Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fishing for a Good Meal

Last week some of my friends told me about a restaurant in the university district that serves what many say is the best roast fish or kao yu in town.

They had gone all the way to the north west side of the city from the south east side, only to find there was a giant line up. They got a number, but their growling stomachs couldn't wait so they went to a nearby restaurant to eat instead.

When they finished, they went to check up on the fish restaurant but their number still hadn't come up...

So this weekend they were determined to eat there, and asked me to come along.

I'm not too familiar with the university district, but we got off at the third last stop on Line 10 called Haidian Huangzhuang and then caught a bus that took us to Weigongcun.

At Weigongcun Jie there were several restaurants, one after the other, each ready to cater, from all kinds of Chinese food, to Mongolian and even Dai minority.

And this fish restaurant called Wushan Roasts the Entire Fish (Wushan Kao Quan Yu) is easily identifiable with many people standing outside, even at 5:30pm.

Luckily some of my friends had arrived earlier -- early in the afternoon -- to get a number and we only had to wait 30 minutes to be seated. A few tables before we were seated we were given the menu to order as it took a while for the fish to be cooked.

You choose what kind of fish you want -- usually over 1kg each which is split down the middle and opened up so it looks like you're getting two fish. Then, unlike other fish restaurants, you choose six fillings to put underneath the fish, like mushrooms, peanuts, dried tofu, turnip, seaweed, and baby napa cabbage.

The restaurant itself is cosy -- looks like a cafe more than a restaurant with books lined along some shelves and post-it notes stuck all over the walls, mostly complimenting the restaurant. There was one that had a drawing of a guy and a girl, each with a fish in their stomachs.

And then as you wait for the main event, you can snack on sunflower seeds.

After a short time, it arrives, a giant tray with hot coals underneath to keep it hot and cooking.

Since there were six of us we ordered two fish, with different toppings. One had diced celery and peppers, the other a bit spicier with chillis and preserved vegetable. Each were further seasoned with other spices like cumin and coriander.

And the taste? While the fish is cooked in a layer of oil, it's delicious, but I wouldn't say amazing. The vegetables underneath the fish were a good touch, making the meal more complete. I ordered a side of noodles, which interestingly came cold and on a plate.

The fish overall was a bit too spicy for me, which made it necessary to down lots of cold Yanjing beer. But in the end we polished both fish eventually and waddled out, red-faced and all. The damage? Only 252RMB ($36.87) for six.

Maybe that's another reason it's considered the best roast fish in town.

Wushan Roasts the Entire Fish
No. 16 Weigongcun min da bei lu
Haidian District
Tel: 6841 7169

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