Sunday, January 13, 2008
Fired up for Food and Fun
Tonight my friend took me to a hot pot restaurant, practically a staple eatery in Beijing.
And especially now with the weather dipping to -9 degrees Celsius overnight, cooking around a fire is a good way to keep warm.
However, she didn't just take me to any typical hot pot restaurant. This one has a bit of pizazz.
The staff are all very hospitable, welcoming customers as they come through the door and instantly serve them with hot towels, ask them what they'd like to drink, and even give them a plate of cut fruit to start.
The menu is basically a giant sheet that diners indicate what they'd like and in what amounts. Luckily we can have half orders and for two people that's plenty.
Soon afterwards our chosen dipping sauce of sesame arrived and our server even helped us add chopped coriander and spring onions into it.
And a giant square vat of soup base complete with mushrooms, some Chinese herbs and coriander arrived. We were each served some of that broth as we waited for it to boil.
We had a kind of meat that was a specialty of the restaurant. I couldn't tell if it was beef or lamb as it didn't have a strong taste, but also what was interesting was that no matter how long it was left in the pot, it was still quite tender, marinated in lots of spices.
Also in the pot were Chinese vegetables, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, fish balls, and tofu. We also put in slices of sweet potato, that when boiled, tasted like squash.
But the highlight of the evening had to be the noodles.
A young man came by and took out a rectangular piece of dough from a box. He pulled it both ways and then ... began dancing. He twirled the now long doughy ribbon, twisting it around him, flinging it like rhythmic gymnasts doing the ribbon dance. Finally he pulled the thick noodle apart to make it thinner, broke it in half and put it in our pot.
The best part was watching a young girl watching him.
After we were filled to the brim with hot food, our server gave us another plate of fruit -- watermelon, oranges, kumquat, longan, and cherry tomato.
For two and a bottle of beer the bill came to 132RMB (US$18.17).
A great deal considering we had fast, attentive service, good food, and of course a culinary acrobatic performance.
Hai Di Lao Huo Guo (Hai Di Lao Hot Pot)
2/F, Hua Shang Building)