Well really, Monday’s lunch was just an excuse to arrange a nice lunch out to sample a cuisine. I probably will decide to hold our second annual banquet for the staff at the same restaurant we chose last year. The private room is great, has a wonderful view, no minimum fee, and a karaoke machine to boot. Oh, did I mention that the food is good? Everyone in this crew likes spicy food, and the cuisine at this restaurant is Sichuan (pronounced Tzzuh!, chewaan?). What better place for a sizzling, spicy banquet with lots of beer toasting?
But, not one to keep things simple, I decided to sample another restaurant to find out if it might be any better. Sophie and I recently took Duane and Laura to a restaurant near the train station that specializes in spicy food. They have a sister branch in Tien He, so we decided to go there. Surprise, surprise, in the month leading up to New Year (January 29), they are having their "Capsicum Celebration" (the only two English words in the entire place). This restaurant has no dishes that aren’t spicy, with the exception of steamed carrots and "wah wah cai" (which translates literally "baby vegetables" — steamed sprouts in broth).
The first indication that the place might not be a good choice was that they don’t serve tea by the teapot. We almost left when we found out they didn’t serve tea by the pot, but we stayed since we had already ordered cups of tea. We ordered Guanyin tea. The second warning about quality was when the tea was quite "yi ban ban" (meaning, just so so). Guanyin tea should be delicate and aromatic, but also have a nice undertone like a good oolong tea. This was not good tea!
Anyway, a striking feature was that the menu did have something like tempura shrimp with no shells on them! We also ordered a beef dish with lots of peppers in it, and a tofu dish that had lots of peppers with beef as a flavoring. As well as wah wah cai and white rice for everyone at the table. The food was actually pretty good, but I had already ruled out using the restaurant for a banquet. After our dessert plates of little fruit, we left to look at another place. For what it’s worth, our bill for lunch for four people (four dishes, rice, tea, and fruit) was 148 RMB (calculate roughly 8 RMB to one US dollar).
Maggie told me that several of the workers are from Northern China and would like food from that region. My driver, Afu, suggested that another restaurant whose name translates "East North People" (Dong Bei Ren) would have spicy food as well. A lot of foreigers like it, too. Well, the menu there looked great for a westerner. Sweet and sour pork with no bones in it! Shrimp with no shells or heads! wow! But, it didn’t look particularly appealing to the Chinese palate, in my opinion. And, their banquet room didn’t have a karaoke machine. . . . nuff said. On Wednesday, we’re going out for another hot and spicy lunch, this time to my favorite Sichuan restaurant, and set up for a banquet! This year, when we have the banquet, we’ll be able to publish some pictures of it here! Now, I just have to find and learn a karaoke song.