We say that Crystal Garden is mammoth, but there truly is no bigger restaurant in town than Zhang Sheng Ji. This building is obnoxiously monstrous, and it ain’t perty, but people don’t come here for the atmosphere. The story goes that the owners of Zhang Sheng Ji started out in a tiny window-front operation just as the market economy was being introduced. Now, it’s at least one hundred times the original size and has branches all over China. There are five floors to Zhang Sheng Ji, but if you’re lucky, you won’t have to climb up. Half of the first floor is reserved for the decorative, live mallard ducks, their houses, a small stream to make them feel at home and a mini museum of artifacts. (Watch out for the droppings as you peruse.) It’s supposed to be a comfy waiting area, but we really can’t imagine why they need it. The other half of the first floor and the second floor are open dining rooms while the rest of the building is private rooms. HUGE. But it’s been around forever and has quite a rep, and it’s still does great business even though it’s far out in the east.
If you aren’t a big fan of Hangzhou food, don’t bother coming here. Their most renowned dish is the Stewed Duck with Dried Bamboo Shoots. A must eat. Definitely reserve room at the end to add some noodles or rice to the soup. Since the stew was so large, we had to limit the rest of our dishes to small ones. And it’s a good thing. Zhang Sheng Ji has absolutely the best Drunken Chicken in town. This basic cold dish was beautifully presented in a brown (they say purple) ceramic pot and even garnished with a cute, little red ribbon. The meaty chicken was tender and drenched with yellow wine. For those with sweet teeth out there, you’ve gotta order the Sweet Lotus Roots and the Dates Stuffed with Gluttonous rice. Zhang Sheng Ji really does know how to cook up the local grub, which is what keeps Hangzhouvians coming back for more despite the lack of personality the environs have to offer. English and picture menu available.
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