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Jun 16, 2009 02:14 AM

Trip Report - China

In China, my wife and I visited Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an. Rather than having one enormous post, I'll break up the China portion of the trip into 4 posts in this thread over the coming days.

We also visited Seoul, Kyoto and Tokyo in the same trip - I'll post links to those threads once they are up.

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  1. First up - Hong Kong

    I forgot to say that I will include some vital information that often seems to be left out on Chowhound - the restaurant address and meal price!

    Venue: Hunan Garden
    Address: 3/F The Forum, Exchange Square, Central
    Total Bill: $300 HKD
    English menu: Yes
    English spoken: A little

    This is a cavernous Hunan restaurant, but when we went in on a Saturday night for dinner only a few tables were filled. They had live music playing, a man and a woman playing some traditional Chinese instruments... sorry, not sure what the instruments were, but they made for some nice background music :)

    First to arrive was stir fried chicken with dried chillies and garlic. I was expecting this to be really fiery dish, but actually it wasn't too spicy. The chicken was nicely cooked and beautifully flavoured, and there was only a restrained sprinkling of szechuan peppercorns (which for me, is just right).

    Next to arrive was deep fried beef with onions, served with a plate of sesame pockets. A slightly sweet sauce, and the beef was perhaps a little too crispy for my liking, taking on a slight bitter flavour. However, stuffed into the sesame pockets, we both still enjoyed this dish.

    The final dish was cabbage with ham - large slices of cabbage were served in a glutinous ham sauce, with dried ham 'dust' sprinkled over the top. Without the ham, this would be quite bland, but the ham added a powerful kick that made it quite delicious. The large pieces of cabbage were quite tricky to eat wioth chopsticks though :)

    Bill came to $300 HKG, which included a beer and a glass of white wine. Overall, a good meal, but it doesn't hold a candle to GuYi in Shanghai (will include details later in Shanghai post)!

    Venue: Fu Sing
    Address: 1/F, 353 Lockhart Road, Sunshine Plaza, Wanchai
    Total Bill: $144 HKD
    English menu: Yes
    English spoken: Very little

    We arrived at this large restaurant around 14:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and this place was _packed_ - I think we probably got the last remaining table!

    We were served jasmine tea and handed a stack of about 10 menus and leaflets. Most of the menus were only in Chinese, but the dim sum menu was in Chinese and English - dim sum it is then!

    It took about 20 minutes to flag down a waiter to take our order, but the food arrived quite quickly after that. While we waited a basket of tiny deep fried fish was plonked on the table. I'm not really into fish (except shellfish), and their tiny black eyeballs were particularly off-putting, so I dared the wife to try one instead :) She did, and said they were very crispy, but didn't really have any taste.

    Anyway, onto the dim sum! We only ordered a few dishes, as we were quite late, and didn't want to ruin our dinner at Hutong later that night.

    Vegetables wrapped in bean curd sheets - 4 pieces. Really thin sheets of bean curd, filled with beans and mushrooms, served with a little soy sauce in the bottom of the dish.

    Mushroom dumplings - 4 small dumplings. The wrappers had a good consistency, with just the right amount of chew, and the filling had a strong mushroom flavour - delicious!

    Barbecue pork dumplings - 3 large dumplings. The pork inside was really delicous. They had BBQ pork dumplings at the breakfast buffet at the Grand Hyatt, which were just as good as these. Indeed, I had them at breakfast at a few hotels, and I didn't find much between them. All delicious :)

    Overall some great flavours - I would like to go back some time and try some more items.

    Venue: Hutong
    Address: 28/F 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
    Total Bill: $1,600 HKD
    English menu: Yes
    English spoken: Yes

    I'd booked a table by tbe window in advance, and I'd advise anyone else to do the same - the view is stunning. The decor and atmosphere in the restaurant is great too, all dark and sultry - I loved it! The wife thought the bird cages were a little creepy though!

    Based on previous comments on Chowhound, the general concensus seemed to be that Hutong was all style and no substance, so I was all set for dissapointment. Actually, while it was a bit of a mixed bag, we had some truely excellent food here.

