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This weekend is dedicated to those magnificent, powerful, ogle-worthy creatures that have captured the imagination of mankind from time immemorial, and have inspired artistes and the arts to produce some exceptionally beautiful and inspired work… HORSES!

First, there’s the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival presented by Hindustan Times when the city torpedoes into vibrant life with colours, crafts, concerts and kaleidoscopic displays of creative talents in visual and performing arts, held under the fostering shadow of the Kala Ghoda or the ‘Black Horse’ statue.

The iconic statue of the rearing Black Horse – Kala Ghoda

It is also the pulse-racing, hoof-thudding, heart-pumping Indian Derby Weekend here in Mumbai. And it’s that one time in the year when the beautifully groomed, toned and prepped creatures with rippling muscles and graceful strides grab all the attention away from their human counterparts ;P

The Derby Race event in Mumbai brings out the best in fashion and style… amongst the spectators too!

But before the racing action kicks up turf in the centre of the racecourse, something else is happening not far away, only 37 floors above, at the Mekong at Palladium Hotel, that also celebrates the equine beauty with equal fervour. Today is the Chinese New Year, and the Year of the Horse gets off to a galloping start (just HAD to use this cliché!) at Mekong with a celebration of fine foods, good spirits and happy encounters.

The picture-perfect and delicious Abalone Dumplings

Here, we got to taste some of the sought-after, special occasion dishes which are reserved for this time of the year in China and other countries celebrating the New Year, but are rarely seen on menus around here. We got off the starting blocks with a bang – the Abalone Dumpling, topped with tiny bits of grated carrot, red cabbage and green Flying Fish roe – a picture so pretty that you gotta sigh before you bite into it.

It’s a riot of textures and flavours in the Mixed Stir Fry

Then there was the juicy Chicken and Prawn Sui Mai, delicately stuffed, and topped with a fine slice of Goose Liver that was just sublime. The Turnip Cake was nice and silky, though the Yam and Taro Squares were just ok. But the main course had some exciting things lined up for us, the highlights of which were the Pan-seared Scallops with Minced Prawns and a brilliant concoction of Mushrooms, Black Fungus, White Fungus, Water Chestnuts, Bamboo Shoots and Snow Peas, all coming together in an explosion of flavours in a simple yet varyingly textured Stir Fry. Wow!

The delicately seared Scallops…

Chef Cheang Leong at Mekong, the brains behind the feast…

The well-traveled and experienced Chef Cheang Leong‘s smile may be shy, and his English may not be as fluent as the Queen’s, but there is nothing shy or hesitant about his passion for food, and the dishes he has put together for this week-long celebration. With bold choices of ingredients that are big on flavours and bright in presentation, the food here has enough going for it to make you tear your eyes away from the spectacular view of Mumbai as it sprawls tantalisingly far below. As you sip lightly on delicious cocktails like Luck-Tini and Shandong Mary, specially rustled up for the festival by the guys at Li bai Bar, you can’t help but gawp at the brightly lit Dhobi Ghat over there, the picturesque sweep of the Worli Seaside right here, and the emerald heart of the Racecourse ahead, just about visible through the evening haze – a vision of a city transformed in a sequined, cocktail dress, swaying restlessly to a music all its own!photo 7

  • Here’s wishing everyone Gong Xi Fa Cai! Wish you many memorable moments of eating good Chinese food this Chinese New Year 🙂