Author: annathetwinkie

Dim Sum Brunch at the Pullman

Hi!!!! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m back!!! Yesterday, one of my mom’s college friends came over from Nanjing to visit. Usually, I’m usually not interested in these meetings, but she’s been working in Sweeden for a while. I was interested so I asked to tag along. Of course, lunch was a must. She happened to arrive by rail at the Shanghai Railway Station, so we knew just where to go.

The Century

 (I know, not the best picture)

The Century is an upscale dim sum restaurant at the Pullman Shanghai Jin’An. It’s literally less than a block from the south plaza of the railway station. Alternatively, take metro line 4 to the railway station and any exit will get you within 400m.

Unlike many other dim sum places, it follows more of a traditional, western, breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule. We arrived around 11, and it was pretty clear lunch hadn’t started yet. We had the staff and fish as company.

Of course, that wasn’t a problem. Less people means less waiting right?

Food

My mom and I have been here a couple of time before, so our expectations were through the roof. It was only the three of us, so we couldn’t order everything I wanted. We did get some of my favorites:

Steamed Items

Har Gao- Most, if not all, dim sum places have har gao. This place, however, takes it to another level. The skin is delicate and thin, but the star is the filling. It’s literally whole pieces of incredibly fresh shrimp with bits of bamboo shoots mixed in for another layer of texture and flavour.

Abalone Siu Mai- Siu mai is another must order dim sum dish. To me, it’s actually the true test of a dim sum place. I’ve only ever remember going to one or two places with truly good siu mai. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them. The flavor was definitely there, but the filling was overcooked and the skin was soggy and sticky.

Truffle and mushroom dumpling- While siu mai and har gao are traditional, this dish is definitely not. This was actually the best dim sum item I had there, every time. When having one, the gel-like skin melts away to reveal an incredibly aromatic and light, yet surprisingly meaty, filling. The textures were also on point. This is a must!

Char Siu Pastry- I’m not a fan of pastries, but my mom’s practically an expert. According to her, the Char siu pastry is the bomb. We ordered it, and sure enough, they didn’t disappoint. The pastry was crispy on the out side while flaky, buttery, but not overly rich inside. Definitely a good choice

Durian Pastry- Durian isn’t for everyone, but this place has got it down. The rich, slightly savoury pastry and incredible quality of ingredients really tones down the unpleasantness of durian. Again, highly suggested.

Roasts

No dim sum meal would be complete without some roasts.

Crispy skin roast pork- This dish was literally the best thing we ordered. The meat was perfectly tender, juicy and seasoned as well as not too fatty. The skin could not have been crispier. No reheating here! Of the 12 pieces, 10 were gone within 2 minutes

Mixed roasts platter (three item, half order)- I was just missing my pork, when this dish arrived. The three item platter consists of char siu, roast goose and, of course, more pork. The pork was still the star. The char siu had great flavor, but lacked much texture- too soft. The goose was cooked perfectly, but WAY too fatty. Honestly, this dish is overpriced (118rmb/ half order). I suggest ordering the pork and char siu separately.

Other items I highly recommend

Tofu casserole

Enoki mushroom in soup

Pickled Turnips

Roast squab (pigeon)

any of the steamed seafood

Service

Overall, the service was amazing. The food came out very fast and the staff were extremely polite and attentive. However, compared to the last few times, service quality has dipped, but that’s probably because we came at a very awkward time

Overall, this restaurant is AMAZING for any occassion, but come with a group for the best experience!

That’s it for this week… and the rest of summer. Until August, Bye!

Quick Trip to WuXi- Food!

Hi!! I’m back with the second part of my segment on WuXi- the FOOD!!!!! Food was definitely not the focus of this trip, but foodies manage to snag delicious eats everywhere.

WuXi Cuisine

Technically, “WuXi cuisine” doesn’t exist. It’s actually just a regional variation of Jiangsu cuisine. Thus, WuXi food is sweet, vinegary and delicate. There are, however, some distinguishing features and outstanding dishes unique to the WuXi area. Let’s explore!

火爆- Our First Taste

Our hosts, two of my mom’s former classmates, hadn’t seen her in over 20 years. Obviously, everyone was overjoyed to see each other. No way they were going to let us leave without trying local delicacies. So, the night we arrived, they invited us to 火爆.