    The first starter was octopus carpaccio with celery and mustard. Octopus can be quite chewy, but this dish was simply outstanding. Several thin slices of octopus were served on a pile of celery, all drizzled with a light mustard dressing. The octopus was superb, not at all chewy, and not overpowered by the mustard - just the right balance of flavours.

    The next starter was tofu sheets with green beans, in a delicately flavoured dressing, another outstanding dish. The tofu sheets were firm and went wonderfully with the dressing, and the beans had just the right crunch. I'm perhaps making this dish sound a bit dull, but it was really excellent.

    Onto the mains. First, a dissapointing dish. I'd read much of the de-boned lamb ribs on the internet, and they seemed to polarise opinions. I ordered them anyway, and they arrived beatifully presented on a long plate, with a small mound of garlic paste at one end. I dived in, but was ultimately dissapointed - _way_ too much fat - maybe 1 part meat for every 5 parts fat! The fat didn't have much flavour too it, and in any case there are limits to how much fat I can eat! What meat there was was truely delicous and cooked perfectly, but that wasn't enough to compensate :(

    Next up was beef with scallions - essentially a 'posh' beef stir fry. However, it was undoubtedly the best beef stir fry I every had! The large pieces of beef were tender and juicy, almost melting in my mouth, and the sauce had a wonderful tang to it.

    The final dish was dan dan noodles. I've never had these before, so don't have anything to compare them against - I thought they were good, but nothing special. I probably wouldn't order them again.

    The final bill came to $1,600, including $440 for a bottle of wine (all of their wines are expensive, something that seemed to be the same all across China, even for Chinese (grape) wines). This was the most expensive meal of the whole trip (and one of the most expensive meals I've ever paid for!), but I didn't grudge it - overall we had an excellent meal here and I would certainly go back.

    Venue: Yung Kee
    Address: 4/F 32-40 Wellington Street, Central
    Total Bill: $630 HKD
    English menu: Yes
    English spoken: Yes

    I'd booked a table on the fabled 4th floor about a month in advance. Getting up to the 4th floor was a bit of a strange affair, involving walking through various parts of this huge restaurant and taking two elevators, with the environment gradually getting more up-market as you go. Eventually we stepped out into the small 4th floor dining space, lined with private rooms against one wall.

    I'd heard much about the roast goose here, and had intended to try it, but on the night neiter of us really fancied it.

    We ordered 4 dishes here, and had intended to order more, but the waiter's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head when we tried to order dish 5 :) He strongly advised than 4 was more than enough! We took his advise, and he was right :)

    First up was sweet and sour pork with pineapple. We wanted to try something that we'd had in the UK many times before to see how it measured up (sweet and sour pork is a mainstay of Chinese restaurants in the UK). It was perfect - amazing batter on the pork, and the sauce was not too sickly - without question the best sweet and sour I've ever had.

    Next was sliced beef in XO sauce. Neither of us had ever had XO sauce before, and the wife wanted to try it. It was actually delicious, and didn't taste fishy at all. The beef was very thinly sliced and amazingly tender.

    Next was steamed bean curd with preserved vegetables. This comprised of 8 enormous (maybe 2 square iches each) pieces of medium-firm bean curd with preserved cabbage and spring onions. A really delicious dish, but we only managed to eat half of it!

    We also had fried rice with nuts, which had pine nuts, almonds and eggs in it - salty and really delicious. I'd never had pine nuts in any Chinese food before, more associating them with Italian cuisine, but they worked really well - they also featured in other dishes we had elsewhere in China.

    Overall an excellent meal, and I would highly recommend it. I'd love to go back and try the roast goose!

    1. Next up - Beijing

      Venue: Nan Men Hot Pot
      Address: 9 Ritan Dong Lu
      Total Bill: RMB 178
      English menu: Yes
      English spoken: No

      We approached this place from the east, walking past all of the embassy buildings surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards, wondering if we were headed in the right direction - we were!

      This is a large 'shabu shabu' type restaurant that also has some private rooms.

