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Sanjay  Punjabi - Burrp User

Sanjay Punjabi

June 07,2016

Imagine a lazy, insouciant afternoon

1330 hours, June 5, 2016, Sunday, Juhu:

The Prelude:
Imagine a lazy, insouciant afternoon. When you are in a state of panacea, and care little for the rest of the day. Now imagine a bay view – the Arabian sea. A bay view with a picturesque poolside just within the boundaries. A pool side with dripping babes passing by. Watching them so carelessly one could forgive you for ogling this one time. Watching from inside a luxurious, grand, fine dine setting restaurant. A fine dine with gigantic spotless French windows oh so elegant. Watching while you are supping on one of the finest creations of an age old chef, someone who is an authority in himself. Supping on the choicest dishes of a cuisine of your liking. Supping and being charmed simultaneously such that you want to return to the place again and again.

The Personality:
Sampan has got two distinct laurels to itself: it is the oldest (THE oldest) Chinese cuisine restaurant in the city, and it is helmed by the same chef till date, as it was when it had started. Since 1976, chef Penpa Tsering has been the mainstay at the Sampan restaurant.

It was a sheer delight to receive an invitation for a luncheon from Amarjeet Singh, the Marketing Manager - and an old friend. Novotel has organised a Korean Food fest lasting a week, for which Master Chef Jong-Man Kim had flown in from Novotel Seoul, South Korea. And we - the daughter and I - were offered a sneak peek at the delicacies. We also got to meet Sachin Maheshwary - the Executive Assistant Manager.

“Mumbai hardly has any stand alone Korean cuisine restaurants. In this festival we are introducing around 12 – 15 delicacies from the country. Korean food by nature is essentially healthy and very balanced, but without many condiments, complexities or cooking treatments. We are not tampering with the food, we are not tweaking it to suit the Indian palate and we are offering pure authentic Korean fare. This is a big step for us and we are taking a calculated risk by introducing the food to the city folks.”

The Platter:
As this was a special fussing-over-me kind of affair, there was no set menu, and I was very kindly requested to be the commander of the day. And of course, I did accept the opportunity.

Diced fish, stir fried prawns, lobster and egg in a thick fish broth. Now that is like some kind of dream come true for me. The thick consistency of the broth, the richness it held in its womb, the luscious prawns and lobster bits and the condiments that went along with it, indescribable. It didn't have the complexities of a Manchow, but it was far ahead super premium. It simply set the ball rolling for the fare to come.

Actually this seemingly simple dish is actually quite an elaborate affair. About twelve jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined, are taken in a bowl and mixed with egg white and corn flour, and then deep fried till they turn golden. These are served with fried chilly, garlic and crushed pepper. The prawns were crunchy, rightly salted, and the accompanying chilli garlic elevated the wholesomeness to another level. Full marks here as well.

This was a Korean Style Chicken Soup, it had a whole chicken stuffed with raw Korean rice, garlic, ginger, leek, scallion, spices, Jujube and Ginseng. The chicken was cooked as a whole, and the resultant clear broth served as the soup. The amazing thing was that no oil was used in the preparation, whatever fat present was of the chicken itself. Again not very complex, no burst of flavours, but every sip carried truck loads of nutrients.

This is a signature Korean dish, literally meaning “Mixed Rice”. Steamed Korean rice, sautéed with seasoned veggies like Carrot, Zucchini, Yellow bells, Spinach, Mushroom, Beansprout, Turnip, and with a fried egg atop, sunny side up. The rice was something close to risotto but the starch level was extremely low, we were informed. Again the emphasis on healthy food, again the minimal use of seasoning, and the overall combination of the rice with the colourful veggies gelled well. The food was so attractively presented that you felt guilty demolishing it.

For the mains we called for these, and we were really happy with the decision. The rice was every bit as promised, nicely fried, and literally loaded with prawns and fish bits. The Kung Pao chicken was rich in ginger and sprinkled with peanuts, offering a varied texture. The chicken cubes were soft and tender, not rubbery, indicating their freshness. The only woe was perhaps a case of plenty, ironically. The chicken bits could be reduced by at least a fifth, and the overall fare would be rendered perhaps slightly more attractive - there being a balance between the sauce and the meat. But those are silly rants, I suppose - the combination of the rice and the Kung Pao turned out to be spectacular as a whole.