火爆 is famous for it’s local dishes, but it’s more famous for something else: Crayfish.

Crayfish sounds random, but it’s actually the mascot of Chinese nightlife. Although ubiquitous, crayfish isn’t easy to keep fresh and or alive. 火爆’s got it perfect. Out of the over 10 “flavours”, we chose three: Ice shocked, Garlic and Chili oil (multiple plates of each were ordered)

  

None disappointed. They were perfectly fresh and AMAZINGLY flavourful. Even my brother and his friends, who usually avoid seafood, cleaned out at least a plate each. Personally, I liked the ice shocked- crayfish boiled in rice wine and spices then chilled- the best since it brought out the natural flavour instead of coating it in heavy sauce.

After we demolished over 5 plates of crayfish, the other dishes came rolling in. Here are the highlights:

WuXi special sauce ribs- This is WuXi’s signature dish. Basically the ribs are braised with sugar and spices until they are stupidly tender and covered in an incredibly sweet and rich sauce that. My mom, the boys and her classmates loved it but my dad and I found them too sweet.

Cow cheek meat- The ribs were too sweet for me, but this dish was just my style. I have a love for the stranger parts of animals. Even if you don’t share my love, ORDER THIS! The meat is perfectly tender and flavorful. Even the tendon (there was plenty of it) was nearly at a melt- in- your- mouth level.

Duck Blood and Offal with vermicelli in thick broth- I realize blood and offal aren’t on most people’s favorite foods list, but trust me, this dish is worth it. The star of this dish is actually neither the blood nor the offal nor the vermicelli; it’s the incredibly rich broth. That stuff will make ANYTHING taste good.

Fish with sour pickles- This is another seemingly ubiquitous dish that the restaurant took to new levels. The fish, which was alive until the chef decided to cook it, is braised in pretty much the same broth that made the duck dish sooooo good. The meat was velvety and tender yet pleasantly springy.

The Old Town

Last post, I mentioned that we popped over to old town for lunch before heading home. When we arrived, I was stunned by the beautiful, well preserved architecture, but one thing was missing: street food. Most shops were either selling tourist goods (ie cheap toys), or the famous WuXi “clay people”

 

There was an abundance of flaky pastries of every which flavor and size. I personally don’t like them, but they are one of WuXi’s specialties. They’re definitely worth trying, even if it’s only a bite.

The main food scene in the old town is in it’s restaurants and tea places. I have to credit my little bro and his friends for scouting out the best one: A Bite of WuXi. The entire Jiangsu area is legendary for it’s soup dumplings. This restaurant is doubly qualified because it’s the exact place where they filmed a segment on soup dumplings for A Bite of China (I highly recommend this TV show)

 

We ordered the generic pork and crab roe dumplings as well as one of the Giants (a bigger version of the generic with 5x the soup). Words cannot describe the amazingness of the dumplings. each one is made to order and the skin was sooo thin and delicate. The soup level was also off the chart and not too salty. Come HERE!!!! even if it takes a while to find.

 (some samplings)

So that’s it for this quick trip. See you guys soon!

 

 

Quick Trip to WuXi- Let’s Clean a Mountain!

Hello World! School is OVER!!!! Even better, I passed my finals with flying colors! My plan was just to lay low for the first week to unwind after finals. My mom had a far better idea. On the 10th, we joined up with two other families and popped over to nearby WuXi to help clean up some trails. While this seems a bit random, it’s actually a test run for a project we’re trying to get started called Beautiful Mountains and Rivers.

WuXi

WuXi is a historical city in Jiangsu province about a 2 hour drive from Shanghai. At the city’s center is a lake bordered by some low mountains covered in scenic forests. From a hiking perspective, the “mountains” are only 400m, but what they lack in difficulty they make up in scenery

 

More importantly, we went to WuXi because two of my mom’s former high school classmates are prominent members of an organization, started some local entrepreneurs, called 丹顶鹤 that’s been helping to keep the mountains clean every weekend for the last 4 and a half years.

丹顶鹤, not only helps pick up trash, but also does advocacy to promote environmentalism, physical well- being and happiness. (This included shouting out the slogan on the middle of the mountain)

 

It was an absolute blast. The weather was absolutely perfect, and since it rained the day before, it wasn’t even that hot. The lack of tourists also meant a relative lack of trash, but there was still plenty to do:

After a few hours, everyone was pretty pooped, so group leader led us up to a little tea place at the top of the mountain.