      Having never been to such a restaurant we didn't really know what to order or what to do - so before ordering we watched what was going on around us for a while. The idea is to order some raw meat. This gets delivered along with a pot of boiling soup on a burner. You dunk the meat in the soup for a few seconds (it's very thinly sliced), then optionally dip it into some sauce before devouring it. Waitresses come along every now and then to skim off any floating fat from the soup.

      No English is spoken, although they do have an English menu. Pointing and use of my basic Mandarin got us through it though! I need the practise anyway :) (as an aside, this China trip was the first time I actually had the chance to speak Mandarin to native speakers, and I feel that my Mandarin came on leaps and bounds just in the short time I was there).

      We ordered a plate of lean lamb, and an _enormous_ plate of 3 different types of mutton, varying in fattiness. We also ordered some garlic sauce for dipping, and side dishes of cucumber in soy sauce and pickled cabbage. Small dishes of peanuts, pickled garlic and pickled cucumber were also placed on the table - the whole pickled garlic cloves were particularly nice (not as strong as 'plain' garlic cloves!).

      For the more adventurous, more exotic items feature on the menu - sliced sheep's testicles and sheep’s head, for example.

      The meal was really delicious, and quite different from anything we had experienced before. The two plates of meat was way too much food, and we were unable to finish it all. The only unfortunate thing is that it had been 35C all day, so sitting for a long time with steam coming off the soup directly into my face wasn't great :)

      The bill came to RMB 178, which includes a beer and a mango juice (which was freshly made on the premises, was unsweetened, and delicious!). Considering how much food we had, very reasonable. Recommended!

      Venue: Source
      Address: 14 Banchang Hutong, Dongcheng
      Total Bill: RMB 424
      English menu: Yes
      English spoken: A little

      Source is a small szechuan restaurant located down an unassuming little hutong in Dongcheng. We got a taxi to the west end of Banchang Hutong and walked down, with the wife saying 'are you sure this is the right way' all the way there :)

      I'd made a reservation, and when we arrived we were given the choice of sitting in the courtyard, which we did. The place has a nice atmosphere about it, with Beijing opera music drifting out into the courtyard from inside, alongside the sound of flames and a metal spatula bouncing off a wok from the kitchen.

      They have 2 set menus, one priced at RMB 180 per person, one at RMB 260 per person. The waitress showed us what dished were in each, and asked if there was anything we didn't like, so the chef could swap out any dishes we wouldn't be too keen on - very accommodating! We chose the cheaper menu, which still turned out to be _way_ too much food! We were asked how spicy we wanted it, and said 'medium' - I can take chillies as spicy as the next guy, but I have definite limits where szechuan peppercorns are involved! 'Medium' turned out to be just right, with the dishes having just the right amount of heat and numbing peppercorns for our palates.

      There were peanuts and sliced, pickled chillies on the table to munch on before the food starting arriving. After about half way through we kept saying, 'there can't _possibly_ be more to come?!', but it just kept coming!

      - Spicy chicken (shredded chicken with celery, with just right amount of sichuan peppercorns)
      - Black pepper beef (in a thick, tasty sauce, with lots of chillies)
      - Spicy beef (small bowl of beef with just right amount of sichuan peppercorns)
      - Pork meatball soup
      - Pork dumplings (coated in rice, rather than like 'normal' dumplings - never had dumplings like this before)
      - Fried pickled vegetable dumplings
      - Sausage with vegetables (some kind of sweet, cured sausage - really delicious)
      - Salad of lettuce and cherry tomatoes, in a tart dressing - delicious)
      - Noodles in sesame sauce
      - Desert was yam cakes (I think that's what they were?) and melon

      I'm sure there was a pork dish too, but I can't remember what it was...

      Every single dish was delicious, and while RMB 424 is perhaps a bit pricey for Beijing, we certainly got a lot of food for out money! Recommended!

      Venue: Da Dong
      Address: 1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Nanxincang Tower
      Total Bill: RMB 378
      English menu: Yes
      English spoken: Yes

      Firstly, a quick into - Da Dong is famous for its roast duck - or so I thought. When we arrived it had 'Da Dong Sea Cucumber Restaurant' plastered all over the building. Inside too, the menu sings the praises of chef Dong's sea cucumber, despite the fact that _everyone_ in the place is there for the duck. _Every_ table has the duck!

