With 300 seats across various and spacious dining areas, Shangri-La is a big place. Opened in 2005 by itinerant restaurateur Mrs. Hu, they primarily offer Chinese dishes, but have a separate and palatable sushi menu as well. Between the two menus there is a lot to consider, but it’s made manageable by the communal nature of Chinese dining which prevents order envy. Indeed the process of ordering is half the fun!
The main dining room is expansive. Tables are simply laid and set well apart from each other, which gives some privacy. For complete privacy, they offer private dining rooms as well, which Mrs Hu tells me they can gear up for all kinds of functions.
The service is generally good with friendly and attentive waiters, though when it gets busy you should expect to wait a little longer for things to arrive, or do as we did on one occasion and go to the bar yourself for drinks and be very patient for your food.
According to headwaiter Frank, the top selling dishes are the sizzling platters (around $10), and I believe him since the soft background music is mostly drowned out by the noise of sizzling moving through and around the different dining areas. I can vouch in particular for the sizzling beef, which has broccoli and mushrooms and a tasty black sauce that thickens and sweetens as it continues to cook in front of you. Very good.
The soups are varied and affordable ($3–$5) although shark fin soup, banned for good reason in many countries, will set you back considerably ($20). The moreish and hearty wonton soup ($3) makes for a good winter warmer. Other good starters include their crispy vegetable spring rolls ($4 for 2) or anything off the sushi menu. We tried the salmon salad rolls ($10/5pcs), which were fresh, though the tiny pieces of fish were a bit lost in the cucumber.
The trick in negotiating the menu is to ensure a good balance of flavour and colour across the table. The black sauce and braised dishes are particularly salty and often littered with fiery green chillies, chopped up seeds and all. The chilli-fried lamb ($12) with leeks, for instance, demanded big spoonfuls of egg fried rice to balance out its intensity, and one portion can go a long way. Also try the vegetable hot pot ($5) with its lightly cooked veg, still with a bit of crunch, healthy, delicious and cheap – a real winner. Our biggest expense was the crispy duck ($16), but it let us down. It was tasty but very dry and seemed to have been prepared earlier in the day.
A foray away from their Chinese and sushi dishes also left us wanting. The Thai green curry with prawns ($15) was too thick and the prawns were a bit bland. A better way to get some coconut in is to sip on their canned coconut juice ($3), which is the perfect way to refresh the palette as you eat from the different plates that land on your table.
Mrs Hu, who hails from Hualong, has been a chef and restaurant owner all her life, first in China, then in Canada where she still owns a restaurant today before finally coming to Zimbabwe in 1996 where she has set up and worked at a string of Chinese spots culminating in the quite fancy Shangri-La premises she occupies at present. Frank and several of the kitchen staff have been working with her since then, and they seem to be a close-knit team. They come together to offer a friendly and fun dining experience with something for everyone. Five of us ate and drank heartily for $105, including the overspend on the duck, so factoring in the easy parking, warm ambience, and varied, generally tasty food I recommend Shangri-La for all sorts of occasions.