There, the whole group sat around and had a lively discussion  philosophical debate about the differences between education in China and the US. The takeaway: America needs more basics; China needs to CHILL OUT and let children do what they enjoy.

Time flew by. Unfortunately, we had to leave or face late checkout costs and impending traffic on the way back. The first problem was avoided by getting down the mountain and checking out without showering 😦 As for the second problem, we ignored it and shopped around old town  instead- screw traffic!

After a great lunch and a box of wax berries (Highly recommended), we headed back. What a great trip!

Next post, I’ll share some of the delicious eats. Until then, See ya!

 

 

Fun with Friends at the Oriental Pearl Tower

Hi!!! Long time no post. It’s been pretty busy with review and exams these past two weeks, but almost done! (Bio tomorrow) Yesterday, I finally got my SATIIs out of the way and I was going to suggest going out for dinner. As it turns out, I didn’t need to. My dad’s college classmate in Munich, the same ones we visited, came to Shanghai on Thursday with her two kids. We had such a great time at her place last summer in Munich(actually, I pretty much cleaned off the berries) so I really looked forward to seeing her again. Dinner was a must and so was visiting LuJiaZui, so why not kill two birds with one stone: Eat at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

 (The restaurant is in the second ball)

About the Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower is among Pudong’s first attractions. It’s 486 meters high with the restaurant at 267m, pretty high up there! There are also observation decks, including one at 263m with a cool glass walkway:

As well as an arcade/amusement park at 98m

Not a fan of heights? At the ground floor, there’s a Shanghai city museum, an aquarium nearby and some pretty decent restaurants.

The Restaurant

The Revolving Restaurant is one of the coolest eateries EVER!!! For 328RMB/ person (a bit overpriced), you get to eat dinner while enjoying a full 360 view of the Bund and LuJiaZui over the course of 2 hours.

 

Another perk, there’s no epic queueing to get up there. Those going to the restaurant have a “Special entryway” up the tower. They expect you to go straight to the restaurant, but there’s nothing to stop you from heading down a couple of stairs to the observation deck. As long as 1/2 of the group is in the restaurant 30 minutes before the reserved time, everything’s fine. It was 5:30 and everyone was pretty hungry, so we headed directly for the food.

Food

Speaking of food, it was mediocre at best. There was a large selection, but it was more quantity over quality.

Most of the food was slow to be replaced or over/under seasoned. The Japanese/Seafood section, usually my favorite, lacked quantity or quality. We had to wait almost an hour before they stopped “running out of sashimi”. The rolls were also horrendous. The worst part was that nearly everything was cold and had obviously been sitting out for a while. This was especially obvious in the soft skins and pooled fat of the Cantonese roasts.

Not everything was bad though. The sausage was better than most places in China and the grill was pretty great, but had pretty epic queueing. The highlight was definitely the mini hot pot. There was a pretty wide variety of items ranging from tofu to pork belly to seaweed to more exotic items such as quail egg and intestine.

Fortunately, our guests were far more impressed with the food.

Visiting tips:

  1.  Unless epic queues and cheesy arcade games are your thing, don’t buy tickets for anything other than DINNER at the revolving restaurant. Avoid going between 4-6, since that’s the awkward time between peak meal times with the worst food.
  2. Remember, queues are unavoidable. A direct ticket up does not mean a direct ticket down. It took us a good 40 min to actually get down.
  3. Definitely go slightly before sunset on a clear day, especially in the warmer months. It is BEAUTIFUL.

 

Well, that’s it for this post. Have a great week and see you soon!

 

 

YuZu at HSBC Tower

Hi!!! Usually on Sundays, we go out for dinner at some mediocre restaurant because we’re too lazy to cook. Yesterday, however, we had not 1 but special occasions to celebrate: my birthday, my parent’s anniversary and the 120th birthday of my parent’s alma mater- Zhejiang University

 Some classmates paid to have the empire state building blue!

With that in mind, a mediocre restaurant wasn’t going to cut it. I really liked Japanese, so my dad scouted out Yuzu at the HSBC.