      Spanning two floors, this restaurant is truly enormous. We hadn't made a reservation, and there was a big queue - but we only had to wait around 30 minutes for a table. The time flew by, as we watched the chefs in the open kitchen roasting ducks. I'd previously read that they offered you free red wine while you waited - if they did, they don't any more. Credit crunch? :D

      When we were seated we had an enormous menu flung at our table by a surly waitress (service here was not very good, with all the staff just dumping stuff on the table without so much as a glance or a word - except the duck-carving men, that it).

      Seriously, the menu is big. Way too big. Like everyone else, we were there for the duck, but it still took us 20 minutes or so just to peruse the menu. The duck itself seems hidden in the menu. Weird.

      Other than the duck, we ordered minted green peas, black fungus and rice with diced goose liver.

      First, the non-duck dishes. The green peas and fungus were just weird. They were good, but... the presentation is more what I would expect from some overprices, upscale restaurant. The peas were served on a large spoon with a curved handle, accompanied by a chilled mint drink shot. The mushrooms were served on long plate with a piece of bark with pea shoots curled round it. All very nice, but, for me, it just looked way out of place. Don't get me wrong, they were actually tasty, accomplished dishes - but they do not belong here!

      OK, now onto the star of the show! To our surprise, the duck arrived only a few minutes after us ordering it, and a man in a chef's outfit plus surgical mask proceeded to carve it very accurately at out table. I've never seen such a well carved duck! It was all nicely laid out on two plates, with the skin separate. Another plate featured the duck's halved head. Along with the duck there was a big stack of pancakes, and dishes containing hoisin sauce, sugar, sliced cucumber, spring onions, pickles and radishes.

      The duck was superb - no, it was _outstanding_! Without question the best roast duck I have every had. The crispy skin, dipped in the sugar, was full of flavour and not at all greasy. The meat was tender and succulent, bursting with flavour. The wife dared me to sample the duck's brains, so I scooped some out and had a taste - actually, quite nice. They tasted a bit like liver, and had a kind of buttery texture.

      So, I do have a few complaints about this place; the surly staff, the bizarre fight against the duck that everyone is there for, and the ridiculously sized menu... but if I can have duck like this, I really don't care!

      If you only every eat one roast duck - eat it at Da Dong. I insist :D

      2 Replies
      1. re: GordonS

        Thanks for these most informative posts. I was wondering when the big China trip was coming up. Can't wait for your posts on Shanghai! (Re Mandarin: I understand, I found it especially easy to speak and understand in Beijing, since my first training was in Beijing-accented putonghua. I love the BJ accent...but Taipei and Shanghai accents are also fun.)

        1. re: buttertart

          Info on our time in Shanghai just posted :)

          I too am learning Beijing "erhua", and found people ine Beijing much easier to understand than in Shaghai and Xi'an. Maybe it's just me, but I thought in Beijing they seemed to pronounce and tone things more strongly.

          In Shanghai especially they seemed to speak faster, and with less 'clarity' than I had become accustomed to in Beijing.

      2. Next up - Shanghai

        Venue: GuYi
        Address: 89 Fumin Lu
        Total Bill: RMB 256
        English menu: Yes
        English spoken: Very little

        We arrived at GuYi (hunan restaurant) at around 19:15 on a Tuesday, not expecting to wait too long - but there was a big queue and we ended up waiting 45 minutes! I'd read on the Internet that they didn't take reservations, but that turned out to be nonsense :/

        Anyway - we had one of the best meals of the whole trip here, so it was worth the wait!

        We placed our order, and food arrived as it was ready. First up, smoked pork with garlic shoots. There was an amazing, powerful smoky flavour in the pork and the thick sauce that coated it, and the garlic shoots (which I'd never had before) had a great crunch to them.

