If I said to you ‘Tai Chi Rice’, what would you think? A relaxing fragrant dish with light flavours? A slow-cooked meal with extra positive flow, served on a bed of pretentiousness?
Well the answer is in the photograph, and the menu description of the ‘two halves complementing the sweetness of a white sauce with King Prawns and the sourness of a tomato sauce with chicken, served over a base of fried rice’.
Such was the level of originality of the dish served at the Emperor in Lincoln Road, and actually it was probably a meal in itself - I’m still not sure what was in the white sauce though.
The wife and I have never reviewed a Chinese Restaurant, and what better opportunity than the Emperor, a brisk walk from the PT offices?
This restaurant has rave reviews on the internet (mostly five star), new owners since June and a five star cleanliness rating from Peterborough City Council.
It’s also been nominated in the East Midlands Food and Drink Awards 2012 (Oriental restaurant category) so I had high hopes - with reservations.
These were based on the general lack of unique food in restaurants such as these. The most unusual Chinese restaurant we have ever visited was in America, where we boiled the food ourselves – including sheep intestines and vegetables I can’t even pronounce - in a seething vat of flavour-filled broth.
I wouldn’t expect that in every restaurant but it shows how diverse the Oriental eating experience can be, and since then I have always looked for the little angles, the nuances, the differences; hence my delight to find an oddity like the Tai-Chi rice.
Upon entering we found the surroundings were nice and the staff were very enthusiastic, asking us how we found out about the restaurant and why we chose it.
So onto the starters, and we shared one dish of stuffed crab claws, deep fried in breadcrumbs, and some satay chicken.
As an aside, I briefly tried to think of another creature that man kills with the main intention of eating its claws or feet. But I didn’t let it concern me too much as I chomped on these lovely golden balls of goodness. The Satay chicken? As good as I’ve had anywhere.
Still, the star of the show was my Szechuan scallops in piquante sauce. Emma always says that she likes seafood as long as it doesn’t taste of the sea, which bizarrely is a fairly good rule of thumb. In this case the sauce had a little sting to it but wasn’t overpowering, the vegetables were soft, and the scallops just danced across the mouth.
Emma mostly enjoyed her king prawns with cashew nuts, although remained a little unconvinced by the consistency of the sauce. Overall though, accompanied by our rice, this was quite a meal.
Onto the sweet. I have never been to China or India, so this might seem a naïve comment, but what exactly do they have as sweets in those exotic countries? Do they have ice cream or banana fritters?
If not, and they do have more imagination, why is it that I have never had an original sweet in a the restaurants purporting to represent these countries? I took the ice cream, and it was functional. Ditto for the fritters.
I paid a little north of £52 for the meal (with three beers), which might seem a little pricey; in mitigation I chose some of the more expensive options.But overall a pretty sharp night at a restaurant which blends old favourites with some new flavours.
8 out of 10
Emperor Restaurant, 195-197 Lincoln Road, Peterborough, PE12PL.
Tel: 01733 310190
Menu examples (from take away menu)
Crispy won ton £3.50
salt and pepper smoked shredded chicken with chilli £5
Stuffed crab claw £4
Grilled Chinese dumplings £6
King prawns with ginger and spring onions £7
Fried fish in sweet and sour sauce £7
Sliced roast duck Peking style £7
Crispy shredded chilli beef £6
Stir fried vegetables in black bean sauce £4.50
Szechuan scallops in Piquante Sauce £9
Stir fried squid in black bean sauce £7
deep fried oysters £9
Tai chi special fried rice £7.50
Egg fried rice £2.50
Emperor special chow mein £7.50
Yung chow special chow mein £7.50
Emperor Grand Seafood Banquet: (including lobster with melted cheese and butter sauce, mixed seafood hors d’oeuvres, stir fried squid in black bean sauce) £29.50
For more restaurant reviews see our map at peterboroughtoday.co.uk/restaurants