Yesterday afternoon Maggie came home with the latest edition of MORE magazine, one of Suzhou’s handful of expat-geared mags, and a glowing review of a new Indian food place caught her attention. As a yoga instructor, she tends to be a bit of an India-fangrrl.
The review extolled the place as Suzhou’s hidden sub-continental jewel, an unassuming restaurant oddly named “Olive” situated just off Shiquan Jie right beneath Q’s Club on the far eastern end of the bar street. I hadn’t had any authentic Indian food in ages, and being that it was Saturday night and we had nothing but a Wii Mario Kart tournament planned — off we went.
The MORE review called the place “unassuming”, and they were right. Tucked 20-30 metres down the little alley that empties on to Shiquan Jie, we had to look twice before finding. But I suppose the best places are worth hunting for. Approaching the restaurant I was a bit worried the place might be reveling in the good press it had received and be too busy to accommodate us.
My concerns were quickly put to rest as we entered the place to our choice of empty tables in the vacant restaurant. Now my wife has drilled into me that in China when a restaurant is empty, you go elsewhere. Like not sticking your chopsticks in your rice, or always ordering more food than you need, these are the rules of dining out in China.
Pushing the snooze button on my wife-ingrained alarm bells, we sat down and were quickly brought a menu by the eager wait staff. Pricing was reasonable. Not cheap, but on par with the pseudo-Indian food that can be got out at Singha Plaza in SIP near where we live. I’ve gotten into the habit of judging a restaurant’s cost by how much they charge for Chinese domestic beer — and Olive hits the higher end of this, with >10 RMB for your basic Tsingtao (more for those little dark stubbies or the imports).
All-said we downed a bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala, a bowl of Rogan Josh, three hot-out-of-the-oven pieces of naan bread and a couple drinks for around 150 RMB. The food was amazing, and while I’ve never been to India, certainly hits my unknowing standards of “authentic”.
In talking with one of the owners after our meal he mentioned they’ll soon be changing the name to something more “Indian” themed — Delhi Palace — in an effort to curb the confusion that a very Mediterranean-sounding “Olive” moniker brings. He also grabbed my # and mentioned that they plan to occasionally host buffet-style parties in the upstairs.
While the price tag puts the place in the middle-upper end of Suzhou dining, the food definitely earns it, and I am looking forward to heading back there soon.