        Next to arrive was the fried beef with garlic and chillies - an outstanding dish! Containing a liberal amount of cumin seeds, cumin was the predominant flavour, but there was something else there too, that I couldn't quite put my finger on... the wife reckoned star-anise, but I'm not sure. A highly recommended dish!

        The final dish of the night was Broccoli with chillies, which turned out to be cabbage with chillies! Regardless, it was an excellent accompaniment to the meat dishes.

        Every dish was simple packed with flavour, and every dish had just the right amount of heat for us.

        They have an English menu, but only a few words of English were spoken by the staff I spoke to. Pointing and some basic Mandarin helped. There were quite a few westerners in, most of whom seemed to order by pointing and shouting loudly in English (because, of course, if you say it loud enough it will be understood), or using really, really, bad, toneless Mandarin (and I thought my Mandarin was bad!).

        The total bill of RMB 256 included a beer, and RMB 118 for a bottle of wine. Some find GuYi expensive, but I thought it was quite good value, considering the quality and amount of food. Very highly recommended!

        Venue: GuYi
        Address: 89 Fumin Lu
        Total Bill: RMB 358
        English menu: Yes
        English spoken: Very little

        Ah, yes. Back to GuYi again... we were supposed to go to XinJiShi on Taicang Lu tonight, but we made a last minute decision to go back to Guyi. Stupid, I know, since it will likely be years (or maybe never) before we are back in Shanghai again. But I can't say I regret the decision!

        We arrived around 19:00, and only had to wait around 10 minutes. At around 19:15 the queue really started to build up again - so if you don't want to wait, arrive before 19:00 or make a reservation!

        We ordered some cumin mutton chops, which I had thought were RMB 22 for a plate of 4, but turned out to be RMB 22 _each_ - OK, that's too expensive. However, they were outstanding, with a real depth of flavour. Cumin again was the main flavour, but how they manage to imbue that strength and _depth_ of flavour I really don't know.

        Changshan style stewed pork was a good dish, but it didn't have the punch that smoked pork dish the night before had.

        Fried black goat was an excellent dish. The meat was thinly sliced and really tender, and the dish had a great 'fresh' flavour of coriander, garlic and chillies. There were certainly plenty sliced red chillies in this dish, but despite this they didn't overpower things.

        The veg dish was gingko, yam and soy beans - a really great vegetable dish! After having gingko nuts for the first time in Seoul 2 weeks earlier, I had decided I loved gingko nuts - this dish was packed with them, and didn't disappoint!

        Last up was rice with preserved pork. By the time this arrived we were both fit to explode, but we ate what we could :) It had small flecks of preserved pork through it, and had a slightly sour taste to it. A very interesting dish that we both liked.

        So, another great meal at GuYi!

        The total bill of RMB 358 includes RMB 358 for a bottle of wine.

        Venue: Jia Jia Tang Bao
        Address: 90 Huanghe Lu
        Total Bill: RMB 7.5
        English menu: No
        English spoken: No

        We had a table booked at Fu 1088 for dinner, and so only wanted a small lunch - time to try the famous dumplings at Jia Jia Tang Bao and Yang's Fry Dumplings! We were staying in the Radisson, which was conveniently just round the corner. We knew we were getting close when we started seeing people walking around the streets eating dumplings out of polystyrene boxes (both do take-away)!

        There is no English sign on the door, but it's almost directly opposite Yang's Fry Dumplings, which does have an English sign, so you should find it easily enough even if you don't read Chinese. Jia Jia Tang Bao on Huanghe Lu is a tiny place, with just a few tables. When we arrived there was an old woman sitting at a till by the front door, with a menu in Chinese up on the wall beside her. There was an old guy speaking to her (let's call them Mr and Mrs Tang Bao), while an army of 6 were squeezed tightly behind a small counter preparing dumplings beside an enormous mound of pork meat.

