Kong Qui, better known as the philosopher Confucius, was a man who attached great importance to food and he is credited as helping bring perfect taste to Chinese food by developing proper cooking techniques. And, after dining at the Ancient City Chinese restaurant in Paphos, I believe the chef working his wok magic here is an enthusiastic follower of the great man.
Confucius believed the taste of any dish was utterly dependent on proper mixing of all ingredients and condiments and it was the fine blending of ingredients that result in great taste and without harmony in that blending process then food cannot taste good. The great man you could say was a foodie and one hopes if he was alive today he might enjoy the taste experience on offer at this recently-opened traditional Chinese eatery.
The menu is picture led and is a riot of over exposed colours but very easy to follow as it is classified into separate sections of Beef, Seafood, Pasta, Pork, Chicken, Soups, veggies and rice plus a special tea menu offering black, white, green, Puer and Chrysanthemum teas.
There will be absolutely no trouble reading the menu even for those with advanced cataracts as the interior décor boasts in excess of 58 hanging lights so it’s not what one would call a discreet or even an intimate dining experience. The cooking style hails from Beijing with dishes also from the Shandong, Sichuan and Huai Yang and Tan provinces. Our first dishes of Spinach with Garlic and a generous plate of Chicken with Chilli, Cashews and Cucumber really set the tone and confirmed that chef was indeed following the edict of the great philosopher.
We then had a bowl of plain rice and shrimp rice, again perfectly cooked and just the right stickiness to adhere to the chopsticks. I defy anyone not to find a good number of dishes that will delight the taste buds and it’s certainly a place to re visit.
I particularly enjoyed the meat dumplings which came in a deep, soya-based sauce, offering less of a salty hit than something intense with Umami and again that caramelising which is always a winner. If you just want to start off slowly I would strongly recommend a filling plate of meat or prawn filled dumplings accompanied with that marvellous dish of spinach and garlic on the side followed by some fish balls.
Of course soup is a staple in a traditional Chinese kitchen and here they offer a wide range with a steaming pot of liquid delights also on offer as part of the daily buffet. These are mainly noodle chicken broth based but again the flavours of ginger, spring onions, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil combine perfectly to lift what one would describe as ‘just soup’ into the realms of a hearty starter.
There is a very nice Greek waiter on hand who speaks English and managed to retain his cool when surrounded by Chinese diners all of whom seemed to believe that this was their own private dining room such was the decibel count that reverberated through the restaurant as they ate drank and made merry. This is a place to come if you really do like flavoursome food and aren’t afraid to try different combinations. And although there will be many Chinese dining you can rest assured that the stereotypical Chinese dining experience of being presented with black beans and roasted chicken feet does not appear on the menu.
The waiter told us that every week day they offer a buffet from 1pm until 3pm, so next day I had lunch there and although it’s a small style buffet the food was once again bursting with flavour and I have now become hooked on caramelised potatoes with chicken and Chinese toast, it is an all you can eat experience for the remarkably reasonable price of €7 per person. A really smart move would be to try out the lunch first and if on offer try the super seasoned vegetables particularly the braised aubergine dish which was really excellent.
As it is Chinese, it was no surprise to see pandas standing guard at the entrance to the restaurant, the Chinese quite rightly consider them to be a national treasure.
SPECIALTY traditional Chinese
WHERE Ancient City, Demokratias Avenue, Paphos
CONTACT 26 000888
PRICE from €10