Month: September 2017

Eating Beijing Duck in Beijing

Eating Beijing Duck in Beijing

One thing I really wanted to do in Beijing was to eat Beijing duck. Because obviously πŸ™‚

There are many restaurants to choose from, the most famous restaurant is called Da Dong and has many locations in Beijing. In walking distance from our hotel we found a “Taste of Da Dong”. It belongs to the chain, serves the same food, it’s just easier to get a table, the decor is more modern and apparently the food is also cheaper. So that is where we went.

We had some okra as an appetizer and ordered a whole roasted duck with condiments. First, we got some duck broth which was really good. Then the duck came out already sliced up and evenly distributed on 2 plates – so no fighting over food in this restaurant ;).Β  The way to eat it is to wrap the duck meat, together with sauces and veggies, into really thin pancakes. On the condiment plate there was also a compartment with sugar you can use for dipping. I was skeptical but surprisingly the combination of crispy duck skin and sugar is delicious.

I read they bring out the whole duck and slice it at your table at the original Da Dong, so we missed that part of the experience. The duck was still very good and that’s what matters πŸ™‚ Apparently the duck menu also includes cotton candy as dessert, so we had some fun with that.

The next day, I read that there are even 2 Da Dong’s in Shanghai which have a Michelin star. So next time I’m craving some yummy roast duck I know where to go.

Beijing sights and the Great Wall of China

Beijing sights and the Great Wall of China

On Sunday night we came back to Shanghai after spending 5 days in Beijing. Besides the day trip to the water town Zhujiajiao, this was the first time I saw something of China other than Shanghai. We took the high speed train, so the 1300km journey was only 4 1/2 hours each way with a top speed of 350 km/h. It’s a really nice, smooth way to travel and the train was super punctual as well. The Deutsche Bahn could learn something here πŸ™‚

The Summer Palace

We arrived in Beijing on Wednesday around noon and took the afternoon to visit the Summer Palace. We were really lucky with the weather. While it rained in Shanghai almost the entire time we were gone, we saw a lot of the blue sky in Beijing πŸ™‚

For Thursday and Friday I had booked a tour. Our nice tour guide Jessie from Tours by Jessie picked us up from the hotel with a driver, showed us around, gave us a lot of information about the places we visited and told us interesting stories on the way. It was a super easy and nice way of seeing the city: very organized, efficient and with a built in photographer, which is why there are lots of pictures of the 2 of us. Usually, I’m lucky if I get a couple of those during a trip πŸ™‚

Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City

On our first day with Jessie we went to the Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is huge, apparently each Emperor could have up to 3000 concubines, so there had to be space to house them all. It was really cool to see it all in person and again, we had nice weather. You can see the smog a bit in some of the pictures but overall we picked a good time of the year so it could have been much worse.

After lunch we walked around in an area that had some traditional Beijing Houses, the Hutongs. We finished our busy day of touring with an Acrobatic Show at the Chaoyang Theater. It was an hour filled with crazy stunts and I thought it was fantastic and a bit scary at times (there may have been some “No way! No! Noooo!” screams).

Great Wall

Our second tour day was spent outside of the city. We drove to the Mutianyu section of THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA! I feel like I have to use Caps to fully highlight my excitement πŸ™‚ We got up early (6:30 while on vacation!) so we could beat the crowds. We took a ski lift up and then had a choice to hike the section to our right or the steeper section on the left – guess which one Thorben made me do? Arriving at 9am on a Friday was a fantastic choice, at times we had the wall to ourselves. Some parts were really steep and I was tired pretty quickly but the fantastic weather and views made it so worth it. Did I mention that I saw the Great Wall of China? πŸ™‚

The Ming Tombs

After the Wall we drove to the Ming Tombs, which were very peaceful and quiet because it’s 50km from the city and you can’t get there on the metro. At the Ming Tombs the emperors from the Ming dynasty are buried together with their favorite concubines, who, fun fact, had to commit suicide after the Emperor died. According to Jessie it was an honor, so they were happy to do it. Different times …

Unfortunately, I got sick after that and the only activity I still managed before we left was to eat Beijing duck (more on that in another post). Thorben also visited the Lama temple and Olympic park on Saturday and Sunday while I stayed in bed.

Eating out in Shanghai – Part II

Eating out in Shanghai – Part II

After collecting 16 new restaurants (plus there are quite a few more on my phone waiting to be uploaded), it’s about time for Part II of the restaurant review. So here are lots and lots of food pictures from the places we ate at in the last few weeks:

Ban Ban by Sproutworks – Asian fusionΒ 

We went to Ban Ban in the beginning of July but I forgot to include it the first review. The main thing they sell is “bowls” where you pick a base (rice, noodles, greens), a protein (chicken, salmon, beef, tofu etc.) and then a style which defines what toppings and sauce you get. Mine was called “Hippie in me” and had a yummy miso cashew dressing. Thorben got “The Soul in Seoul” which had kimchi, the spicy Korean version of Sauerkraut, in it. It was pretty tasty and I liked their condiment bar where you could get extra sauce and some more toppings. As many of the restaurants, it’s inside a mall, so it’s good for a quick, healthy(ish) bite.