        I ordered a basket of pork dumplings from Mrs Tang Bao, who seemed a little shocked and told me I spoke very good Mandarin - that always gives me a little boost, regardless of the truth ;) Mr Tang Bao ushered us to a small table, where we waited around 10 minutes before our number was called. The time passed quickly as we watched the dumpling making army preparing the dumplings. As soon as our basket was placed on the table Mr Tang Bao came over and removed the lid, revealed 12 perfectly formed dumplings - the smell was tantalising! Mr Tang Bao showed us how to pick up the dumplings without tearing them - you get your spoon beside a dumpling, ready for action, then use your chopsticks to gently lift the dumpling just enough to slide the spoon under. Eating them wasn't actually as difficult as I had expected - using the chopsticks to hold the dumpling in place on the spoon, I ate a small hole in the top and sucked the soup out, before eating the dumpling. Simples!

        Let me tell you - I'm rather keen on dumplings, and these were unquestionably the best dumplings I have _ever_ had! The soup was bursting with a strong pork flavour, the wrappers were thin, with just the right chew, and the meat inside was absolutely delicious!

        About half-way through the basket, Mr Tang Bao came over and started speaking to us, reminding me of just how little Mandarin I know - I may be wrong, but I think he was making a comment on the size of my nose! Anyway, I told him I didn't understand what he was saying, but his dumplings were great - that got him laughing :)

        I'd read on the Internet that it was RMB 6 for 12 dumplings - that's inflation for you ;) Still, the best RMB 7.5 I ever spent!

        Venue: Yang's Fry Dumplings
        Address: 97 Huanghe Lu
        Total Bill: RMB 4.5
        English menu: Yes
        English spoken: No

        I felt almost traitorous as we crossed the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao to Yang's Fry Dumplings (almost directly opposite), looking behind me to make sure than Mr and Mrs Tang Bao weren't watching :D

        The way it works at Yang's is you order at the till, then move over to the kitchen counter to get your dumplings. Service at Yang's was an altogether more Chinese affair, with the lady behind the till looking like she'd rather be anywhere else, and gruffly throwing the receipt at me after ordering. As we waited at the kitchen counter for our dumplings she argued loudly with several customers as they arrived. Once the dumplings were ready they were put on a plate and we took a seat inside. No spoons here, just chopsticks. There was a stack of small plates at the back of the room, so we grabbed a couple to eat our dumplings from. There were small teapots full of vinegar on the tables.

        These fried bad-boys were completely different to those at Jia Jia Tang Bao, and certainly weren't as easy to eat! RMB 4.5 had bought us a plate of 4, with each being a cube of 2 square inches. The shells were crispy and coated with sesame seeds. Because of their size and weight it was a bit of a challenge to pick them up with chopsticks! I bit into the top and sucked out the delicious soup - excellent, but it didn't have quite the same punch as the soup at Jia Jia Tang Bao. After that, I could munch on the dumpling proper without suffering 3rd degree burns :)

        Truly delicious, and completely different from the type of dumpling served at Jia Jia Tang Bao.

        If I could only ever eat at one of them again, I'd go with Jia Jia Tang Bao. But in reality, if I ever got the chance to visit Jia Jia Tang Bao again, I would get myself straight over to Yang's immediately after :)

        The best RMB 4.5 I ever spent :)

        Venue: Fu 1088
        Address: 375 Zhenning Road, Zhongshan Park, near Yuyuan Lu
        Total Bill: 731
        English menu: Yes
        English spoken: A little

        As it was our 5-year wedding anniversary I wanted something a bit different, and after previous consultation with other Chowhounders, I have decided on Fu 1088 - a good decision!

        We arrived at 20:00, and as it was dark we didn't really get a good look at the place from outside. Once inside we were met by our waiter for the night, who ushered us through the large building to our own private room. Our waiter only spoke a few words of English, but was friendly and very courteous all night, knocking before entering the room every time. The inside of the building was beautiful, evoking images of the splendour of 1930's Shanghai (from what I've seen in films, that is!). Piano music gently drifted through to our room from somewhere else in the building. A great setting for a special occasion :)

        They have a minimum spend of RMB 300 per person, so I had been expecting the dishes to be quite expensive, but this wasn't the case - in fact, if you weren't having wine you would be hard pushed to spend that much!

