Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Beijing Again!

With my hosts at the Bird's Nest Olympics Stadium in BeijingThis was going to be a whistle-stop trip to Beijing. I drove down to Mumbai and checked into the Intercontinental Grand. I had a 6 AM flight to catch, which meant waking up at 2:30 AM - which was painful to say the least!

The only restaurant I hadn’t yet tried at this hotel was Woks. But I was on my way to China and there didn’t seem to be a point in trying East Asian food. Instead, I opted for another trip to the delightful Baluchi. The hostess was absent from her station which meant waiting for a few minutes even when the restaurant was mostly empty.

Tandoori Chicken at BaluchiHowever, the food at Baluchi continues to delight. Their version of the Tandoori Chicken was coated with yellow and red masala, and fiery hot, but very succulent and juicy inside. The Dum Nalli Ka Gosht, a speciality of the Master Chef, was top-notch. Large lamb-shanks with marrow in a tomato-based sour and spicy gravy went perfectly with my Tandoori Roti. It reminded me of special Sunday dinners from a long time back when I would look forward to Mutton dishes where the shanks were reserved specially for me. :-)

Dum Nalli Ka Gosht at BaluchiBleary-eyed, I got dressed at the ungodly time of 2:30 AM and checked in at the Cathay-Pacific counter. Thankfully, the airport was mostly empty and I slept through the flight to Hong Kong.

A refreshing bowl of Wonton Noodle Soup at the Noodle Bar in Cathay’s wonderful lounge and I was ready to board the final leg to Beijing. The flight took off an hour late, so by the time I landed, it was already 9 PM at night.

Beijing Terminal 3The new Terminal 3 building of Beijing is awe-inspiring! The huge roof soars above with a pattern that gives the impression of being made of wooden slats. This building is the largest single airport building in the world and was built in a record four years’ time. You have to give it to the Chinese! In India this would have taken forever, and then there would have been the last 10% left unfinished for decades to come – this is a signature of Indian construction, I guess.

Shangri-La BeijingThe Shangri La hotel is pretty good, but certainly not as massive and lavish as the Grand Hyatt where I stayed the last time. The room was well appointed and tastefully decorated but was small in size.

If you have a choice, ask for a room in the newly constructed Valley Wing. I was in the older Garden Wing of the hotel. The Valley Wing is also home to the Blu Lobster, a restaurant known for its chef’s molecular gastronomie-based cuisine (see this post for the best restaurant in this category). The hotel is also known for it's Chi Spa which offers Tibetian touches to its treatments. Atmospheric elements such as scented incense and the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls help create a contemplative, mystic aura.

The earthquake near Chengdu had cast a somber mood on what would have been a wonderful time here. The weather was perfect, the city was getting ready for the Olympics, but the devastation and loss of life due to the quake, and the many after-shocks, was very saddening.

Olympics Swimming Stadium Beijing
I am leaving you with some pictures of Shangri-La and the new Olympics stadia that you will know very well once the Games begin in August. I have been travelling so much in the past few weeks, my blogging has taken a back-seat. But I promise to be back more often, with more posts on the Beijing trip and last week's vacation in Goa.


Anonymous said...

Oh lucky you! I envy you for being in China, I miss it. And for the food, as usual.

I love Beijing, one of the best cities in the world.

beaverboosh said...

Dude, I am getting dizzy with the amount of air miles and dining!

Anonymous said...

@zhu: I know! Given the time you spent in China/Hong Kong, I guess you miss the place.

Anonymous said...

@beaverboosh: I know what you mean! In May, I outdid myself. More travel than I have ever done before. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Shantanu:

You say "But I was on my way to China and there didn’t seem to be a point in trying East Asian food." Why? I didn't understand!

Chinese are doing crazy construction all over. I have to go there soon before it becomes a developed country :)

cheers, Priyank

Anonymous said...

@priyank: Oh, what I meant was there was no point in eating Chinese (or similar) food in Mumbai when I was on my way to China where I could taste the real thing.