Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yet another dinner to remember

We had our traditional team dinner last night at 海之幸, Hai Zhi Xing or "Fortune of the Sea." It's a mile down the road from the hotel, and I am sure I have walked passed it a dozen times without a thought. As always, some of the jewels in life are overlooked and right before your eyes. This one certainly was. It turned out to be great. The walk takes about 45 minutes, not so much due to the distance as the fact that it can sometimes take 10 minutes to get across the streets. This happened a couple of times when our group fractured due to picture taking opportunities, but we made it intact, even beating our local hosts. We sat and enjoyed a couple of 1 liter Qingdao beers until they arrived.

It was Japanese for a change with a bit of Korean and Chinese thrown in for color. The plates and the beer and the sake kept coming and of course much was left on the table. The spirit was great and we had lots of long conversation reprising our various adventures together, my favorite being told by Ling recounting how torturous it was for him to sit and listen to Matt and me speaking Chinese. I am sure he was referring to Matt's accent!

I love doing food blogs and so below I have captured most of the dishes and will describe them individually because they deserve it. Sadly, some of the dishes were attacked by my fellow eaters at such a rate that I was unable to capture a shot.

After dinner we walked back in a balmy, not terrible breeze. It was wonderful and brought back to mind the exotic Shanghai I have read about so many times in the past. I talked with some of my Chinese co-workers about learning languages and interesting places to travel. We split up when the American contingent wanted to go to Starbucks for a night cap. I went along and sat outside watching 100s of people in the park across the way ballroom dancing in the cool evening to old big band records. I was so tempted to go across the street and find an elderly woman to have a dance with, but my fear of breaking her feet with my size 11 Ecco Track IV walking shoes put an end to that reverie.

It was another one of those great evenings, the kind you hope to have on what is the rest of the time boring business travel. An coincidentally it ended a day that had begun perfectly with tea in the park.


I have posted a poor shot of this place previously taken in the dark. The name drips with so much irony that I just love to read it. No, this is not where we ate, although I am told by my friend Matt that this is a wonderful spot for families in the area. Judging from what can be seen through the windows once the sun goes down, I am skeptical of his claim.


Ling takes charge and begins ordering the food. We placed a couple of orders individually, in order to provide for less adventurous western palates. But in general, we were headed for another course in Asian eating.

First up Sushi. Every travel site I have visited warns westerners to avoid shellfish, cold dishes and raw items. We being brave, we not only try to cover all three, but we further start the meal with them. Every piece was fantastic, making me appreciate just how woeful the stuff we eat at home is. The Tuna and Salmon melted in your mouth.


This dish was comprised of two of my favorites, octopus and snails. We had some debate about which was which, and the general consensus was that the snails were the ones in the middle. Not sure, but they were good.

I asked for an order of tongue and this was what we got. Spicy and taken from the Ox, it was different than what I am used to. A bit chewier and due I think to it being stir-fried. This one is honor of my fans on Cottonwood Lane in Tucson, the first to ever make a tongue for me. This was good, but the Arizona Tongue is better.


Each of us at one time or another has ventured forth and tried something that caused immediate regret after sitting in the mouth for a second or two. Up until now, I have had to face that urgency, do I swallow or do I discretely find a way to spit this out. Asian restaurants do not give napkins, so the latter choice is out. Instead, you try to get it down as quickly as possible. This one was mine - sea urchin. The taste was not bad, but the consistency, which I will leave to your imagination was completely alien to the universe of things that we westerners comfortably eat. As I started with the urchin, I saw no point in eating the roe.

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We had several beef dishes prepared in the Korean style. This one was a brazed flank steak, crisp on the outside and raw on the inside. It was fantastic. We also had a Korean carpacchio, paper thin slices of raw beef, very, very good. Additionally a beef sausage that nice as well. These latter two went so fast that I missed the photo op.

This one was sort of a local version of our Clams Casino, one of my favorite treats as a child. In this case, a steamed scallop buried under a pureed potato gratin with a little ham thrown in for color. Very good.


Japanese custard, in a clay pot containing some clams and crab. I like it, even though its consistency is very runny. One of my pals suggested it was better served to inmates.


Tiny clams with the most beautiful striped shells. I didn't manage to get one of these, I was too busy with other things. But they looked pretty good.


Whelk, one of my favorite items of the evening and a new one on me. A delicious, subtle flavor with the consistency of liver.


I didn't get a piece of this fish, as Ling had to send it back to get chopped into chopstick sized pieces. When it returned it was at the other end of the table. When they served it whole. it made me wonder how someone would normally eat it. My miss was fine though because there were two plates of that fantastic caramelized fish I had recently had in Dalian. Which I think is tied with Shanghai River Fish for my favorite dish in China. Missed the pictures of that because it was gone in a flash.

Bacon wrapped around a little spear of asparagus. Chinese bacon is far better than ours, sort of a mix of what we normally eat and the Canadian version. This one was very good.


I finally took a shot of the other end of the table. Going from front to back - tempura prawns and vegetables, barbecued eel, some little fishes stuffed with roe, and shrimp on a skewer.


Perhaps you might recall a shot I took of the menu in my favorite place in Dalian. One of the dishes was called "chicken bones" and this is it. Little bits of cartilage on a skewer with the tiniest portion of meat on them. You're supposed to eat the whole thing, but we are trained in the west to work around bones that are not supposed to be there, so there was no way. I just got what meat I could get and respectfully returned the knuckles to my plate.


Finally desert - green tea mousse. Truly the consistency of the Junket we ate as children, and bearing that unmistakable flavor of old ashtray that only green tea can give. It grabs you on the first bite and then slowly morphs into something more pleasurable. I have to say, I liked it. It was a cool, pleasant end to a evening's banquet.







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