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Restaurant Review: Chopsticks, Nicosia
We are not overwhelmed by oriental cuisine in our capital and any opportunity to depart from the plethora of Italian and local tavernas serving up the usual very limited fare is to be valued. One aspect of every establishment that purports to serve the delights of Asia is that it must meet the requirements of the Cypriot diner, namely volume, not generally a feature of the originators, which mostly favours minimalism, presentation and essentially, flavour. So it was with this in mind I entered the Ledra street outpost of the Pagoda group; Chopsticks.
It was lunch-time on a dismal Tuesday, the place was empty so I chose a seat by the window, in the hope that my presence would encourage others to join me. The restaurant was offering a 20 per cent reduction on the price of lunches, which indicated a very sensitive approach to our financial crisis but at 12:45pm on Tuesday it wasn’t having much effect on the passing public.
Gergama, the charming Bulgarian waitress, approached with the menu and was anxious that I be aware of the very generous lunch-time offer which remains in place from 12 until 5pm. However, in the interest of the readership I eschewed the temptation and tackled the full but limited menu. There are five starters that surprisingly includes a quarter of crispy duck, normally a main course feature; the rest offers chicken satay, sesame prawn toast, spring rolls and prawn crackers; nothing of fire pots, hot sour or even bean curd, no steamers. The main menu reveals the acuity of the management: it is directed at the passing coach trade to make the tourists from Swindon, Salford and Stoke-on-Trent feel at home. Their menu can be replicated throughout the minor towns of England where the hoi-poloi is raised on MSG, hence their strange behaviour. It’s all there: spare ribs, diced chicken, sweet and sour pork, beef in oyster sauce and curry dishes.
A seafood section offers five different prawn dishes. I select the fried dumplings, bamboo shoots with Chinese mushrooms and chili chicken, in half portions, with a plate of fried rice. The dumplings were a good choice, crisp, hot and satisfying but the accompanying soy was too salty. Yan-Kit specifies that the mushrooms, while slimy are full of exploding taste, mine were just slimy and the shoots stringy. There is an unfortunate tendency in most Cypriot versions of oriental food to overload on slices of onion, pepper and carrot; I am happy to report an absence of carrot. I liked the chili sauce. The management hasn’t forgotten its Cypriot requirement; the half portions will feed a battalion. There are no sweets but they do sell Chinese beer which I found very interesting.
Half way through, another customer arrived followed shortly by a couple. Ambience is non-existent but the place is very clean and tidy and a huge screen entertains us with the latest in writhing pop videos; the staff is attractive, eastern European, charming, and doing their best in difficult times.
When our package holiday trade picks up they won’t want to miss Chopsticks.
WHERE Ledra Street, Nicosia
PRICE Very reasonable