Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Strange Dinner

We got to Guangzhou today around 12:45pm and went directly to the China Hotel, our home away from home for the next two weeks. After a brief look around the hotel we decided that a foot massage in the health center was in order. During our massage we spotted another couple from our group, Chris and Mary Francis Reynolds, out by the pool. When our massage was over we met them in the pool lobby area. After some conversation we decided to meet for dinner. We were going to walk to a park near our hotel and eat at a Chinese restaurant that was recommended by the hotel concierge staff.
When we got to the restaurant we were told that the dining room was full and we could wait or we could use a VIP room for 1000 Yuan. Since the staff's english was about as good as our chinese we had to ask them to repeat this several times. We were confused...was 1000 Yuan going to cover the room and dinner or would food be extra? After several repeats and no real answers, we thought we had a handle on the situation and agreed. We walked upstairs and were presented with a room that could have easily handled ten people. We had a private kitchen, private restroom and a staff of five. After we started looking at the menu the nagging doubt started to creep back in...did we actually know what we had gotten ourselves into? What was the ultimate cost going to be? Since the staff in the room spoke no english they enlisted the help of another senior hostess who spoke english. While answering questions about the food Mary Francis finally was the one who nailed down that the room and dinner was all included for 1000Yuan. Not bad so we decided to continue on.
The ladies came out and inquired about drinks. We all had green tea and the Chris ordered a beer. Michelle ordered iced tea and they brought all four of us a glass filled with ice that they had poured hot green tea over. Yum! Then the english speaking hostess came out and said we had already ordered a special roasted chicken and did we want the whole chicken or a half? That was odd, no one had actually ordered anything. Then it hit me, when Michelle asked a question about the chicken they thought that was what she ordered. One down, three to go. Mary Francis ordered steamed veggies and Chris was in the midst of ordering BBQ Pork and Brisket when the senior hostess finally informed us that this was family style. One big dish for everyone to share. Pretty soon we realized that we'd ordered a lot of food. I ordered the stewed prawns and tomato sauce. This is when the dinner upselling began. At home some idiot fast food worker will ask you if you want fries with that. Here in China it began with a question..."Do you like seafood?" Then she started listing all the stuff we could get that was A-number one. Everytime we said no, she came up with something else. We were just laughing. Everytime one of us opened our mouth to ask a question another item was assumed to be ordered for all of us. By the time dinner arrived we decided we had better start eating and stop talking before they tried to sell us a car or some jade earrings.
The food was good but strange to say the least. The steamed veggies turned out to be Broccoli. The prawns still had a face and legs. The pork came with sugar for dipping. Thank God we had steamed rice. Dessert was an interesting item as well. It is a traditional dessert dish called Birds Nest. A strange gelatinous goo that you pour liquid sugar and either almond milk or coconut milk into. Oh and it's served warm. Sounds vile but oddly enough tasted good. While we were eating our birds nest the senior hostess approached each one of us individually and handed us her business card. A very important thing in most Asian cultures. We thanked her and took the cards. The bill came and after the service charge was 1,096 Yuan (about $133.00 US). We paid and decided a quick departure was in order before they started trying to sell us more food or gifts or half interest in the restaurant.
We had a nice walk back through the park and back to the hotel. We are meeting everyone tomorrow morning at 10:30am for the most expensive Dim Sum brunch ever. More on that tomorrow. When we got back to the hotel, true to form after eating Chinese food, Michelle said, "I'm hungry."

1 comment:

33458 said...

Stay away from the ice unless they've told you it's potable...;)