Last night my friend wanted to take me to a kosher Jewish restaurant in Super Bar Street.
Right across from the new United States embassy, this enclave is a bizarre mix of shops, restaurants and bars catered to the diplomatic crowd, and seedy characters in the evenings. A mish-mash of establishments, it probably would not have sprung up have it not been for the number of consulates in the area.
However, when we got to Dini's, the place was closed for a private party celebrating Shabbat, or the day of rest.
My friend, who is a fraction Jewish, but not too familiar with the religion, was annoyed about not calling ahead of time to make a reservation.
Nevertheless, we wandered down the winding strip that included a Syrian restaurant that was empty, some Japanese restaurants, a tattoo parlour, shops selling casual clothing and bags, and even a Texas-style eatery.
We ended up at a Japanese teppanyaki place called Liu Wen Qian that was also empty. One of the chefs was hanging outside when he opened the door for us and shouted to the back kitchen that customers had arrived.
The decor was very strange, reflecting the bizarre mix of establishments on Super Bar Street -- on the left was an industrial look, with steel beams making a red "X" against the wall, and opposite it was a Chinese red gate theme complete with lion heads for door knockers.
There were two teppans or iron griddles on either end of the cut-out rectangular table, where diners sat around on European-style chairs.
The menu was very confusing -- Having had teppanyaki before, I thought there would basically be a set menu to choose from for 158RMB ($23.12) each including drinks. But instead, the waitress said we could basically chose whatever we wanted, save for a small section of the menu that featured things like foie gras and premium beef and seafood.
We started off with tuna and salmon sashimi, both very fresh, and a small bowl of jellyfish, seaweed and cucumber, and then the cooking began. There was enoki mushrooms wrapped in beef, cubed beef tenderloin that was slightly tough, but delicious with garlic and onion, and sweet prawns cooked whole. There was also spinach cooked with bacon which sounds like an oxymoron health-wise, but was delicious. Overall the meal was a tad too salty.
Our chef didn't display cool teppankayi skills save for dousing our cut of beef in alcohol and and oil and setting it alight.
Meanwhile two Chinese men drifted in later, but they seemed like they were the bosses of the place. They later opted to sit across from us and before we left one passed out business cards to us in hopes we'd return.
Unfortunately including beer and water, we left the restaurant still kind of hungry and wandered to Mondo Gelato at the nearby Luftansa Shopping Mall for a scoop of Italian-style ice cream.
While the dining experience made my friend even more keen to try a better teppanyaki restaurant, it was unusual being in China and paying so much for so little.
Liu Wen Qian
West Gate of Jingcheng Towers
Tel: 8454 2851