        First up was soy braised pork knuckle for me, and tuna with mango for the wife. The tuna was nicely presented in a tiny 'ice cream cone' in a shot glass, and the flavours were good. The pork was very thinly sliced, and there was quite a large pile of it - it was outstanding, with a really deep flavour to it. As well as soy, there was something else there too, something that I couldn't put my finger on all night... whatever it was, it was delicious!

        Next to arrive were vegetable spring rolls, spinach dumplings and prawns in butterflied scallops - all great dishes. The prawns in particular were outstanding - large and perfectly cooked. There were around 15 of them too, so you get plenty for your money!

        Next up was the hong shao rou - really delicious. The sauce was thick, and a lot sweeter than I had expected it to be. Each piece of meat was around 1.5 inches square, and topped with a large piece of fat - maybe 1 cm high of meat, 2 cm high of fat. I had a little nibble on the fat, and it was good - but there are definite limits to how much fat I can eat! The meat itself was just packed with flavour.

        Now fit to explode, minced duck with sesame pockets arrived. The duck, stuffed into the sesame pockets was sublime.

        After declining deserts (I wish we could, but...), the waiter then came through with a very fanciful looking bowl of fruit. It looked great, but there was no chance! We I told him we couldn't possible eat any more the waiter looked rather disappointed, and even surprised, despite the fact he had seen how much we had already put away!

        The total bill of RMB 731 includes a beer, a cocktail and RMB 280 for a bottle of wine (they don't have many (grape) wines on their menu, and all are quite expensive).

        A truly excellent meal, and highly recommended!

        7 Replies
        1. re: GordonS

          Thank you for such a specific and detailed write up!

          1. re: GordonS

            I am delighted you liked Fu 1088. Did they put you in the boudoir decorated in blue and white? That's where we were. This has to be one of the most reasonably priced top-flight dining experiences in the world.
            Also thanks for your notes on the Hunan place which will check out next trip.
            (Yes Shanghai - as well as that in other southern areas - Mandarin is harder to understand for waiguo pengyoumen like us, the shi sound is elided for example - "shi shisi" (it's forty) becomes "si sisi". And they of course also speak Shanghainese (Wu) there (which I would very much like to learn but haven't found a class in it) - it's a VERY different dialect from Mandarin. If you should venture to Suzhou on another trip, which I hope you do since I love that city and its distinctive local cuisine, the local dialect there is even more difficult to understand). Chinaholic me.

            1. re: buttertart

              I'm colour blind so can't comment much on the colour of the room :} I think the wallpaper may have been silver, or green or pink (OK, not much use :) It did look good though! It was a room on the ground floor, on the left hand side, with a large table big enought to comfortablly sit 6.

              I too noticed 'shi' becoming more like 'si'. In Beijing shi is pronounced with that very strong 'sh' sound that doesn't appear in English; not so in Shanghai!. I think I only heard the Wu dialect once, in a taxi - I greeted the driver with nǐ hǎo, and he replied with something like 'nong ho'.

              I'd love to go back to see more of China at some point (and Korea, and Japan...), but unfortuanately I only have so much money and so many days off work each year! We've got 2 short trips this year, Tallin (Estonia) in July, and Marrakech (Morocco) in September, and next year's 'big' trip is around India, with short trips to Madrid, Athens, Budapest and Vienna. In 2011 we plan to revisit Asia for our 'big' trip, but will go to Taipei, Singapore, KL, Vientiane, and some more of Vietnam (we went to Saigon last year and loved it). Yes, we like to plan ahead :D

              So many places to see, and not enough time or money to see them all!

              1. re: GordonS

                We were on the second floor. I loved the old movie aspect of the waiter knocking on the door each time he entered. I really love this place and can't wait to go back. Not travelling this year because we just got a new kitten and don't want to leave him alone. Probably hit Shanghai again March of next year. By the way, we were in Taipei (where we had previously lived for 18 months) in 2007, and some of the restaurants we patronized then we were able to patronize on this trip. I can give you some recommendations for that city as well. (And your Mandarin will be useful there too, although Taiwanese dialect is widely spoken and is a whole nother breed of cat of course. It was somewhat daunting at first because I had naively expected Mandarin to be used everywhere. And at the time a Bejing accent was not quite the fashion. How did you come to study the language? )

                1. re: buttertart

                  Unfortuanately It'll be 2 years before we get to Taipei, but any recommendations would still be appreciated :D

                  I'm a big fan of asian cinema (mostly China, but also Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Thailand) and got into learning Mandarin that way. The ultimate goal is to be able to watch a Mandarin film without subtitles ;) What about yourself?