Vesta – EuropeanΒ 

Vesta is a Cafe style restaurant in Jing’An Kerry Center (a mall connected to our metro station). The food we had was pretty to look at and tasty. I really liked the grilled avocado with quinoa and salsa and the creamy porcini mushroom pasta I had. The only problem was that portions were quite small and we are good eaters πŸ™‚

We ended up ordering a second round (in the end a total of 9 dishes between 3 people) to get full which made the meal a bit pricey.

Il Vino – Wine bar (Italian)

Il Vino is more of a wine bar than a restaurant and it showed in the quality of the food. While the cheese and meat platter were pretty good, my main dish wasn’t. The spaghetti tasted like they had been microwaved and the pesto didn’t have much taste and was too oily. Thorben’s salmon was good, though the “fresh vegetables” were just a few lettuce leaves. I wouldn’t go back to eat a full meal but maybe to drink a glass of wine and have some cheese with it πŸ™‚

Project Wine – Wine bar (Spanish)

Because we don’t learn from our mistakes we went to another wine bar for dinner. (Actually we were on our way somewhere else but it was raining and this was close.) The location is pretty cool, so when we went back a couple of weeks later it was to just get drinks with friends and not for the food, which was okay but looked better than it tasted.

People 7 – Chinese (Fusion)

This place is Pearl’s bosses favorite restaurant and you need a password to get in. We were intrigued so Pearl made a reservation and was told our password. The password was a number (not sure how often it changes, so I’m not saying which one) and when we arrived there was a wall with 9 openings and you had to figure out how to open the door. If you did it wrong, a door on the opposite side opened and behind it was a mirror that said “Gotcha!” πŸ™‚ We had some pretty good food there, I liked the chicken spring rolls and the huge fruit and vegetable spring roll we had. Thorben also liked the plum ribs (great taste but ribs are just not my thing) and the scallops dish (too spicy for me).

Cantina Agave – Mexican

This restaurant was recommended to us as the best Mexican restaurant in Shanghai by a Mexican. After having some yummy food delivered from there – I had a veggie burrito and guacamole and Thorben got Carnitas Taquitos, an avocado & shrimp salad and some arroz rojo – we had to check it out in person. And it was even better when we went, mainly because they have a salsa station where you can take as much salsa as you want. I loved both the pico de gallo and the mango, pineapple & black bean salsa. The guacamole there is delicious, too, especially paired with the quesadillas and some pico de gallo. Thorben also really liked the ceviche verde (seabass with avocado and apple), loaded fries and the black bean salad. We’ve been back since and we’ll be back again :).

Wagas – Global cuisine

At Wagas you order your food at the counter, get a number and then they bring it to your table. They offer sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta, curries and bowls. We ordered there a couple times and I really liked the chicken, avocado and mango salad though the chicken was a bit dry. When we went to the cafe I got a chicken sandwich (pretty good) and the carrot cake (really good). Thorben has tried a couple different bowls, a Japanese style one and a Thai one. To me they looked a little too healthy but he seemed to like them πŸ™‚ Overall, I think it’s a good place if you want to get a quick bite to eat or just some tea/coffee/juice with a piece of cake. (Global cuisine is what it says in BonApp, the foodie app we use, I didn’t come up with it.)

Cotton’s – Global cuisine

We went here for one of the InterNations Friday events but had dinner first before joining the fun. The garden is beautiful so we never made it inside. Thorben had a tuna, avocado and mango appetizer and salmon with risotto and I got bruschetta and spaghetti bolognese. The food was good but after reading that it was rated #2 in the French Concession I was expecting a little more. I’d come back with friends though, just because of the nice garden.

Epices & Foie Gras – French

We went here for another InterNations Brunch, though it was more like lunch because it started at 12:30. We each had 3 courses: I had croissant with salmon, beef skewers and peach tart and Thorben got a foie gras terrine, also the beef and creme brulee.Β  Everything was really good though Thorben said he was still a little hungry afterwards πŸ™‚ The brunch here is a monthly event so we’ve already been there twice now and second time was just as good. Plus we had a small breakfast at home so no one left hungry πŸ™‚

Sichuan Citizen – Chinese (Sichuan)

Sichuan Citizen was introduced to us by friends who have sadly already left Shanghai. The food was great when they took us there 3 months ago and we recently went back and had some of the things they showed us and tried some new dishes. I love the prawns which are covered in a delicious spice mix, the cauliflower with bacon and the beef schnitzel with plum sauce (which are not actually schnitzel but they look and taste very similar). The fried eggplant and green beans were almost as good as the ones we made in the cooking class πŸ™‚ Thorben also really liked the tea smoked duck.

