November in China: Food Emporium at Ningbo

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We got into Ningbo at 1.30pm, which was horribly late for lunch in the countryside. Wang shifu found the restaurant quite easily. It was one of those giant restaurants with a large set of stairs adorning the palatial lobby. It’s not a place for paper menus: we were ushered into a separate room to make our order.

The place was a food emporium, there was just so much to see and order. Real samples of meat and vegetable dishes under cling wrap ranged the central area, while  cold appetisers were displayed behind glass on the far end. Aquaria filled an entire wall. Cool, isn’t it?

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Check out the fresh and mostly live seafood. I think they had even more stuff than the best seafood restaurant in Singapore. This is actually very typical of big restaurants in China. It’s an absolute must to have every species of seafood in the planet on show.

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Hairy crab was in season and there were trays upon trays of the different grades available. All of them were of course from Yang Cheng Lake, as assured by the voluble waiter taking our order.

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There were also these giant cockles next to the regular sized blood ones. Any char kway teow fan would swoon in delight.

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Next up was a bit of fun with English. Not only do they have snake, they also have very talented hot peppers.

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I’m not sure if I really want to gnaw on someone who used to gallop the plains on horseback, Italian or not. But I wouldn’t mind the house special of beef rib done Italian style.

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The problem with a lot of places in China (and Singapore too, for that matter) is that it’s a matter of what the Cantonese term hou tye mm hou sek (literally: good to look at but no good to eat). They’re great on presentation and enticing customers into the restaurant but service is often appalling. No doubt we arrived late, but there were also other latecomers making their orders in the show room. Just as we were looking at some dishes, the lights for the appetiser case and some of the seafood displays were turned off. Our waiter tried to sell us a seafood dish when the other workers were removing them from the display!

Needless to say, we didn’t order very many exciting things and went for regular stir-fries and lots of vegetables instead. The food was decent though not particularly spectacular. I find the Central style of cooking too heavy on oil, salt and sugar despite our continual pleas for a light hand on the salt and oil.

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