The sweet ending with a Korean speciality. A twist on the original Kang Jung, the sesame seeds were replaced by dried nuts here, which were tossed in caramel sugar and corn syrup. Replicating the Indian chikki. More surprising was the other part of the dish - Caramelized Pears. The sweet sour pear was a unique offering – not very appealing, but not poor either. Something different.

The Postlude:
Sampan is a legacy, a heritage. Sampan has things all going right for itself – the food, the ambiance, the people, and the tradition. Truly a five star in its own right. No wonder it is flocked by a few film stars and TV stars. Sampan has retained its core since the last four decades, and by the looks of it, intends to repeat itself. Again and again.

The Parameters:
The Food Quotient: Food Quality: 4.5/5, Food Choices: 4.5/5, Food Portions: 4/5, Food Presentation: 4/5
The Other Determinants: Location: 5 / 5, Cleanliness: 5 / 5, Warmth: 5 / 5
The Hygiene Factors: Ambiance: 4.5 / 5, Space Quotient: 4 / 5, Delivery Time: 4 / 5
The Conclusives: Pricing: 4 / 5, Honesty: 5 / 5, Overall Experience: 4.5 / 5, Will I visit Again: 4.5 / 5.

The Ps:
Bouquets / brickbats can be addressed to sanjaynpunjabi@gmail.com or mentioned in the Comments section below.

You can visit my Twitter (@glutttony123), Facebook (sanjaypunjabi.sanjaypunjabi), and Zomato
(https://www.zomato.com/sanjaynpunjabi) sites as well, just for kicks.

Sincere thanks to stalwart blogger-influencers like Rishabh Mittal, Karan Karayi, Isha Dalal Rana, Palki Hattangadi, Shravanika, Yatin Gadgil, AA Connoisseur, Swayam Sampurna, Akshay Gautam, The Bombay Glutton, and a few others whose writing I envy. A big and grateful shoutout to my thirteen thousand plus followers and to all those who helped me achieve my 121 million status.
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Anaggh Desai - Burrp User

Anaggh Desai

November 02,2015

Old style Chinese

Sunday afternoon, we ended up here. I had not been here in the last 10+ years whilst wife and daughter have visited it number of times in the recent past.

We began with Iced tea for my daughter and veg monchow soup for my wife, tried it and found it excellent.

Ordered the chicken dim sum, which turned to be pretty good but the portion is enough for two people. Kung Pao potatoes which were also ordered were excellent, followed by Paneer chilly again very good, the quality of paneer was superb. The burnt garlic rice went well with that.

This was polished off with Brownie with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce and chinese fortune cookies.

Need to visit it again soon.
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Sunita Murarka - Burrp User

Sunita Murarka

November 21,2013

Best Chinese in the vicinity

I've been to sampan as a child.back in the 80s it was one of the very few restaurant which served authentic n only Chinese.we used to go there for our bdays or special occasions.so I may be a lil biased but still love their food. Things have changed quite a bit .there was a patch 2 years ago where I was disappointed by their food n service but now It's again my fav place to have Chinese . The noodles in Hunan sauce with spinach is mind blowing.the veg fried rice is also good .as a kid I used to relish their manchurian but outgrown it now. The mix vegetables with the chilli coriander sauce is to die for. Not much of a dessert person so didn't try ny desserts.
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Rohit Khopkar - Burrp User

Rohit Khopkar

October 12,2013

Service needs improvement

The review has been long over due, had gone to Sampan with my wife as it is a favorite of her family. Located in Novotel (which was previously Holiday Inn), facing Juhu beach, Sampan is an oriental restaurant; it has been there since the Holiday Inn days & is some what of an institution, with a loyal following.