YuZu

YuZu is a fairly high end restaurant on the 46th floor of the HSBC building in LuJiaZui. Although it’s pretty big, it’s still hard to get reservations. Fortunately, my dad called in early so we did get a table with a pretty sick view

Food

The menu has a fairly wide selection of traditional Japanese dishes and some other additions. Ordering a la carte is okay, but if you’re hungry and like Japanese food, pay 300rmb/ person and you can order unlimited items from the menu! Of course that’s what we did. In fact, we got at least 15 dishes. Here are the highlights

 Monkfish Liver in Vinegar

Fun fact! Monkfish is actually not a fish but a type of shark. Biology aside it’s liver is very tasty. The classic “liver taste” is definitely there but much milder and the salty vinegar helps remove the fishiness. It was also very fresh, unlike the frozen, half-thawed version I had before.

 Sashimi Platter (octupus, uni and surf clam)

You have to order each sashimi separately and it is quite expensive. Unlimited ordering for the win! The sashimi was very fresh and both the surf clam and octopus were pleasantly tender. The uni was sweet and rich, but it’s best to eat it fast, or else the ice melts and you end up eating water logged sea urchin 😦

 Horse Meat Sashimi

Yes, horse meat, as in the 4 legged equestrian animal. I always like trying strange new foods, so I was very excited to try this. I must say, I was quite disappointed. The meat was extremely fresh and tender, but it tasted like beef, but milder.

 Smoked Ray fish Fin

This is another of the “try new” dishes. It was really good and tastes a lot like Chinese dried fish snack but thicker and chewier. I suggest this and would make a snack.

 Fermented Soy beans

Apparently, this is great for digestion, so we ordered it. To put it frankly, it’s just moldy soybeans used as the base for miso. It wasn’t bad, but slimy and tasteless. I wouldn’t suggest this.

 Grilled Tuna Neck

This was literally the highlight of the night. The fish was perfectly charred and seasoned. The meat was tender and VERY fresh. The neck is dense but not too fatty, perfect!

We also ordered some very good but ordinary dishes, for example, yakatori chicken, grilled salmon fin and various sushis. Honestly, anything on the menu would probably taste at least decent.

Service

The service overall was great, but there were some glaring inconsistencies. The staff attitude was on point; however, some of the dishes were unusually slow to come out. For example, our pickle platter was one of the first things we ordered but one of the last to arrive. My mom joked that they had to grow the vegetables and pickle them before serving. Other dishes, like the grilled tuna neck came out pleasantly fast and surprisingly so.

Overall Impression

Overall, YuZu is a great choice for any occasion with great food, atmosphere and service. I will definitely find “excuses” for going back.

I hope everyone has a good week and see you next week!

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

It’s May 14th and AP exams are finally over. More importantly, it’s Mother’s Day! My mom is amazing. My brother bought flowers; dad made congee; I decided to make mom breakfast. Unfortunately, I didn’t have flour, butter or sugar at home 😦 However, we did have bread, yogurt and lots of eggs. French toast it was. Of course, any ordinary french toast wouldn’t do, thus, behold:

Baked French toast sandwich with Nutella.

French toast seems simple, but there’s more than meet’s the eye. Don’t believe me, check out this Serious Eats article (click here) The article goes into great detail about ratios and such. I never paid that much detail or did that many experiments; however, I learned a few tricks:

  1. Instead of using only cream or milk, add a bit of flavoured yogurt. Yogurt makes the custard thicker, creamier and more flavourful. I suggest a 1:1 ratio of yogurt to milk or nix the milk altogether. When using yogurt, cut back on sugar since most flavoured yogurts have more than enough sugar
  2. Soak the toast for at least 5 minutes or until the custard penetrates the entire thickness of the bread( chop the crust off for best results). While soaking for as long as possible may seem like a good idea, over soaking will compromise the structural integrity of the toast and make the french toast floppy and flat. Unless you’re using day’s old and or very crusty bread, don’t soak for more than 30min.
  3. Speaking of bread, any bread will work, but please stay away from very dense or very airy breads. For example, either pure white breads or those whole wheat health breads aren’t the best. I used semi- whole wheat bread, but some good Challah would’ve been better.

