Virtual restaurant blooms into unpolluted bites of reality
Updated: 2012-04-15 07:37
By Ye Jun (China Daily)
Spiced beef shank, a Shandong classic dish at Shanli Jiangnan. [Ye Jun / China Daily]
Celebrity blogger Wuyue Sanren has a big following on the Internet, up to 491,000 fans for his Sina Weibo micro blog. A lover of good food, he decided to use that to realize a wish - setting up a restaurant of his own.
He posted a message on Weibo in December, summoning investment for "our restaurant", along with a business plan and legal papers.
The response was warmer than he expected - he asked for 100 investors who would each give 5,000 yuan ($793). But in just a few days, 1,000 people applied. By January, the restaurant was already having a trial opening.
Named Shanli Jiangnan (South of Yantze River in the Mountains, a term used to refer to Guizhou, a mountainous province in Southwest China), the restaurant was a Guizhou-style eatery until the new owner Wuyue Sanren took over.
The restaurant uses iPads in the place of menus, a smart reflection of its Internet origin. One advantage is that all the dishes look beautiful on screen.
As to the food, Wuyue Sanren invited a Shandong cuisine master to instruct the chefs, offering classic dishes of Shandong, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines, popular food styles in Beijing.
Like in any homestyle Chinese restaurant at a middle-to-lower price level, Shanli Jiangnan presents its dishes neatly, if not elaborately.
Fresh vegetables with sweet bean paste and sliced spiced beef shank are good cold appetizers to start. Double-cooked pork slices with green chili and sliced beef tripe fried with celery are not bad.
Apricot-flavored lamb is a bit hard. Foie gras with crystal jelly is a failure because the ingredient was not right, according to the owner. Dry-braised pork meatball doesn't look so good, but tastes nice and crispy.
Unlike other eateries, the restaurant fries its pork liver not in flake shape, but in narrow slices, with bamboo slices, tasting not bad.
But mashed fish in green and red chili containers, and dry-braised plaice were good-tasting winners. The meal concluded with a tasty country style Chinese pizza with leek and egg on top.
The average bill is around 80 yuan ($13) a person. Wuyue Sanren said he uses safe ingredients and organic vegetables wherever possible, which increase the meal costs.
Restaurant decor is also slightly country style. But everything is clean and tidy. The owner puts a bit of a personal touch in the restaurant, with a display of ancient swords and daggers, out of his own relics collection. Of course there is free Wi-Fi.
The welcome drink is a cup of buckwheat water, with a taste that reminds one of wholewheat biscuits.
The restaurant has a display of organic buckwheat products for sale. Steamed rice is a high-quality northeast China product, and costs 5 yuan a bowl. The rice is also available for sale at the restaurant, at 25 yuan per 500 grams.
The restaurant is located on the fourth floor of Jinquan (gold spring) Food Palace, a relatively new food center with more than 20 eateries. Although there is some competition, the location is prized because the high availability of different food styles help boost business.
Wuyue Sanren says he is not worried about getting back the cost.
"Even if I only serve the investors, I'll get enough business," he says. "But that would not be the point. What I want is a restaurant offering completely unpolluted foods you can eat safely."
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