Back in the day – “when I was lad” – there was a famous rave classic titled Is There Anybody Out There? It was an absolute epochal banger. For the first minute of the song a male voice interrogates his listener with the question. Then, out of nowhere, the bass drops, unleashing one of the finest bass riffs dance music has ever known. The ‘E’-fuelled crowd go wild and experience ultimate euphoria.
I stood outside a small dark foyer entrance at Taco Cheena thinking about the tune. Is there anynody out there? It seem not: no sign of life, no sign of business. This is the sort of derelic building you might find host to an illicit gathering. I was half expecting to be escorted down the passage into a darkly lit second room and be confronted with strobe lighting, UV canons and an electic mix of non-stop rave classics.
Alas! My mind runs riot. Taco Cheena is essentially a run of the mill Indo-Chinese restaurant. The restaurant is deserted on a Saturday lunch time. They have hardly any passing footfall to capture. I suspect they are busting a gut on delivery apps to do any business.
It’s not just at shady night venues you have to be careful of dodgy substances entering your drink, but at Taco Cheena too. The waiter serves me a “refilled” bottle of Bisleri with the seal already broken. The perfunctory manner in which the waiter replaces it suggests this is a game that the restaurant know about. I get it – catering is a low margin business – but I would never fall for such chicanery.
I shouldn’t really criticise the manager who is an exceedingly friendly old chap, perhaps a bit like your neighbourhood dealer, so long as you keep giving him money and coming back for more and more.
One might think he was trying to compensate for inferior food. The food is, at best, passable. I have never really got the whole Indian-Chinese cooking fad though.It’s basically a brash, bastardised attempt at cultural fusion. Cynically, I argue for a long time very few have been bothered to understand the wonderful nuances and subtleties of Chinese cookery in India. It certainly isn’t through a lack of ingredients, but a lack of understanding.
The Cauliflower in Shanghai Sauce is let down by a heavy tempura batter but it’s not a bad effort. The Shanghai sauce is a sweet/spicy affair. Again passable. The Tofu in Black Bean is a mess. I object to the proclovity to have everything swimming in copious amounts of sauce.
I still fondly remember my more youthful days when I used to work weekends for cash in hand wages and free dinners at an oriental restaurant. Nowadays when I lambast poor service, the last accusation can be “lack of empathy”. The wages were a pittance but I always enjoyed the little feast I made ‘Danny’ (the Chinese owner’s son) cook me up after my shift. Tofu served in a bowl of gloop would never have cut the mustard at his family’s establishment.
In fact, a night of waiting on for a little feast afterwards would be a trade I’d be willing to take every now and again, but certainly not for Taco Cheena!