Upon entering there was no hostess at the desk, she was assisting another guest, one of the captains greeted & seated us.
It was 15 min before the hostess approached us, greeted us, gave us the menu & asked us for our water preference; which for a restaurant that was not very busy was a bit strange. The menu itself is very extensive & all the dishes sounded mouthwateringly delicious. Our order taker was excellent! He was very good at recommending dishes & knew about the portion sizes of all the dishes. We ordered the Chicken hot pot, Vegetable hot pot & a chicken starter for food & a fresh lime soda (sweet & salty) & a Diet Pepsi; I was promptly informed that there was no Diet Pepsi; which I found very strange as its a 5 star hotel with multiple Food & Beverage Outlets; more over I saw it being served to a larger group; twice!!! I settled for a 7 UP.

Before I meal came they gave us some boiled peanuts in a soya sauce & pickled cucumbers; the peanuts were very tasty however they had used English cucumbers for the pickled cucumbers & had forgotten to remove the skins, not very appetizing!

The drinks came on time; however there was no straw for my wife's fresh lime neither was there any sugar syrup nor any salt to all to that the glass was dirty!!! We promptly complained to the waiter; who replied "Its red paint" (Like I care what it was, just apologize & get it replaced). The next time it came less sweet more salty! Its amazing how much quality of the 5 star staff has dropped!!! If you cannot make a fresh lime soda, then what can you make? We decided it was pointless complaining & it was better that we shared my 7 UP.

The food arrived as requested; all together & was excellent!!! The clay pot dishes were wholesome & extremely flavorful, the chicken starter was also great, the chicken was perfectly cooked & was a delight to the palate! I can clearly see that people come for the food & not for the service!!!

Overall its a great place, the prices are a bit steep but considering the fact that its a five star its understandable. However the service needs a huge amount of improvement! The service & the bartending is definitely not 5 star!!! I would rather go to my old favorite Dynasty or Wanton House if I wanted to have a great Chinese meal & reasonably good prices.
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ninadpundlik - Burrp User


January 03,2013

Real good Chinese Food!

Am a regular at Sampan and the best part about my dining experience has always been the consistency in taste. And I thank Chef Penpa(Sampan's head chef) for that who has been the pillar of Sampan for past several years(even before it was taken over by Novotel). The fact that it has been nominated for Times Food Awards 2013 says it all!
Extremely courteous staff. Awesome food.
Recommended menu:
Seafood soup/Chicken & egg drop
Starters: Chachu prawns & Chilli pepper chicken / trio mushroom babycorn paneer
Pot rice/noodles & Seafood fried rice
Desserts : Sizzling brown / Honey noodles with ice-cream.

If you love Chinese, you will definitely love Sampan!
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Siddharth Iyer - Burrp User

Siddharth Iyer

January 03,2013

What the hell are you charging so much for?

Just came back from dinner at this place. 4 diners shared 4 appetizers, followed by a cappuccino and a sizzling brownie. The damage to our wallets? Rs. 3900

The reason why this is a 2 star review and not a 1 star review is because the friendly service is the saving grace.

But coming back to the point at hand - The food was mediocre, the ambience is nothing to write home about and the plates were dirty (you could clearly see fingerprints on the plate all around). I literally had to wipe my own plate to get rid of all the oily fingerprints.

I'm sorry for writing a harsh review but there's no way you can justify taking a big chunk of my hard earned money for an experience as unsatisfactory as the one I had today.
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panktiv - Burrp User


September 23,2011

So bad that we left after starters!

We went to Sampan for dinner on Sunday night.Though it was relatively full, there were 2 vacant tables. After waiting unattended at the entrance for more than 10 minutes, finally we were escorted to our table.
We ordered for 3 starters & 2 iced teas.
Steamed wontons - They were under cooked. The outer layer was too thick to be eaten & the sauce was very salty.
Paneer with salt n pepper- It was actually fried paneer only with salt n pepper. Absolutely tasteless.
Mushroom seasame - This starter was edible but nothing great. Since it was little bland, we asked for schezwan sauce which never came.
Iced tea- How can somebody go wrong with iced tea?????????????????
It seemed to be over diluted. When we asked for a replacement, they gave us new iced teas with more sugar syrup. Total waste.....
Total damage done: 1800 INR

I am just glad that I wasn't celebrating any occasion else it would have killed my spirit!
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Vinay V - Burrp User

Vinay V

April 04,2010

Outstanding New Look and Food

Finally the best Chinese Restaurant is Back in Action.. But now that there are other fine Chinese restaurants in vicinity, we though that sustainable for this restaurant after it reopened might be a little difficult.. But that's not so.. The restaurant has managed to retain it no.1 position.. A refreshing menu, enhanced portioning, great taste and efficient service is some thing which one should look out for.. only one thing that puts you off is a frowning receptionist who never smiles.. :-)
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vishp - Burrp User


March 08,2010

Flies in Food, Poor Quality Food and Service

I just went to Sampan for dinner.

