Driving down a dark, wooded, winding road up to Shakarparian in Islamabad, you immediately see the bright red sign and illuminated oriental style building catching your eyes. Like me you might also like to pull over the car and give in to the tantalizing fumes of charcoaled meat spreading out from the rooftop.

Heng Chang has recently relocated itself to relaunch its operations near Lok Virsa. A rare combination that to my surprise was dishing out authentic Chinese downstairs and flavorful traditional Pakistani barbeque upstairs.

The ground floor that has been extensively renovated is spacious and feels like a relief to a person who is claustrophobic and avoids public places that appear cramped. Decor is pleasing and contemporary with a chic roof-top with dimly lit, intimate spaces and heated glass sunroom seems to be a heaven in the cold wintry Isloo nights

What caught my attention on the menu was the mentioning of vegetarian Chinese dishes, a rarity in a country that sure loves its meat.

The restaurant takes pride for cooking Szechuan style hot pots and dishes and is a favorite of the growing Chinese business community in Islamabad that craves a taste of home.

Overpricing is one issue that almost certainly has brought notoriety to the eateries in Islamabad. For an average restaurant-goer the menu is priced decently, ranging mostly between 325-700 rupees – with exception to the seafood options that cost more pretty much everywhere – and more affordable than the likes of Wang Fu or Dynasty at the Marriott.

Coming back to the menu, the complimentary fish cracker offered on the table actually had taste. Most fish crackers in Chinese restaurants are cold, tasteless and never enough to last until the soup arrives.

You can start your meal with some traditional Pakistani barbeque. I enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth malai boti freshly off the traditional grill. The malai boti is creamy and tender with a piquant, spicy kick, but slightly undercooked for my liking. So if you like your meat really well done like I do then do be sure to let them know first.

You can follow up with their hot and sour soup, which truly lives up to its name and has both a hot and sour taste and incredibly earthy flavor to stimulate your taste-buds. You can be sure to skip over the hot sauce and vinegar and green chilies that you must find yourself adding into your bowls of soup in other restaurants for the lack of flavor.

Heng Chang’s glazed Manchurian and Beef Chili Dry are sure to keep you coming back for more. Now I’m not too fond of chicken but the glazed Manchurian does not disappoint in its dazzling red, tangy galore. It is saucy and not too sweet or too tangy and is absolutely delectable even if you are not a fan of chicken. The Beef Chili Dry has the right amount of moisture and tastes fresh and gingery with an adequate amount of chilies for that much-needed fiery zap of spice. The aftertaste of each strip of beef will sizzle on your tongue.

If the beef chili dry is too spicy for your liking, you can mute it down with either rice or noodles. If you do order the Stir Fried Rice, you may find that it is not quite up to standard with the rest of the menu and you may even be disappointed when you find some hard peas in your spoonful. It lacks the burst of mouthwatering flavor on its own, which you can experience in most of their dishes, but accompanied with the entrees you are likely to not even sense the subtle nuance.

You can then choose from a selection of desserts freshly made in their own bakery. Most restaurants have disappointed me with their Tiramisu, but that being said I was in absolute shock after having my first spoon of their take on the sweet, creamy concoction. It was delightful to find that it tasted almost perfect, a rare discovery in Pakistan for Tiramisu lovers.

You must finish off your meal with a special kettle of their rich, Jasmine flavored green tea that will make you feel royal, as if you were back in time having tea straight at an ancient Imperial Palace with the great Emperor Qin Shihuang himself.

The food is bursting with flavor and the building is still finishing up some minor construction. So, if you can overlook a minor fault on a rainy day, like I did, then you must visit. As you are having your authentic Chinese meal in the heated glass sunroom a few rain-drops may just keep you company and sprinkle nearby through the roof. It is worth the little sacrifice even if you go on a wintry, rainy day like me and the servers will accommodate you to better seating where you are not likely to be sprinkled upon.

Heng Chang’s service is excellent and from the manager to the waitstaff; all are knowledgeable and caring for their guests. The waitstaff was so courteous and checked often to make sure nothing else was needed and everything tasted delicious.

Good service was integral to the dining experience and Heng Chang and will definitely keep me coming back, not to mention the tantalizing combination of Chinese and traditional Pakistani barbeque, accompanied by the cozy, intimate ambiance.