Lotus Eatery – Chinese (Hunan)

After an intensive 5 hours of playing board games, Shane introduced us to Lotus Eatery. So far all of her food recommendations were on point and this was no exception. Thorben even said that this was the best Chinese food he’s had so far. My favorite dishes were the fried goat cheese and the chicken with cashews in a sweet chili sauce. The okra, lotus root and rice noodle dishes were also very good. We went back here with some friends which are new to Shanghai and also tried the mashed potatoes which were yummy. The goat cheese, lotus root and chicken were again a big hit. I think this will be one of the places we bring our visitors.

Colca – South American

I went to Colca with a girl I met through InterNations and we ordered the set menu for 2 people. It was a lot of food πŸ™‚ We got some bread, crunchy okra and croquetas with a dip, then a mixed salad and scallops, a beef pie and seafood rice and finally a peruvian flan and sorbets for dessert. Everything we got was really good, I especially liked the seafood rice. When we thought we were done (and super full already), we were brought another dessert. Let me quote the guy who brought it over: “I want to change the name on the menu. It should be called pure sex.” His reason was that it is really really good and also “hot and messy”. Oookay then. We both thought the dessert was delicious – according to the menu I think it was the crispy ravioli with chocolate truffle filling. We had a fun evening, the restaurant is cool, they have a nice terrace and the staff was really friendly (and hilarious), so I’d recommend it.

Bombay Bistro – IndianΒ 

We went to Bombay Bistro for an InterNations event. I don’t know if it was because we were a bigger group or because they are fairly new but we waited forever for our food. The restaurant is nice and the food was sort of modern Indian. My appetizer – mushrooms stuffed with paneer – was pretty bland, the butter chicken was good, though I prefer the traditional style. Thorben’s crunchy okra and spinach was tasty and his main dish was fine as well. The reviews from the people around us were mixed. Maybe we’ll try again in a smaller group or just try a different Indian place as there is no lack of choice in Shanghai πŸ™‚

Bull & Claw – Steak and Seafood

Because no Shanghai weekend is complete without brunch, we gladly said yes when a guy we met at the Supperclub dinner invited us to join him and his friends at Bull & Claw. The food was all delicious. I had avocado and feta ciabatta and French toast and Thorben got mushroom and feta fritters and the Lobster Benedict. Another place on the “must go back soon” list.

La Bota – SpanishΒ 

On our way to the fabric market with Ellie and Pearl we went to Cool Docks, an area with several restaurants. Because nobody could make a decision which one to try Thorben did his favorite thing: roll a dice. So we ended up at La Bota and had lots of tapas. Everything we had was good, including the dessert. It is kind of out of the way, so I wouldn’t really take a taxi just to go there but if we’re back in the area I would eat here again.

Gemma – Italian

After having a pizza craving for a few days, we went to Gemma, because I read they have great Italian food. We got some bread first which wasn’t that great but came with a good yummy tapenade. As a starter we shared a salmon dish which was very good. I got the Gemma pizza with parma ham, stracciatella cheese, olives and rucola. It was delicious and made all my pizza daydreams come true πŸ™‚ Thorben had the “Ossobuco alla Milanese” which is beef shank with Saffron Risotta and a side of fried zucchini with mint and ricotta. The menu said that the pasta is house made so we’ll definitely have to go back.

Hoarding Cheese

Hoarding Cheese

On Saturday at brunch we got the shocking news: Imported Cheese is now banned in China!

There was an article on City Weekend with the title: “China Bans Imported Cheese, Baking Powder, Canned Soup“, which details the situation. Of course that’s all we talked about for the rest of the brunch. It’s not as bad as it sounds – not all cheeses are banned, there is a list of almost 50 cheese including mold ripened ones like Brie, Camembert and some goat cheeses – but bad enough!

I haven’t really bought a ton of cheese since we moved, just the occasional piece to snack on. Just knowing I could get it anytime I want is mostly enough, but now … I want cheese! All of it! The stocks the stores have can still be sold, but after that they can’t import more. So I did what any normal person would do and ordered a bunch of cheese from epermarket, an online grocery store. I don’t think all of the types of cheeses we got are banned, but better safe than sorry πŸ™‚

While I was at it I also ordered some baking supplies including the now banned baking powder. I’m starting to miss baking. I think I’ll try out the oven this weekend.