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Sep 1, 2009 09:35 AM

China Trip Report - Beijing, Shanghai, Jiuzhaigou, Sangke Grasslands

Thanks to fellow Chowhound James G for showing us some terrific food. Went to Noodle Loft, Three Guizhou Men, Zi Shia Sichuan Restaurant, and Xinjiang Muslim Restaurant. The last two are hole-in-the-wall places on Xinzhong Jie near the Workers' Stadium.

At Noodle Loft, had three types of noodles. Long pulled noodles in a vinegary sauce, flicked noodles ja jiang mien (bean paste sauce), and in a kind of honeycomb pattern with a fatty meat sauce. All the sauces were exceptional. We also loved the lotus root (served thinly shaved), and a stir fry featuring walnuts. Excellent wok skills.

At Three Guizhou Men, tried a large variety of items and had great success. Particularly loved the fried ribs and a fried eggplant dish, featuring sticks of eggplant that were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. Everything was beautifully presented and carefully prepared. Sensational.

Had an outstanding bowl of shweiju (fish boiled in oil) at the Sichuan restaurant. This was the only place we ate where some of the offerings could be duplicated in my hometown near Washington, DC. In fact, I have an even higher regard now for the really good Sichuan options that have come along in the DC area.

Maybe the meal I adored the most was at the Muslim restaurant, where you see this type of food often but never done so well. Lamb and bread in a spicy red sauce, lamb and bread dry fried, and tender skewers of ribs, lamb, and chicken wings. A salad featuring cucumber and tomato. Impossible not to love this food.

Ate at the Chowhound favorite Ji Shi (sign on the restaurant says "Jessee") at 41 Tiangping Lu in the French Concession. Amazing wild herbs and tofu dish, my favorite item of the trip. River shrimp very tender and ordered the dates stuffed with glutinous rice. This place is the perfect Chowhound selection. I could see eating all my meals here.

Yang's Fry Dumplings are incredible. Ate at Wujiang Lu locale. In the August heat, you had to be nuts to sit inside a hot place slurping down a sizzling bowl of freshly fried dumplings. But the best kind of nuts.

XLB at Jia Jia (Huanghe Lu location, around the corner from the Park Hotel). Tried both the pork and pork/crab combo. Very good, of course, with the pork/crab dumplings having more flavor and a more savory soup. Dissapointed in the pork ones which had a relatively boring chickeny broth, though I didn't order the pork and chicken combo. Although the "XLB" at Joe's Shanghai in NYC are not Xiao (little) at all, they are a more potent foodstuff to be reckoned with.

During a nine-day trip from Lanzhou (Gansu Province) to Songpan (Sichuan Province), ate exclusively at places with no English menu and no English spoken, although that was on purpose. So I don't have much in the way of names. But i did want to mention two very worthwhile experiences.

In Jiuzhaigou ate at a Night Market, located on a side street about a block away from the Sheraton in the other direction from the Scenic Valley. A series of stalls with seating all featured Qiang-style bbq. Ate at the last stall on the street and had a light and highly enjoyable selection of yak, beef, dried tofu with herbs, potato, and greens, all brushed with a thick, spicy mixture before grilling. Two of us ate for 13 yuan.

In an area called the Sangke Grasslands near Xiahe (Gansu Province), there are two tented Tibetan places to eat. Ate at the 'fancier' first one. Had momo (yak soup dumplings), sambar (a kind of flour mixed with water, sugar, dried yak butter), yak yogurt, and a cumin sheep dish. All the food was exceptional, with the momo and the yak yogurt being truly astonishing. Had yak yogurt elsewhere not nearly as good, so this was a revelation.

There is no touristic reason to go to Lanzhou, which is a pretty awful place. Only a jumping off point to visit the region. But there are noodle shops everywhere there, serving Lanzhou La Mien in a spicy broth. Makes a fantastic breakfast.

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  1. Hi Steve
    Will be in Beijing in November
    Is Noodle Loft and Three Guizhou Men restauants good for lunch?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jerry L

      Had lunch at Noodle Loft. The location near the Antiques Market (especially to time a visit on a weekend). Yes, it was a great choice for lunch. Had dinner at Three Guizhou Men, so I don't know about the lunch schedule. It is a cool place with very creative works of art (by the Three Guizhou Men, BTW) hanging all about. So it is not only delicious, but extremely comfortable as well. Both are really nice places. Do not miss the Fried Ribs at Three Guizhou Men.

      1. re: Steve

        Did you get to "Ghost Street"?

        1. re: Jerry L

          I don't know what "Ghost Street" is.... please tell.

          1. re: Steve

            The red lanterns that line Dongzhimen Nei turn on each night about an hour before sun down, marking the rebirth of Beijing's most celebrated dining experience: Gui Jie. Although it's known as "Ghost Street" because of the ghostly spectacle of the grocery and produce night market formerly located here, Gui Jie is now one of the most alive places you can find in the city.


      2. re: Jerry L

        Noodle Loft is ideally suited for lunch (that's what we took Steve there to eat), and Three Guizhou Men is also fine for lunch, though if you prefer a lighter lunch it may not be ideal.

      3. Glad it seems you had a wonderful trip, but did you try the "hand pulled ass meat" at Noodle Loft? This is one of my favorite dishes there, especially because of the reaction people have when they first read it (it tastes great as well).

        For Jerry, Noodle Loft and 3 Guizhou Men are tourist/expat places and would both be decent lunch choices. 3 Guizhou Men has a few locations and all are in convenient locations, but Noodle Loft's 2 locations are pretty badly located.

        8 Replies
        1. re: modernleifeng

          The menu at the branch of Noodle Loft I went to has corrected the infamous misprint! And no, I didn't try it.
          Though the description does not put me off.....

          Not sure if Noodle Loft is a tourist spot, especially if it is "pretty badly located." For the first time in a long time, I couldn't quite place some of the flavors I was tasting, so to me the sauces were exotic, interesting, and very delicious.

          Also, I forgot to mention that I had a very enjoyable Cantonese meal at Hangshen Cafe in Shanghai. Located on Hangshen Lu in the French Concession. Ordered the turbot with chili peppers and the roast goose. Also got the shallot roots (a cold dish) and some greens with garlic. The Morning Glory greens were maybe the best rendition of this dish I've ever had. The garlic came out nice and toasted. Simple, perfect execution all around.

          1. re: Steve

            Foodie types make a point of a trip there, especially because Bourdain was there and its in a lot of the guidebooks.

            Hengshan Cafe's a great spot!

            1. re: modernleifeng

              If I had known Bourdain visited, I might have reconsidered. Isn't there a KFC in the neighborhood?

              But thank goodness I was blissfully unaware.

            2. re: Steve

              We had the turbot and the goose at Hengshan a couple of years ago. Quite divine. The fish was so fresh it still had the (sounds nasty but isn't) slime on its fins.

              1. re: buttertart

                Not a coincidence. I should have thanked you. It was probably your recs we were going by!

                When we went to Hangshen, we sat next to an American expat (everyone else there was Chinese) named Matt who said we found a really great place because he thought there was a lot of mediocre food around.

                1. re: Steve

                  Gosh! I'm happy to hear that. A friend was lucky enough to live in the neighborhood at the time.

            3. re: modernleifeng

              They've edited the menu, so "shredded ass meat" is now longer the translation being used.

              1. re: James G

                Bummer. That probably means a lot of restaurants aren't serving Hot Rape anymore...