I had seen posts on this board asking about whether the 150-year-old Lou Wai Lou in Hangzhou is has gone downhill, so I thought I would post on my experience at that restaurant and one other from this past weekend.
It was my first time to Lou Wai Lou, so I can't comment on how it compares to before. What I can say is that I wasn't too impressed with the food. The beggar's chicken, which came with beef wrapped in the same lotus leaf, was too dry for my liking. A crab meat in orange cup on the menu seemed interesting, but it just seemed like some crab shreds pureed with oranges (and not enough crab to justify the 78 kuai price.) I also ordered a red wine pear appetizer, which I thought would be poached, but it was just red wine poured over raw fruit. The only dish I really liked was a shugu (tree mushroom) cold appetizer. Perhaps other dishes like Dragon's well shrimp and dongpo rou would have been better. The view from the second floor patio over the lake is exceptional though. Try to get a seat out there if you can.
I had a better experience (food-wise, not view-wise) at Grandmother's Kitchen (Waipo Jia.) There are a few locations around town, and it's a local favorite. I went on Saturday night and the wait was about 45 minutes for 2 people. The shrimp in Dragon's Well tea was good, if a bit starchy. Appetizers like quail eggs and pork with sticky rice in lotus leaf were tasty too. I tried to order the dongpo rou, but the kitchen was out. Instead, the waiter recommended the house-style red braised pork with smoked fish, which turned out to be very succulent, with a delicious sweet sauce.
I posted a few photos here: http://appetiteforchina.com/eating-in...
One place I wanted to try but didn't get a chance was the Shangri-La, which a few people on this board had recommended. Their beggar['s chicken required 6 hours advanced notice. Maybe it would have been better than the one at Lou Wai Lou.
Lou Wai Lou
30 Gushan Road, west side of West Lake, Hangzhou
Grandmother's Kitchen Waipo Jia
)6-1 Macheng Lu