The inscription “Tung Chinese Cuisine” is what first greeted me when I walked through the reception hall at the Nyarutarama-based Century Park Hotel and residences.
Either management had quietly opened a new specialty restaurant, or a new owner had taken over the old establishment, so I thought.
I was wrong. Tung Chinese Cuisine is neither a new restaurant, nor is it under new management. It’s just an upgrade of the former Chinese restaurant at the facility.
Roland, the manager soon put my queries to rest when he revealed that Tung Chinese Cuisine is derived from the owner’s name, Billy Tung.
The name change came with a beefed up menu, and a spruced up redesign, complete with blinds that were used to partition the restaurant into cozy dining nooks. What’s more, the towering brown blinds also keep the rays of the sun at bay, this being an alfresco-style dining area.
The new changes also saw the introduction of a more extensive Chinese menu, complete with the signature Chinese dish of Cantonese origin, Dim Sum, and a wide selection of Chinese cake and dessert.
The Dim Sum was our first point of call –and out of pure curiosity. Dim Sum is a light Chinese meal made out of assorted small items of tasty food, usually a variety of steamed or fried dumplings, served successively in small bits. It has its origins in the Canton (Guangdong) region of China. Typically, Dim Sums come filled with different kinds of meat, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables.
I and two guests had our dim sum for lunch on a Monday early afternoon, but over the course of our meal learnt that the Chinese flock here for the same on weekend mornings, as they generally prefer it after a workout session.
Neither I, nor my two guests are connoisseurs in Asian food, so we all expressed the usual fears; would it be too spicy? Would we eat unfamiliar sea food, like snails? One person wanted to be sure we would not be served raw fish as has happened when he was on tour in Central African Republic.
Our fears were soon allayed as our orders gradually took shape. What first took our breath was the elaborateness of the Dim Sum menu; with close to 20 different options from which to choose.
The chef advised us that the best way to savor a Dim Sum meal is to go for as many combos of the different dishes as possible.
We settled for rice rolls (with egg yolk), pork meatballs, Chinese breadsticks, and sweet pancake with peanut. The rice rolls were a rude awakening, and took a bit of getting used to. The rice rolls are made from rice flour, which comes thicker than the familiar grain rice, and is almost gluey.
However a deeper perusal of the menu revealed many more options like; stuffed beef meat balls, shrimp dumplings, pork chops, chicken feet, pork trotters, beef stripes, steamed buns, oat dumplings, and deep fried beef dumplings, among others.
It’s from these that we later settled for our ‘second course’, the pork chops. It is on the pork chops that we had our first encounter with the famed Asian chilli.
Prices ranged from as low as Rwf 1,500 for the cheapest item (a piece of Chinese breadstick, to Rwf 7,800 for three pieces of shrimp dumpling).
We were told that the Chinese typically wash down their dim sum with tea, the rationale being that pairing tea with oily food burns down some of the fat.
But remember we had settled for steamed options, so we swapped the tea for chilled beers. In fact, after the tear-jerking encounter with chilli in our pork chops, the belief was that beers would taper down the fire in our mouths.