Without further ado, here’s a basic recipe for french toast. Feel free to customize:


Basic French Toast

  • Servings: 4 slices (about enough for 2 people or 1 very hungry person
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tbsp of flavored yogurt
  • 4 tsp sugar, additional for sprinkling and caramelizing
  • a splash of milk, no more than 1/4 cup
  • Oil, butter or cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preferably in separate bowls, beat each egg with 1.5tbsp of yogurt, 1 tsp of sugar and a splash of milk.
  2. Dip and let the bread soak for a minimum of 5 min (refer to tip 2). Flip ever so often so all sides are covered. Optional: sprinkle both sides with a thin layer of sugar
  3. Heat a pan to high heat and sear for 1-2 min/side or until a crust forms, then turn the heat down and cook for 1-2 more min/ side. Garnish as wanted!

Alternately, for a baked version

  1. follow steps 1 and 2
  2. Preheat the oven to 150C and bake for 10-20min, depending on the thickness of bread
  3. Garnish as wanted, serve and Enjoy! optional: turn on the broiler or sear for a crust

Don’t have a sweet tooth? Check out this recipe for savoury toast (click here)Anyways, have a great Mother’s day and Enjoy some toast!

 

Il Bambino at the The Cool Docks

Today is May 1st, China’s labour day so no school :). Since there’s no school, we decided to go out for dinner in PuXi at The Cool Docks. There were quite a few restaurants. I wanted Japanese and Korean Barbecue, but my brother wanted Italian. Thus, we ended up at Il Bambino

The Cool Docks

The Cool Docks are one of Shanghai’s newer attractions. It’s a little alcove of restaurants and bars about 500m from the ferry stop. Due to an ongoing project to expand the bund, most of the area around was under construction. That kind of ruined the scenery, but once its done, there’ll be a fully connected riverside path. So Pretty!!!!

 

When we got there, it was quite late and we were pretty hungry. We took a little loop to scout out a restaurant. My brother wanted Italian; he got Italian.

Il Bambino

Il Bambino is the only Italian Restaurant in the Cool Docks. I personally don’t like Italian food and I was fully prepared to argue; however, I noticed 2 things: 1) The restaurant looked nice 2) Steak was 40% off! We followed a VERY courteous waiter in.

Food

The menu is not very large. It had a couple of appetizers, pastas, risotto, seafood and of course steak. Despite the steak promotion, the menu was definitely seafood heavy. So, onto the food.

I had every intention of ordering steak, but the Mixed Seafood Platter caught my eye before I made it to the steak selection. The description promised calamari, crab, prawns, cod, salmon and lobster on a bed of spring vegetables and with lemon parsley juice. I expected a pile of grilled seafood coated in rich butter. When it arrived, I got a beautifully plated, but disappointingly small, portion of the promised seafood. It was well oiled, but the lemon cut through very well. On the other hand, the calimari and prawns were a bit overcooked 😦 More vegetables would also have been nice. Overall, a fresh and delicious dish.

 ( not a great pic…. but it’s the taste that matters)

My brother went straight for the steak menu. He order a beef tenderloin with foie gras, mushroom sauce and mash potatoes. It was, in his words, amazingly delicious. It was so good, in fact, that he ordered a second one. The steak was perfectly medium- rare and incredibly tender as well as well seasoned. The mash looked smooth and paired perfectly with the sauce and foie gras. Not into fattened goose liver? No problem, just tell the server. On a side note, this dish does take quite a while to make. Be prepared to wait.

My mom ordered a cut of veal with red wine sauce and potato puree. It too, was beautifully plated and extremely tender despite being ordered medium; however, it was very under-seasoned. Luckily, there was plenty of salt in the shaker.

My dad ordered lobster linguine. Honestly, he would have been better off getting steak, but his choice. I’m not into pasta, especially when it’s drenched in an oily sauce, but I must say, the lobster was very tender.

Apparently, as part of the steak deal, ordering the veal gets you a choice between tiramisu and durian cake as a free dessert. My brother hates durian and tried to get the tiramisu, but my mom ordered the veal. It was her choice; she picked the durian cake. It was pretty, but apparently the durian wasn’t fresh 😦 It was a pretty disappointing end to her dinner.

Service and Atmosphere

Il Bambino is quite new. That is both good and bad for the service and atmosphere:

Good

  •  wait staff is exceedingly courteous
  • the restaurant was pretty much empty so we got a private booth with full view of the river
  • The interior looked new and sharp

Bad

  •  Lack of customers => slow service
  • The restaurant felt very empty and lonely

Overall Impression

Overall, Il Bambino is a great restaurant, but it could pay more attention to some little details. I think more time will bring more customers and the kinks should work themselves out.

