It’s the food

When I was in Seattle over the holidays, I got my hair trimmed, and while I was talking with the stylist (DT), he asked me what was my number one favorite thing about living in Beijing. I didn't hesitate. I said, "The food." He seemed very surprised at that answer, and I was surprised that he was surprised. It was a veritable ring of surprise. I had read before I came here that Beijing was full of great restaurants, and it has certainly proven to be true. And I haven't even been to very many classy, expensive places. It seems that every block of the city has at least one or two restaurants, and for the most part, even these cheap neighborhood places serve great food. And we're not just talking Chinese food. I've mentioned before about The Tree, which had really good pizza (and there's a little spot called Napoli across the street from Seasons Park that makes pretty good pizza as well). Far Away Café has tasty food in the style of Southern France. I've been to a couple of American and British places. I've been to the "gold dome" place that I mentioned back on November 12, and it specializes in Uighur food from the far west region of China, which has elements of Middle Eastern flavor in it. Probably the best mutton I've ever had – though I can't say I've had a lot of mutton in my life. I've also been to a very nice Sichuan restaurant that I'm glad I didn't have to pay for. I've yet to find any Mexican food, which I've heard is the one real lack in the city's culinary scene. And as it turns out, I have not yet had the famous Peking Duck, though there are lots of duck places all over.

Last Friday those of us in town went to an Indian restaurant called Mallika. We found it because the China Club Football card gets a discount, and the web site advertised a live Bollywood dance show every night. Given its location, right in a multi-story entertainment complex featuring a 100-lane bowling alley (we've got a work outing scheduled there soon) and several trendy night spots, we expected it to be more expensive than your average Beijing restaurant, and it was, though still reasonable by US standards. Four of us shared a good bottle of wine and ate well for about $20 a person (each dish was around $10 and the bottle of wine was about $25). The only disappointment was that the promised "Bollywood dancing" consisted of two Chinese belly dancers doing routines to Bollywood music.

Last night the gang went to a tapas place called Mare that had been on my list of places to visit. It was very, very good. The five of us ordered ten or more dishes, running a gamut from garlic shrimp to pork medallions with goat cheese to chorizo with potatoes to gazpacho. PG showed up late, just as we were finishing, and got a couple more. We also tried a variety of desserts, and the one I picked turned out to be a real winner: mascarpone cheesecake. The rice pudding was also excellent. Throw in a couple bottles of wine and give your server ¥1500. The place was packed – you have to make reservations – and almost all of the clientele was non-Chinese. Service was much more attentive than usual for a Beijing restaurant, and their English was very good. It’s a wonderful place for special occasions.

I've also had reports of good Thai places. I've been to the nearby Korean BBQ place twice, and the Malaysian spot back by the Royal Kuntai Hotel.

What it basically comes down to is the fact that Beijing is a very large city, the capital of a major nation, and there are lots of people here from all over the world who expect good food. Washington DC is similarly supplied with good eating, and so is London. It's also part of Chinese culture that the best way to be hospitable to guests is to treat them to a good meal out. Incidentally, I've heard that the situation is very different in India. There, hospitality dictates that entertaining guests is done in the home, so the restaurants tend not to be of such high quality – and in fact the world's best Indian restaurants are mostly outside India. All of that is pure hearsay of course. Maybe I'll get to India someday to put it to the test. I can state from my own experience that there are at least three or four good Indian restaurants in England.

In other news...

  • I apparently have an account with China Citic Bank. I was sitting at my desk the other day and AB handed me a card and told me the password. Initially it has ¥1.00 in it, which is only about $0.13, but it will be used for reimbursement of any business expenses I have here. Citic is one of the official Olympic sponsors, so we probably got some sort of deal.

  • Things are apparently moving along in the G-Box. I haven't been over there since our office space was bare cement, but I'm told it's being built out now. They brought us some furniture samples yesterday so we could pick out which chairs, desks, cubicles and cabinets we like. CL, JW, and PG have been poring over the blueprints, figuring out if they put in enough power outlets and network plugs.

  • Weather has continued cold and clear. The snow that fell while I was back in Seattle is still on the ground in places, since we've had virtually no time above freezing, but there's been no more added to the little piles, and they're looking pretty grey. Forecast calls for possible snow this weekend.

  • Some of my coworkers are going through the process of getting their visas converted to work visas (from tourist). For TG that involves a three-day trip to Hong Kong on the company. Apparently it is easier to get a Chinese work visa in Hong Kong than it is here, and his tourist visa is expiring next week. I don't know yet if I'll have to do something similar – I've still got more than a month left on mine.

  • I've finally started taking advantage of the gym here at Seasons Park, trying to learn how to use all those crazy machines. I do miss playing soccer.

Bye for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment