We all know the famous Grandma’s kitchen; you might have even queued up a long time to eat there. But, did you know the owner Wu Guoping (we all call him Uncle Wu) started with a little restaurant with his wife back in 1998 that only maxed out at sixty seats? They packed it in less than a month. It was there that the legend began.
Today, Uncle Wu’s restaurant kingdom not only has ninety Grandma’s Kitchens in over twenty cities but also has around ten restaurant brands under it. After seventeen years in the food industry, now he wants to do a place that takes his hometown food to a new level: In comes Yan Xihu – exquisite Hangzhou dishes presented in a slightly French way.
Ever imagined having foie gras in fermented red bean curd? Drunken crab with grapefruit? Lamb steak wrapped with congbaoguier, not to mention being surrounded by water with boats oaring next to you? It’s like dining in a Chinese ink painting.
Uncle Wu invited his friends to a ten course meal so that we could sample his new creations. We started with the drunken crab and minced pork soup. It was my first time trying drunken crab (you can’t even taste the alcohol). The third course was a bit bewildering. We couldn’t figure out what it was: was it red bead curd? Was it foie gras? Uncle then let us in on the secret. It was his idea to mix the two classic dishes from two different cultures. Bringing together these two familiar tastes was a surprising delight.
The next course was a perfectly cooked egg wrapped in wild mushrooms and truffles from Yunnan. The fifth course, while a small portion, packed a flavorful punch. A large peony shrimp was elegantly presented in a mini crispy pastry bowl and garnished with wasabi mayonnaise. You need only to place it all in your mouth and let all the richness combine.
Lamb steak wrapped together with congbaoguier was yet another creative marrying of cuisines from differing cultures. The stir-fried horsebean is a typical Hangzhou dish too, but when you put a small amount on a big white plate, it immediately seems so classy. By far my favorite dish of the night had to be the tofu with crab roe. The chef innovatively used an eggshell to present this dish. The shrimp paste noodle soup came in a close second. It’s so good that you have to finish every last drop (I would have licked the bowl, but it was a fancy dinner after all). Unfortunately, I had to leave early so I missed out on the Kaluga Queen beluga caviar (which usually runs around 1,000RMB/100g).
If you have clients in town and you want to impress them with a modern Hangzhou touch (and you have quite a loose budget), treat them to the Yan Xihu experience. Average cost 500RMB/person. To get a feel of Yan Xihu, watch the trailer at:http://v.qq.com/page/u/a/h/u0167vpldah.html.
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