                  I'm trying to learn to read and write too, but so far have only mastered about 40 characters :(

                  I've been learning for about a year now, but time is never on my side - I probably average 1 hour a week!

                  1. re: GordonS

                    I took it at uni preparatory to going to Taiwan to live for a year and a half (husband had Fulbright scholarship to study history there). Also took classes while there and when I went back to uni after. Even with that level of exposure it's still a continuing project - although my menu reading Chinese has developed well over the years. It takes more than an hour a week unfortunately to get anywhere serious, unfortunately! ;-)

            2. re: GordonS

              for really authentic shanghainese, don't miss jesse (the original one and NOT the one in xin tian di)

            3. Last write-up for China - Xi'an

              Venue: ?
              Address: Muslim Street
              Total Bill: Around RMB 80
              English menu: Yes
              English spoken: None

              Sorry, I can't remember the name of this place :o( Apologies for the lack of detail on this one - I stupidly forgot to make notes at the time...

              Xi'an was the place we did little or no dining research on. We figured we'd just head to the Muslim street and find somewhere there. This was a mistake!

              We found a restaurant with an English menu, that looked relatively hygenic, and took a seat. It had a few locals in, so figured it would be a good bet. This place was huge, and I think they may have had seating on the next floor up too.

              Service was terrible, with waitresses just dumping stuff on the table and generally looking like they really couldn't be bothered. After ordering, someone dressed as a chef was walking from one part of the restaurant to another and decided to hack up something nasty and spit it on the floor. Nice :}

              We ordered some rice and two chicken dishes - one was a sweet and sour type dish, with some kind of small plums in it, and the other was a chicken dish with peppers and chillies. The meat in each looked like someone had taken a whole chicken, discarded all of the meat, leaving just the bones - and then used a meat cleaver to chop up the bones. So basically it was 2 places of small chicken bones, with the odd piece of gristle or skin attached. Very dissapointing, because the sauce and veg in both dishes was actually quite nice (that is, when we weren't choking on small pieces of bone!).

              Avoid! (although that may be tricky, since I don't know the name of the place... sorry once again!)

              2 Replies
              1. re: GordonS

                hmmm, how sad. We did no research on Xi'an restaurants and had completely the opposite experience. None of our places had an English menu--perhaps that was part of the problem for you? It often seems to me, regardless of where you are, that the places in a tourist area with the English menu are the WORST. I still shudder remembering a one particular meal in Toledo that include instant flan. Anyrate, in Xi'an our first day, we hit a noodle place near our hotel where the woman was pounding the noodles on an old table. Delicious stuff--thick and chewy and a very rich broth. That night we picked a hot pot place off the main drag downtown as you pass through the gate [think Mosque on your left]--the kind where you wander by the food with a basket, stuff it all in and then take it back to your table to cook--and had a great meal.
                Second day, we found another place---little hole in the wall with zero signage--where we thought the guy cooking [wok in front of the restaurant] looked friendly. At that place, we showed them the names of some Xi'an style food written down in characters that we wanted to try. We pointed, they provided. In one case, that particular restaurant didn't serve the dish but they sent someone down the street to find it and bring it back for us.

                1. re: jenn

                  Sorry to hear the Xian part of your trip was disappointing. I actually was pleasantly surprised by my food experiences there. I remember really enjoying various local preparations of a seasonal green vegetable that was in season when I was there (March). They did it quite well at one of the large restaurants outside the terracotta warrior museum. Also, didn't care for the buns but, but the yangrou soup at Lao Sun Jia was amazing - the meat was just cooked, very tender and smelled delicious. See NY times review -

                  Many thanks for the Beijing/Shanghai reviews - some new places to try next I am there...