Anyways, that was the perfect way to spend what would have been a lazy Sunday evening. Hope you week is/was great! Bye!

 

Spring Trip to JiaXing

Hi!!! It’s officially spring now!!!! In China, there is a tradition of going on 春游, or spring vacation when the weather gets nice and flowers bloom. Sunday was bright, sunny and free so we decided to go on a 春游.

We were going to take a quick train to SuZhou, but earlier that week, my mom and a couple of her friends went to JiaXing.

 

They were WeChatting for days about the beauty and the delicious food. Plus, she came home with some VERY DELICIOUS pumpkin steam buns, salted vegetable stuffed glutinous rice dumplings and 粽子stick rice packets. So, I couldn’t have been more excited when my mom offered to take me there instead.

JiaXing

JiaXing is a fairly small town about 1.5 hrs outside of Shanghai. It’s a pretty big deal in China because it is where Mao and his comrades established the communist party after being chased out of Shanghai by the Nationalists

I love history, but I didn’t come to JiaXing for educational purposes. JiaXing is also, if not more, famous for it’s South Lake and old town. As one poet put it, JiaXing has “one lake, two rivers and three streets” (it sounds a lot nicer in Chinese). Both were BEAUTIFUL

We took a very scenic walk around the lake.

 

That was all we needed to stoke our appetites before hitting old town (well, one of the 3 famed streets). We meandered among old cobblestone alleyways and “old wood” buildings repurposed as modern pubs.

 

They were beautiful, but by that time, we were all pretty hungry. After a few pictures, we beelined for the food. Boy did we find some!

Marinated Meats

Right as we turned the corner, we ran into this:

Old shop marinades are no joke. These recipes are often family treasures. We were not disappointed. We got some offal, tofu and chicken feet; honestly, those were some of the most delicious things I’ve ever put into my mouth. They were perfectly rich, flavorful and tender. I was very tempted to get the pork knuckle, but that thing had to be at least 2 lbs. I couldn’t afford squandering my stomach space

Side note: When making Chinese style marinades, preserve and reuse old liquid. The used liquid absorbs a lot of flavour, collagen or fat from the previous use, making the next one much tastier

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Carbs are usually my last priority when it comes to sampling, but I LOVE glutinous rice dumplings. My mom brought some back last time and they were AMAZING! Luckily for us, the dumpling place was right next to the marinade shop.

The shop offered a fairly wide selection of glutinous rice delicacies from flower “cake” to rice balls filled with meat. They even had maltose candy- literally wheat that’s been pounded and heated until maltose is released and forms strings.

Again, I’m not a carb person. I headed straight for the rice dumplings. In April, there’s a special kind of glutinous rice dumpling called 青团. It’s basically a normal dumpling, but with a kind of leaf mixed in so it’s green.

I got a salted veggie and bamboo shoot one. AMAZING. They also have bean paste filled ones and pumpkin ones that are also filled with bean paste.

Sticky Rice Packets

While marinades and glutinous rice dumplings are good, JiaXing is really famous for its sticky rice packets. They’re so important, that there’s actually a museum dedicated to them.

Sticky rice packets, which originated during the Spring and Autumn period (nearly 4,000 years ago), are traditionally eaten during Dragon Boat festival. They’re pretty much glutinous rice filled with meat, veggies or even bean paste and chesnuts, then wrapped in lotus or bamboo leaves. They usually look like this:

but I saw some pretty interesting regional variations

By the time we left the museum, it was about three, and we were very satisfied, but tired. Our one regret is that we only visited one old town street. I had a blast and will definitely be back for more of the delicious food and beautiful sights.

 

 

 

The Cook buffet at the Kerry

Hi!!! I know this post is late but I’ve been busy. On Sunday, I participated in the International History Bee and Bowl China regionals. I didn’t really prepare, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually made it into the finals seeded second. Unfortunately, the Final was filled with US and ancient history questions, so I finished in an unspectacular 4th. Nevertheless, My mom decided it was occasion to celebrate and let me go the The Cook buffet.

The Cook

The Cook is one of the three restaurants owned by the Kerry. (There’s the Meat- a crazy expensive steakhouse/event space, and the Brew- exactly what it sounds like). The Cook has an al la carte menu, but it’s limited, expensive and terrible. The buffet, although far from cheap, is a much better choice. Just be sure to come VERY hungry.

