jump to navigation

Hangzhou’s Wai Po Jia June 14, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
8 comments

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the most popular restaurants in Hangzhou is the chain Wai Po Jia (translated to mean ‘Grandmother’s House’), and it was on our list of places to visit during our trip there.  Actually, we enjoyed it so much that we ended up going twice.

Unlike Lou Wai Lou (reviewed here), which is one of the more expensive options, Wai Po Jia is a mid-range restaurant in terms of price (don’t worry, it’s still clean).  But in terms of flavours and variety, I preferred Wai Po Jia a lot more.

The unique thing with Wai Po Jia was that each of the restaurants in the chain has a different theme/look.  If you don’t look at the sign you’ll probably think it’s a completely different restaurant.

The best thing with Wai Po Jia is the amazing variety.  Going through the massive menu with hundreds of colour photos is an experience in itself.  It took us a good 20 minutes of looking, asking and debating to decide what it was we wanted to order on both visits.

As for the taste of the food, also very good, extremely varied in terms of texture and flavour.  Not every dish was a homerun but none were horrible.  Definitely more suited to foreigners than some of the other local restaurants.  I mean, just check out the 16 photo slideshow above.  Do I need to say anymore?

In all, a place I can happily recommend.

8 out of 10!

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

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

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

%d bloggers like this: