When you’re hot you’re hot

While I was back in Seattle I talked with several people about my blog. One interesting thing came of it: some readers complained that I haven’t written about any restaurants lately, and others seem to think I write about restaurants too much. If you’re in the latter group, feel free to skip this one.

I got a late start this morning but decided to walk to work since it was clear and sunny, even if the temperature was below freezing. You might remember previous pictures on Nanguan Park:
Naturally they can’t leave the water there all winter, so the lake was drained sometime last month. Now it looks like this:
A little further along on my walk, I noticed that things are changing even on our little street, Dongzhimen Beixiaojie (Dongzhimen North Small Street). All the shops along the west side are getting new fronts, and the entrances to the hutong alleys are getting refurbished.
And of course there’s our lovely Gehua Tower, which from this angle is the Backwards-G Box.

For lunch I went to the cafeteria on B1.
For ¥10 you get a big tray of food, including your choice of one of the three meat dishes on offer each day.
I picked the beef with green peppers, which was pretty decent, along with three vegetable dishes and one tofu dish, plus a couple of different bread items, soup and a little orange. Many people also pile on a big scoop of rice, but I almost always skip that.

After working until well after 6, I accompanied a coworker to dinner at one of the other options available in the building. On the second floor there’s a new hot pot place. When you step off the elevator, you know you’re headed someplace fancy. They’ve turned the elevator lobby into a circular wooden tunnel with indirect lighting. I’ll have to get a picture of it sometime.

Edit (15 January): Here it is.
Inside, it looks like this:
I got in trouble for taking that picture. Apparently they spent a lot of money on the design, and the artist doesn’t want photos taken. Or something like that.
The fish tank, while lovely, is not just for decoration. Its inhabitants are on the menu. That’s the kitchen behind the curved glass on the right side.

As some sort of grand opening special, each guest gets one of the fish for free.
They come whole, gutted, with the skin pulled off and the liver saved for you (the pink bits beside the fish). When the broth was hot enough, a server put the fish, the skin, and the organs into the pot. He said the skin takes two minutes, the liver five, and the fish ten. The broth we had was not spicy.
We also got mushrooms, lamb, and lettuce. There’s a variety of sauces for dipping: soy, sesame paste, and spiced oil. At this point, the fish are in the pot.

Here’s what my plate looked like fifteen minutes or so later:
The skin was interesting to eat, kind of slippery on the inside but scratchy on the outside. It was a challenge getting the meat off the bones with chopsticks. The fish was very mild in flavor, and I’m not sure what I can compare it to.

It’s a good thing the fish were free, or we never would have tried them. Apparently they cost ¥400 (I’m not sure if that’s for the pair or apiece – either way it’s really pricy, about $50). As it was, the meal came to ¥125 ($16) for two of us, which seemed expensive at the time even though it really isn’t.

Hot pot restaurants in a variety of styles are incredibly popular here. On my walk to the office this morning I passed at least a half dozen places. Several coworkers have promised to show me a real hot pot experience sometime. This place was on the posh side, where you pay for the fancy ambiance more than the food.

Hmm, all that, and I don’t even know the name of the place.

Update: The name of the fish in Chinese is hetunyu, in Japanese known as fugu, and in English as pufferfish or globefish. Since neither one of us seems to have died, I suppose it was prepared properly, though I suspect it might have been a variety of the species that is less toxic than the famous Japanese delicacy.

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