation of exotic vegetables like avocado,bamboo shoot, brocolli, peppers and water chestnuts in white sauce. Again it’s very intricately flavoured with garlic & vegetables. If you want it spicy you can also ask Johnny, he would happy suggest black bean sauce or schezwan style Buddha's Delight.

For noodles, there is the American Chopsuey, am not too fond of it usually but this one is less sweet. There is also Pan Fried Noodles, a combination of crispy noodles, soft noodle and vegetables and sprouts you could add meat to it if you may want.
On the side you could call for their Jasmin Tea. It helps keep the meal light and aids digestion.

For desert (usually I am stuffed with all the above) there is Honey Fried Noodles, or your choice of ice creams. What I suggest and what I have been doing since I was 10 is – 2 scoops of vanilla with chocolate sauce. If you not full don’t’ share it! If you are, offer it to the people around you (earned me some brownie points).

The pricing is moderate around 300 – 500 per head if you are a moderate eater.
All in all this place won’t disappoint you. If you hate the ‘Five Spice’ kind of Chinese and you’re not quite there with the authentic Royal China bit. This is the place for you.

Quick Tip: Celebrate an important family day here or take your grandparents (if they like Chinese that is) and request for Johnny to take you order (He usually does that if you arer sitting on the ground floor). Take it from me you won’t be disappointed

The Co-ordinates
·      Lings Pavilion, 19/21, Mahakavi Bhushan Marg, Behind Regal Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai
·         Phone: 22850023, 22850024, 22824533

Disclaimer: I have no personal association or partnership with anyone at Lings Pavilion. Nor am I going to get any monetary consideration of some sort after writing this review. The review is an unbiased account of my experience
(thought I should spell this out incase people thought I was being paid to write good things about this place. Let me tell you the owner of Lings Palace Mr. Baba Chang, a shrewd Chinese businessman, couldn’t care less who wrote what about his restaurant)


  1. Wow! I am absolutely famished now! :-) Have walked outside this restaurant countless times over the past 6 years. Will definitely give it a try now. Sumptuous dishes that promise nothing short of culinary nirvana... I'm sold! :-)

  2. @ Rohan Thanks and you must try it with family!


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