First day in Guangzhou -- long
- Jeremy Osner
Guangzhou rocks! We are staying in the White Swan hottel, a pleasant place on Sha Mian island -- this tiny island feels like a resort although I don't think it quite is; people live here and there is heavy auto, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the island and the city.
The city (by foot) is right across any of three pedestrian bridges, the closest of which is about 1/4 mile from the hotel. This bridge lets out onto a huge open-air herb market, walking down the street (Qing Ping Rd.) and breathing the different aromas feels positively restorative. There are only a couple of noodle shops there and none looks particularly appetizing; today I am going to make an effort to venture deeper into the city.
Last night we had our introduction to Cantonese cuisine in the form of a seafood banquet at Dong Jiang, on the banks of the Pearl River. (Our guide tells me the restaurant has 7 locations in Guangzhou.) What a scene! The first floor is for ordering dinner; prominence of place is given to a huge array of aquarium tanks containing every specie of shellfish I could think of, and several more besides. (Something that looked like live coral? A couple different types of grub?) Also several varieties of fish and eels. Behind the tanks is counters for ordering non-seafood; but all the action was up front. The second floor is a big dining room; upper floors are banquet rooms.
We had: shrimp, oysters (breaded and fried), flounder, crab, giant scallops, sea snail, eel, and a couple other denizens of the deep that I am forgetting now. The oysters and flounder were particularly good and the crap and scallops rocked my world. After dinner they served delicious lardy crackers (guide called them "pancakes") that put a nice finish on things.
The first and only time I've been to Guangzhou was in 1988 and I stayed at the White Swan for 1 night. It was quite new then. I remember having the thought as I was handing the bellman US$2 for carrying my bags, that I was giving him a whole week's worth of wages.
I'm glad to hear that you've discoverd what the Cantonese can do with seafood.
If you happen to be staying at one of the hotels on the island and are having trouble getting into the city as much as you would like, there are some nice places to eat locally.
Yesterday Ellen and I had lunch at J.M. Chef, across the street from the White Swan; it was similar to Dong Jiang but on a much smaller scale. We looked at the menu, which had some interesting stuff, but decided to order from the tanks in the front of the restaurant instead. We had two types of scallops, razor clams, and bok choy; everything was delicious (although Ellen did not like the razor clams.) Prices here were a bit higher than at Dong Jiang but not outrageous.
Dinner last night was at the White Swan's inhouse Cantonese restaurant, The Jade River. The atmosphere was much more subdued than our previous Cantonese banquet, and the food was not on the same level of deliciousness (well actually, some of it was -- but the overall quality level was slightly lower). The two standout dishes were fried bean curd skin stuffed with crab, and roast chicken. Prices are quite high for China, i.e. quite affordable for a traveller from the U.S.