Upstairs of Soda Bottle Opener Walla (by its name, an Indian restaurant of a hard to define ethnicity… we’re kidding) on Lavelle Road, is a new Chinese restaurant, Cantan.
It takes the place of Lady Baga, the Goan restaurant from the Olive Group. A restaurant spokesperson told Explocity that Goan cuisine did not attract enough diners and besides the place was too big. So they replaced it with a Chinese “bar house”.
“What’s a bar house?” we asked, never having heard this term before and not having found anything satisfactory on Google. “It symbolises unusual food pairings with upscale drinks,” was the perplexing response from the restaurant.
At first, we thought they also made up the name, “Cantan”.
We looked everywhere and came up with two possibilities. One, that it means “singer” (also “they”). Not in Mandarin nor Yue but in Spanish, specifically Asturian and Galician dialects. The other is that Cantan is an official language in northern Laos.
We also read that the name pays homage to the history of China’s timeshare arrangement with Portugal in Macau. We like this version the best.
And then a restaurant spoilsport, however, told us that they thought the word “Cantan” was catchy but it really meant nothing (like the lyrics to Hotel California, we guess.)
The restaurant’s cuisine came from Manu Chandra, (panjandrum of the restaurant group), who was eating packaged noodles in his Taipei hotel room and decided he had found a new cuisine to lay on Bangaloreans. This is according to a (cleverly written) report in Vogue India--which also took pains to point out and correct what it considered to be Manu Chandra’s lapses in English language grammar--in an otherwise adulatory, critique-free paean to the place.
The restaurant’s menu is eclectic: food from Canton, Hunan, Shanghai, Sichuan and Guangzhou, and we were confused about whether this was an attempt to break away from Indian-Chinese “Chindian” (read, spicy) cuisine or to foster it.
The food was as good as we have come to expect from this stable and their repeated successes in creative enterprise.
The décor is also eclectic, with dragons and what we know from the movies to be chop-house kitsch--lanterns, colours, screens… look at the pics.
The cocktails--named for characters from the movies and other Chinese culture--are eclectic and use Chinese spices (like nutmeg, star anise, cumin and coriander). Ruby Wong has lemongrass, pomegranate, white rum and sparkling wine; Star of Cantan sports vodka, coriander, fresh watermelon.
The terms “Cantan” and “bar house” are eclectic.
You’d think all this eclecticism ought to suit us Indians who worship at the altar of chintz. But then one wag, expostulating in an online restaurant yellow pages / review site wrote about Cantan, “Firecrackers chicken skewers were good but was trying to trick us into thinking it's Indochinese. It just could have been more spicier to suit the name.”
The grammar of cross-cultural nuance trumps good taste.
An average meal for two costs Rs.1,600/- plus taxes without alcohol and Rs.2,800/- plus taxes with alcohol.
With inputs by Nandita Kaikini.