Have you ever seen one of those cars in a salvage yard that has been crushed into a little cube? Chungking Mansion is like a city that has been sent through the compacter and is now a condensed version of an entire city, but fits on one block of Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. An anthill of activity, it’s labyrinth of hallways houses 4,000 people and hundreds of shops, guest houses, import companies, restaurants and food stalls and everyone is there to hustle.
This is where we had supper last night. Third floor, block C , in the (unmarked) Delhi Club. I had read about it on openrice.com and was in the mood for adventure. Walking in felt like walking into someone’s basement that had been decorated with cheap tile and glass Christmas balls, but the smell! We sat and ordered a couple of Kingfishers and looked through the menu. One of the waiters came and asked if we knew how to order and I said no because I like to see how he would guide us. “Spicy or mild?” he said, “spicy”I replied and we were off on a series of questions like mutton vs chicken, masala vs vindaloo, plain vs garlic naan, meat vs veg samosas. Another waiter dropped off a couple of crisp fresh papadam which we smeared with cilantro- mint chutney. The chutney was fresh, cool and spicy at the same time. Veg samosas were next, very hot with the flakiest shell and an intensely spiced interior. My tongue had started to heat up to the point where all of my taste buds are paying attention to what comes next, my favorite heat level. We shared a mutton vindaloo with garlic naan. The vindaloo was intense- sweet, sinus clearing hot, and rich with chewy mutton and potatoes. We used the flaky naan to wipe up the sauce into our happy mouths. We finished with cardamom scented masala tea, a milk tea made with black tea steeped with a spice blend that is both exotic and soothing.
When we left, winding our way back down and out, it struck me that our meal had a similar vibe to the Mansion- intense and hot, a complex blend of flavors, spices, and textures, a little overwhelming, but deeply satisfying and completely unforgettable.