Thursday, March 6, 2008


There are latkes in China. I don't mean traditional, New York-style potato pancakes made with onion and egg that I'd get at B&H Dairy on Second Avenue with apple sauce and sour cream. No, these were Hunan-style potato pancakes, with shredded chili, on the picture menu in Impressions of Yunnan, an elegant Hunan restaurant on East Third Ring Road, in north Beijing's Sanlitun neighborhood, close to many other wonderful restaurants, some bars and clubs, and most of the embassies in Beijing. When I saw the picture my eyes lit up and I just pointed to it, speechless, until I could verbally communicate to my friends that this was one dish we were definitely going to order.

My friends suggested the restaurant because it has good Chinese food, which I always want, yet is would also be acceptable to people in the group who don't like local food and are in Beijing for professional reasons only. In addition to the potato pancakes, the menu included fried goat cheese with a side of chili powder for dipping, stir fried vegetables, spring rolls and other laowai (foreigner) friendly dishes, in addition to a number of dishes that included frogs or other things not usually seen on a menu in the the U.S. or Europe. The staff are friendly, the bathrooms clean and the light and airy space provide a wonderful atmosphere in which to enjoy an evening out with friends or family.

By the way, picture menus are wonderful things. I keep finding restaurants where the food looks wonderful as I walk past but I don't know how to ask for it when I go in. Most dishes you find in local restaurants have names that are lyrical and beautiful when translated into English yet don't give you any idea of the ingredients. Picture menus usually make it easy to order - you can point at the picture and say 'zhei ge, xie xie' (that, please). It doesn't always work, of coarse, but it goes a long way towards enabling me to order food if there's no one around who speaks a language in which I can communicate.

No comments: