Saturday, October 16, 2010

Last few meals in Shanghai

Shanghaiese cuisine at Lanxin Restaurant (兰心餐厅): sweet, greasy, dark, slightly smoky.

One interesting tidbit about this meal is that my friends and I actually had to wait about 30 minutes outside before getting a table. By Western standards this is pretty unspectacular, but for whatever reason you almost never wait for a table in Asia, and thus the wait at Lanxin struck me as unusual.

There are various theories for why you don't seem to wait at a Chinese restaurant. The ones that I like are that a) since most meals are served family-style, diners can start eating without having to wait for every plate to arrive, and b) in general, Asian diners don't tend to linger at the table once they've finished eating.

The rather fine chicken tonkotsu ramen at Kin, a cafe and clothing store run by my friend Gary Wang. Gary is totally unafraid of claiming that this is the best bowl of ramen in all of Shanghai. All told, this might not actually be saying all that much, but anyway I suspect he is right.

Sorry about the mess--I didn't quite have the good sense to take a photo before I started eating.

The following photos are from Lost Heaven, a Yunnan restaurant in the French Concession. The food was terrific but the decor and theme were on the garish side. When I walked out of the restaurant, there were at least half a dozen women dressed in some kind of tribal costume bidding me farewell in chorus. I did a double-take.

Samosas, with some sort of mint-cilantro chutney. This is the only time I've ever had anything describable as "chutney" in China.

Tea-leaf salad, which was sneakily spicy.

Dai tribe chicken with quail eggs.

Fish curry.

A puzzling and somewhat overwrought post-meal fruit plate.

One evening I mentioned to my friends that I thought it would be fun to get a group of people together and eat a whole goat. A week later, we had over a dozen RSVPs, and my friend Terence was putting down a 400RMB deposit for a goat (全羊) at Xinjiang restaurant called Xiyake (西亚克). That's what's fun about China: things that would seem beyond the pale or plainly insane in the West just might be feasible.

Sadly the meal was not the savage ritual of flesh and grease that I expected. The restaurant rolled out the goat, not much larger than a suckling pig, and proceeded to carve the skinny beast into slightly more manageable bits. The consensus was that the goat was tasty but overcooked. The gristle-to-meat ratio was high.

One fellow mentioned that elsewhere, maybe in Mongolia or something, it is possible to order a spit-mounted goat that you carve and eat as it cooks over a flame. Each diner is given a knife with which to extract meat directly from the goat; the inside of the goat cooks as outer layers are removed and consumed. Now here was a meal worthy of pretending to be a viking, pirate, or horse-mounted barbarian nomad while listening to Led Zeppelin III.

We were each given a small dish at the start of the meal. Most people ended up using this dish to store the bones and unchewable bits of mutton.

Halfway through the meal I decided that I needed to use the dish for other purposes. I looked around the table and announced, "I declare independence from Western etiquette!" Then I turned my dish over and dumped everything onto the tablecloth.

1 comment:

  1. Your blogs make me hungry... even as I sit here eating leftover chicken chow mein. And the last bit? Classy dude, very classy.