Food

The Cook has a fairly large selection of Asian and Western dishes. There’s roasts, stir fries, salad, noodle bar, meats, seafood/sushi etc.

 

 

Although the selection is not the biggest, the diversity can get quite overwhelming. I stuck to my favorites:

The char-grilled fish (The ones on skewers) were amazing. The guy actually grills it in front of you and he uses real coals. Some came out a bit too  burnt, but most of them were perfectly charred. The fish grill also does salmon, but the meat was dry. I was surprised that the offered the head. Salmon head irritates my stomach, but it’s irresistible.

   

I had been to The Cook a few times before, but they added a few , VERY DELICIOUS, items. They added a small Tai section. It had curry, roti, which I don’t like. Among those dishes was chicken tika- amazingly charred, perfectly spiced and tender chicken pieces. Next to the tai section, was a small corner with 3 dishes. There, I discovered stewed cow skin. Sounds gross? It’s not. It has the gelatinous, collagen texture of pork trotters, but far thicker and WAY less fatty. The dish was rich, slightly spicy and sweet. AMAZING.

 (My most disappointing plate)

Unfortunately, not everything was so rosy. The western section was quite lacking. I got what I thought was a perfectly cooked steak. While perfectly cooked, it was cold and bland. The roasts, with exception of the chicken, were also soft and greasy. I think the problem wasn’t so much the quality, but the fact that it had been left out- one of the downsides of buffets.

Service/ Atmosphere

Buffets don’t really have service per say, but the servers were quick about removing used plates. I would suggest going a bit earlier. That way, you can avoid cold, sub par food. The restaurant usually pretty empty, but the bright lights and music keep it lively

On a side note, the buffet is expensive, a bit excessively so. It’s 298RMB/ person plus a 50RMB service charge.

Overall Impression

Overall, the food, atmosphere, and service make The Cook a great place for a celebration or special event. I’ll definitely come back again and see if they have anything new next time.

 

 

Review: Pure and Whole

It’s the week after Spring Break and everyone’s about back into “study mode”. Actually teachers are kicking into high gear in preparation for AP exams. However, that didn’t stop us from going out to eat.

Normally, we’d go to Thumb Plaza, but my mom agreed to take me to the Kerry. There’s a chic vegetarian restaurant I’ve always wanted to go to. Yesterday was the perfect chance. Pure and Whole for the win!!!

 ( the lighting was a bit off)

We arrived at around 6:20, but the restaurant was pretty empty. I was pretty worried until I saw the pile of orders on the counter. Apparently, they have a pretty booming delivery service.

Food

The menu was small but extremely varied. There were appetizers, soups, seasonal salads, pasta, curry, burgers and dessert- all vegan for the most part. Unlike most restaurants in China, Pure and Whole published it’s menu on it’s website (click here). As much as we would like to have sampled the fresh and beautifully plated appetizers and salads, it was only the two of us, so we stuck to entrees.

My eyes immediately fell on the mushroom burger

( sorry, took picture after I took a few bites)

I must say I was a bit disappointed. The bun was disproportionally thick;  the “patty” was a bit bland and small. There was also a strange creamy spread that I didn’t like. However, I must say  that everything was amazingly fresh and well cooked. The actual star of the show was the little cup of pickled vegetables- perfectly vinegary and crunchy.

My mom was smarter, she got the quinoa bowl

 (sorry, terrible photo)

This dish is honestly one of the healthiest, but still delicious dinners ever. It’s basically a mix of a bit of quinoa, pumpkin, broccoli, carrots, beans and avocado. It came with a sauce on the side, but that was way too salty. The portion was also quite generous, almost enough for 2 people.

Side note: The food was quite expensive, 68rmb for my burger and 72rmb for the quinoa bowl.

Service

The food was good, but the service was a bit lacking. Our food came slowly and I felt ignored by the servers. On several occasions, I noticed dishes ready and servers free, but a delay in bringing the dishes out. On a positive note, their attitude was very good and they gave me a free serving of that amazing pickled cabbage.

Overall Impression

Overall, Pure & Whole is a great place for fresh, healthy, vegetarian food- a jewel in China’s often  pork and oil obsessed dining scene. I would love to try some  other items, especially the vegetable masala, spring rolls and black bean burger.

Anyways, have a great week!