Itís right in the middle of one of the atriums of Emporio, with luxe shopping all around. But thatís not the nicest part of Cha Shi - the low prices are. It is run as an outpost of Setíz, the restaurant on the 3rd floor and serves only the food of South East Asia. The staff upstairs helps in preparing the stocks and sauces for the menu in Cha Shi. Like any other cafe, which would serve light western meals and filling snacks, Cha Shi takes the same approach: noodles, meals in a bowl, steam boats, sushi and dimsum. Not surprisingly, it has acted like a magnet for ladies who lunch. The downside is that the cafe closes at the same time as the mall does: 9 pm, making it suitable only for a very early dinner. You can, however, dine for under Rs 500 per head in trendy surroundings. Donít miss the drinks. There are Chinese and floral teas, coffee, fruit juices and coolers that differ in degrees of sweetness and offer varying amounts of refreshment. The best of the lot would appear to be bael and citrus fruit (Rs 80) a warm infusion of the type youíd get on the streets of Bangkok. Sugar was served separately with that one, but cucumber and apple cooler (Rs 180) was minimally sweet and was served with lots of crushed ice.
Soups would appear to be the cafeís forte. My steamboat of seafood: prawn, scallops, fresh vegetables (Rs 470) was everything a soup should be.The stock was the colour of pale straw, yet it was packed with flavour and the sliced scallops and the prawns were cooked to crunchy perfection, while the vegetables held their colour. Just as good was the Korean kimchi consomme with marinated tenderloin (Rs 390). How the stock was infused with the aroma of Korean pickled vegetables I donít know, but the noodles and the paper thin slices of tenderloin made it an extremely filling soup for those who appreciate strong Korean tastes.
The same cannot be said about the vegetarian fried snake bean, sweet chilli paste oriental salad (Rs 180). The vegetables, of which snake bean was only one, were fried in a batter that would not have been out of place on a vegetable pakora. By the time it was brought to my table the vegetables as well as the batter had turned limp and it did not remind me of a Thai-inspired salad.When I returned the dish, it was completely redone and presented in a far superior avatar, with minimal batter, which included rice flour to make it crisp and a tart, slightly sweet, fragrant and spicy dressing. So which one is the standard and which the anomaly? I havenít the faintest idea. Also deliciously South East Asian was the Malaysian shrimp sambal curry with steamed rice (Rs 390). Redolent with the flavour of tiny dried shrimp that you either love or hate, it was a coconut based gravy served with rice neatly wrapped in a cone fashioned out of a banana leaf.
All dishes in Cha Shi are single serve. Service is informal, you help yourself to cutlery, chopsticks and paper napkins from a jar on the table and you tick off dishes that you wish to try from the menu.