Since coming to China food has been very central in this blog. It’s unavoidable. But while a fair share of the food has disappointed, there have been a few delightful moments. A few weeks ago I was taken out to a meal at, what I’m assuming is the Chinese equivalent of, a food court. It was at least the size of a larger restaurant in Richmond, longer than a gymnasium but shorter than a football field. Some might call it a food court. But if it is, then it is the King of food courts. Here’s how it works:
1. Sit down at a table, the waitress brings you tea, and gives you a card with numbers that can be punch out of the card and a table number.
2. You go around the outside of the room to all of the stalls, picking out what you want.
3. The people at the stalls punch out the price of the item on your card and take down your table number.
4. You return to your table and the food is brought to you.
This is a food court in the same way a turkey baster is a convenient and easy to use nasal decongestant. There’s food, and the room could be seen as a court, but the only difference between this place and a restaurant is that you have to stand up and walk around to order. It was quite good and I enjoyed myself. The food took no time at all to arrive. By the time my guide, Jim Fun Jiao, and myself had returned after ordering we found some of the food already there. We got half a steam chicken, some sticky rice, a stir fried vegetable dish, a cold cucumber dish, pan fried squid, and tofu. This meal was for 6 people and we didn’t finish.
So then, after a couple more weeks of eating campus food, sometimes going out to try some pretty normal Chinese food, the new teachers arrived. Jana, from Portland and this also being her first overseas teaching job, and Michael, an experienced English teacher trained as a graphics artist, fluent in Mandarin, who has lived here before. Michael knows the city very well and his wife is a local, so he has the lay of the land. Jana wanted to try some local food and both have eaten the campus food with limited enthusiasm. But Michael, being the industrious white guy that all white guys are, knows all the white guy restaurants in the city. Apparently there are more than I thought. Enter, The Red Garlic.
The outside has the typical Chinese neon lights, but the decor is completely North American. In fact, it reminds me of the Buck n Ear in Steveston and a fair bit of trouble was put into making it feel authentic. Wooden banisters, wooden chairs and tables, North American art work and photographs on the wall, some rock music and new age in the air, and some beer banners on the walls. The food was pretty damn good. It’s run by Chinese, but the guy who helped them get setup, from the menu design and names to the decor, knew what they needed. It offered everything you’d expect from a pub back home, with more. Pizza, pasta, salads, soups, fries, stews, steaks, desserts, drinks, and German beer. It was very good.
We ordered a Fillet Mignon, which was a very good cut of beef and was perfectly cooked after we explained medium rare, two pizza’s that were damn good and Michael said are the second best in the city, a lasagna with actual spicy sausage meat in it, and seasoned potato wedges. The beer was German. It was very good, better than a lot of restaurants back home. Unfortunately, it was pretty bloody expensive compared to eating Chinese and the beer was good but not worth 35 yuan(about 6-8 dollars). I might go there once a month and a half. It was about 60 yuan per person, which is a little over 10 dollars Canadian. But I can get a larger Chinese meal for a tenth of the price.
This night was also the night we found a little hobby shop. It has models, racing cars for kids, electronic toys, and kittens. The cat they have for rats, mice, and cockroaches had a litter of 6 female kittens and one male kitten. And they are giving them away for free. The order teacher, Susan, is the getting the Calico kitten next week sometime, and Jana and Susan were convincing me to get one as well. You all should know, if an animal gets sick out here, you put it down gently. You don’t take it to a vet and get it fixed up. It’s just how things work, it’s not worth the cost. I’m considering, but I’m leaning towards no. I wouldn’t be able to leave a kitten here when I come home, and that’s another handful of problems. And my apartment can only support one animal: moi.