Thursday, August 2, 2007
At the entrance of Hou Hai, at the north gate, there is a Starbucks which does a brisk business with tourists and locals alike. Too bad it's so tiny you have to fight for seats.
But further down is a strip of stylish looking restaurants and one of them is South Silk Road, serving cuisine from Yunan Province.
Inside are large comfy lime green chairs, floor to ceiling windows, and even water cascading down underneath the stairs. During the day the staff wear basic black and white uniform. But for dinner they change into brilliant fuchsia sleeveless outfits decorated with silver buttons and black sashes, from Yunan.
You can also dine outside right by the lake where the water lilies are blooming now. However, we ate a late lunch and wanted to escape the heat so we sat inside near the window.
While the menu is mostly spicy, you can ask them to tone down the amount of chillis. We
ordered pea shoots that were cooked in a broth and flavoured with Chinese ham; "crossing the bridge" noodles, which were thick udon-like rice noodles with ham, and vegetables in a broth; banana pancakes with a sweet osmanthus honey-like dip; and dried beef chillis with deep-fried potatoes.
We were taken aback when the waitress asked us if we had any dietary requests -- this was a first, but now I notice that all restaurants are doing this. Probably a new decree that came down from some government department. But it's good that they are asking. So we requested less oil in the cooking and for the most part they complied.
The noodles weren't much to rave about, but the pea shoots were cooked perfectly and had a clean taste. The pancakes were great with a distinct banana flavour and the sweet dip was wonderful -- if only there was a bit more of the sauce for all eight pieces. The dried beef chillis looked like it would be a fire-breathing experience as they were covered in coarsely chopped dried chillis. But in fact it had a mild taste and quite good. The thinly sliced potatoes were mostly oily and not a good complement to the beef.
With two beers and good conversation, we enjoyed a two hour lunch that was cool and filling.