Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 7 - Part III - Dinner &....

 The Importance of Looking at the Pictures when You Can’t Read the Characters

It was time to eat Chinese food again – and Northern Chinese food specifically, if we could.  Lonely Planet to the rescue again.  And we found a gem in the new apartment villages in the high-priced, and strangely vacant end of Beijing.  There were certainly aspirations here, but the slump after the Olympic boom was showing.  All the same, once we found the restaurant, it was clear, they were bustling.  It had an extremely interesting décor scheme centered on artifacts of a stone age/bronze age culture discovered around (and under) Beijing.
Alec and I have very different strategies when ordering from a restaurant menu – no matter where in the world we are.  While I am trying to imagine the flavor combinations – and deciding based on their appeal and mystery, Alec mostly looks for something familiar.  While I am more often disappointed, I also find true and unexpected gems. This night had a few surprises in store.

The restaurant clearly did a reasonable amount of tourist/expat trade – the menu had reasonable English, and the staff was able talk to us (which is so nice, and makes me feel less a fool for having No Chinese).  And the menu was full of pictures.  That meant I was able to order a heavenly fried fish dish I never would have dared. (A whole fried fish with a gently spicy, vinegary chopped vegetable sauce – lettuce, tomato, cilantro, green chili). 

Baby Bok Choy, quartered and stir-fried
Whole fried fish with lettuce suace (YUM!)

 The hot cucumber juice & soy milk drink for Tavin was less successful.  He tried it, considered it, but in the end the soy overwhelmed the cucumber.

However, the English from the staff and the English on the menu gave Alec a false sense of security.  He went for the ‘Green Pepper Beef’ without consulting the picture.  Back here in the good ol’ US of A, that means bell peppers and a soy & maybe oyster sauce based dish.  Hah!  Here it meant most of the chili peppers that came with your quick fried beef were green, though a few were red.  This was a HOT dish.  And if Alec had checked the picture, he would have seen this coming.

Would you like a little beef with your chilies?
A little broccoli to cool the palate.

Fortunately I had also ordered a lovely spicy, smoky dish of baby bok choy to go with the fish, and plenty of rice was there too.  So between all these dishes (and they would allow us to order no more, or it would have been “too much.”) everyone had enough food.  And stir-frying the baby bok choy cut in quarters… I now do that all the time.  I haven’t figured out how to impart that smoky flavor, but they are always good with just a little something.  

At the end we were warm and full, so we trekked back to the hotel (thank you awesome subway - there was a NASTY traffic jam in that corner of the city when we left dinner).

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