This is the experience I had to face:

-Dead Fly in Soup
-Excessive Oil in Soup and Steamed Dumplings
-We had to leave without having main course
-Even the fortune cookies were stale.

They charge around Rs. 300 per dish and this is kind of service they provide. Please don't waste your money here.
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deepak9000 - Burrp User


November 19,2009

great food!!!!

i must say they made my birthday quite memorable where food & great service is concerned , the staff was quite attentive even though i reached late they helped me with a table very soon & also i must say with a smiling face suggested some good starters & also the main course was yummy , defy will go back soon.
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ravidesai - Burrp User


October 23,2009

good to see it back

at one point sampan was the only good chinese option in the suburbs. we used to think of it as the juhu china garden.
good to see it back at the novotel.
its located at the rear of the hotel by the pool.The ambience is nice. the service was prompt, and the staff made good suggestions
had 2 starters . the chilli potaoes used to be an old favorite and it did not disappoint. the other starter was stir fried corn and cashews- nicely spiced and crunchy. Also had a noodle dish along with vegetables in a garlic-coriander sauce. both were quite good. nice big chunks of bell peppers, zucchini , broccoli in a tangy , garlicky sauce.
Ourpot rice was aromatic and came with a nice amount of vegetables.

prices are high but reasonable considering its in a 5 star. about Rs100 more per dish than at mainland china.
juhu has lacked a good chines restaurant for a while and this fills the void nicely.
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oozma - Burrp User


October 13,2009

Decent food but atrocious service ... avoidable!

Having heard about Sampan as a good new place for Chinese/Cantonese food, my husband and I thought we would celebrate our first wedding anniversary by having dinner there. How I wish we had stuck to the tried and tested!

Service was slow from the beginning with neither water nor the menus appearing at the table without being requested. We ordered Fresh Lime Soda and Iced tea, Manchow Soup and Prawn Mustard Chilli (starter). For the main course we had the Schezuan Fish with Chilli Garlic noodles.

The drinks were passable at best with the 'fresh' lime having the suspicious flavour of coming out of a lime concentrate bottle. The soup was undersalted. The starter was delicious though I could not detect any mustard flavour. The main course was again just about ok; the noodles were pretty good, and the fish average.

Noise in the restaurant was high throughout, with the kind of decibel level one expects at a pizza outlet rather than a 5 star hotel. Service was slow; our water glasses were not re-filled until we asked twice, second helpings were not served; we had to do the honour ourselves. The restaurant staff appeared to be in complete confusion with servers running around between tables and not knowing who was supposed to be doing what.

However the worst part of the night happened when we had finished our meal. After waiting for 10 minutes, just my plate was cleared with my husbands being left on the table. Another 10 minutes passed before a waiter approached the table to clear the other plate, or so we thought. But no, he only wanted to take away the menu that was still on the table! Our beckons to several of the servers went unheeded until after waiting for a further 10 minutes we asked the head server if we could possibly get any service on our table. The gentleman ran away to the other end of the restaurant without even hearing us out. Assuming that we did not want any dessert (it would be nice to be asked!), he then directly brought us the bill. When we requested him to get the remainder portions of our meal packed for take away, he brought them out in plastic boxes without any carry bag. On being asked for one, he said that the restaurant did not have any type of bag, paper or plastic to help us carry them out. I even suggested a laundry bag, but he claimed they did not even have that :) Needless to mention, we left the boxes behind.

While at Sampan, we noticed three other patrons complaining about the service to the head server. One of these gentlemen claimed that the server had debited his credit card twice for the same meal! Clearly, ours was not an isolated case of pathetic service at this restaurant.

Certainly we had a 'memorable' meal on our anniversary at Sampan, only not in the way we had imagined :)
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