Friday, January 12, 2007

Shanhaiguan, part III - New Year's Dinner

After sleeping for nearly two hours, we made it out of our room by 8PM. The receptionists in the lobby of our hotel called a taxi for us and, when it had arrived, we asked the driver to take us to a good restaurant. The driver took us to a street on which there were many, but none of them looked very inviting (Chinese restaurants can have an uninviting look, especially in out-of-the-way places), so we jumped in another cab and went somewhere else. There was a row of rebuilt old-fashioned restaurants outside the west wall of the city, and we though we would find something there. We settled for one which looked like it served fish (there were tanks in the entrance) and sat down to order.

We should have known by the orange plastic centerpieces on the tables (which looked like something out of a Chinese wedding gone bad) that something was amiss. While the owner or manager of the restaurant tapped out the night's totals on a talking calculator, we ordered four dishes, although we still weren't too hungry after our gigantic lunch. Barbecued squid, fish (carp?) in what the menu said was vinegar sauce and, in the picture, red-colored, steamed broccoli, hot & sour soup, and rice. I ordered a local beer and Angela stayed with tea. While we were waiting, we talked about what we were going to do afterwards as the town looked pretty dull, and thought we'd ask our waitress where we might find some New Year's action. The waitress went to inquire with the calculator woman, who proceeded to write something on a business card which the waitress then brought to us. The location on the card was close to this restaurant and we thought we would walk there after our meal. Two cooks from the kitchen walked through the dining area lugging a large heavy-looking garbage can out the front door of the restaurant.

We were surprised when the food began to arrive, because it didn't look like what we had ordered. The squid was breaded and fried, not barbequed, the fish was in a thick brownish-yellowish-curryish sauce, and the broccoli looked misshapen. All of the dishes had a strange taste. The soup tasted like the fish sauce, only spicier! Aside from these irregularities, everything was only lukewarm. We were less hungry with each bite and eventually stopped eating altogether leaving half of the food uneaten. We talked about the past year and laughed about our ending to it. We agreed that this was probably the worst New Year's meal we had ever eaten, and one of the worst meals ever, period. I finished my beer, paid the 90 RMB bill, and went out to look for this place on the card.

It turned out to be a KTV (Karaoke Television) place, and just wasn't the kind of fun we had had in mind. As we were both tired and cold, and we simply returned to our hotel to spend the rest of the evening together. We didn't last until midnight but, maybe, it was the first time neither of us cared to ring in the new year.

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