Tonight we ventured “outside our comfort zone” as Alison said when we returned from dinner. What that means is that we visited a restaurant with no English on the menu at all. It was a little (seven table) restaurant specializing in Sichuan food that the apartment owner pointed out to us as she walked us around the neighborhood as we arrived.
Although there we could not read the menu, each dish in the thick menu-book had a large color photo so we would know a little more about the dish then ordering blind. Even so, we resorted to the oldest trick known to tourists: point to dishes on other people’s tables. That way we knew that the dishes must be good, and the live dishes were a little easier to interpret then the photos.
What we ended up ordering was a tank of fish soup, and a plate of spicy fried green beans. The tank was a ridiculous size — bigger than most soup tureens meant to serve six or eight in America. And it was chock full of chunks of fish that had a similar texture to cat fish, together with a bok choi like green, plus tons of garlic and ginger creating a nice full flavored broth. It was so good that Alison asked if I thought there was MSG in it, and it could have been, but I didn’t get that chemical waft in the back of my sinuses that usually is the red flag for me.
There were an equal amount of hot red pepper pieces as there were green beans in our side dish, along with a post-fry sprinkling of course salt. Both dishes were hot, but we were prepared, and there were other flavors to meld with the hot flavors, and it was all good. Plus the young people we met outside the Shanghai Museum assured us that hot peppers were good for your skin, so we were looking forward to not needing moisturizer for the next month…
The hot food demanded cold beer, and there was plenty of that in the form of liter sized bottles of Tsingdao Draft. Soup, a bite of fish, beer, a couple green beans, beer, some more soup, some green beans, more beer. Pretty soon my nose was full running, but we were both enjoying the experience
As we paid our bill (77 yuan, or about $12), the skies opened up, so we got soaked sprinting back to our apartment and that almost, ALMOST cooled us off.