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Shanghai’s Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant June 22, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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Back in Shanghai after our little trip to Hanghzou and what’s the first thing we do?  Go eat more food.

Xia long bao (steamed buns with juicy meat inside) is one of my favourite foods in the world, and according to locals there is no place better than Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant located in the popular downtown district of Huangpu at the Yuyuan Gardens.

I was very excited for this visit.  How could I not be?  I absolutely adored the Xialongbao from Taiwan’s famous Ding Tai Fung (review here), and Shanghai is where the dish originated from.

(to read on and see the delicious photos, click on ‘more…’)

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Hangzhou’s Most Famous Restaurant: Lou Wai Lou April 21, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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On more than one occasion, a local Hangzhou resident told us, ‘You haven’t been to Hangzhou unless you’ve been to Lou Wai Lou.’

Lou Wai Lou literally means a ‘building outside a building’, and is Hangzhou’s most famous restaurant, apparently with a history of more than 150 years.  Situated at the foot of Gushan (Solitary Hill), Lou Wai Lou is perfect for tourists wanting a taste traditional Hangzhou cuisine and the beautiful scenery of West Lake.

Naturally, we decided to go there for dinner on our first day there.  We were told that we might have to grab a number and come back because the restaurant tends to have long lines, but it was a weekday and the place was relatively empty, probably around 70% capacity.

From the outside, Lou Wai Lou is indeed very grand.  I think the one we went to is the newly built version, because there is another Lou Wai Lou a few blocks down and looks a lot less fancy.  There’s also another Lou Wai Lou just across the road, a smaller one floating at the edge of the lake, which I don’t think was open that night.  Anyway, we dined on the second floor in the non-smoking area, although it was pretty much pointless because it was adjacent to the smoking area.

Seeing that this was probably a once in a lifetime experience, we went with all the Lou Wai Lou classic dishes, the ones that all the famous people have when they visit the place.

First off, we got a vegetable dish with some traditional Chinese greens.  It was surprisingly bland, glazed with oil and salt.

Second, we got the Longjing Tea Prawns — which was essentially baby prawns with salt, sprinkled with rather flavourless longjing tea leaves.  I expected a lot more from this one.

Third, the most famous dish of all, the West Lake Vinegar Fish.  Even as the waitress brought the plate over, I could smell the overwhelming odour of the black Chinese vinegar.  It was gross.  Obviously a lot of people don’t mind it but it made me want to vomit.  I didn’t end up having any of it.

Fourth, the almost equally famous Dong Po Pork, which is a piece of fatty stewed pork (with the skin in tact) which you put into a fresh bun shaped like a castanet.  I’ve had it before and have enjoyed it when in the right mood.  We ordered one, thinking it would be enough for four people, but when it came we were stunned.  It was a tiny serve, with just one bun, barely enough for one.  Didn’t the waiter think it was strange that we were ordering just one serve for four people?

Ultimately, Lou Wai Lou was a huge disappointment.  Easily the worst meal I had in China.  Bland, unattractive and (relatively) expensive.  At first I thought that maybe I just wasn’t accustomed to Hangzhou cuisine, but the other restaurants we frequented after Lou Wai Lou were all excellent.

2 out of 10

Details:

Address: 30 Solitary Hill, West Lake, Hangzhou
Phone: 0086-571-8796968

Tianzifang Outlet in Shanghai rocks! March 28, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Travel.
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One of the wider alleyways of Tianzifang

Shanghai is a city where it feels like there are an unlimited number of places to go, sites to see, stores to shop, restaurants to eat.  So if you’re short on time, one place I would definitely recommend is Tianzifang outlet.

Sure, it’s kind of a touristy place, but it has all the things you would want — culture, quality restaurants and unique shops.  You can easily spend a lazy morning or afternoon there, wandering the pedestrian-only narrow alleys that remind me of those old Chinese streets you see in movies.  The place is set up like a little maze of these alleyways, each lined with shops and tasty restaurants with a variety of cuisines on both sides.

The Chinese characters say 'Tianzifang'

Some of these tiny shops sell interesting things, stuff you wouldn’t usually find elsewhere.  Intricately made wallets and bags, hilarious Chinese communist propaganda goods, schmick household items and everything in between.  Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s cool just to take a look around.

But I did buy something.  A samurai sword umbrella.  Check it out.  Pretty cool, huh?  It was a bitch to bring it back though — had people asking to check it every couple of steps!

I also had lunch there at a nice Thai joint.  Post coming shortly.

By the way, I bumped into a friend and former work colleague while I was there.  We used to work in the same team, and he sat in the office next to mine before he moved to Hong Kong for the big bucks.  We caught up when we were both in Taiwan on holidays at the same time and also when I went to HK last year (after India).  But this meeting was completely coincidental.  He was there sightseeing for the weekend  Talk about a small world, huh?

Yuan Shao BBQ Restaurant January 28, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Food, Taiwan, Travel.
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Restaurant: Yuan Shao
Cuisine: BBQ set meals
Price: TWD 598 per head (+ 10% service charge)
Location: See below

If you are into DYI BBQs, then you can’t go past Yuan Shao BBQ Restaurant in Taiwan.

For just TWD 598 per person (with 10% service charge), you can enjoy an assortment of delicious courses sandwiched around a platter of meat you cook yourself on a grill built in to your table.

The quality of the food and service is truly exquisite.  Quite simply put, it is one of the best places you could ever go to for an enjoyable night out.

Each Course offers a variety of options to choose from (you only get to pick one).  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

(To see the pics, click on ‘More…’)

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Taiwan’s No. 1 Restaurant: Din Tai Fung January 7, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Food, Taiwan, Travel.
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Din Tai Fung is without a doubt Taiwan's most famous restaurant

Restaurant: Din Tai Fung
Food: Chinese/Shanghai Cuisine
Location: Various (see below)
Price: Expect to spend around TWD 300-500 per person

When it comes to food, Din Tai Fung has become synonymous with Taiwan.  It is certainly the most well-known, having been named one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world by the New York Times.

Any time you walk past a Din Tai Fung restaurant in Taipei during lunch or dinner, expect to see queues of Japanese tourists (mixed in with a few locals, of course) – so get in early to avoid the wait.  The situation has somewhat improved with the development of more Din Tai Fung branches around Taipei (bringing the total up to four).

In fact, there are now dozens of Din Tai Fung restaurants around the world, including in Japan, China, Singapore, the United States and Australia, but as someone who has been to a couple of these overseas branches, I can tell you that they’re just not as good as the ‘real deal’ in Taipei.  This explains why tourists still consider Din Tai Fung a ‘must-visit’ in Taipei despite there being branches in their own country.

(Click on ‘More…’ to read on and see the delicious food pics!)

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