Dinner with a friend at a new vegetarian restaurant in Beijing
My friend Nicola and I had ridden around Beijing one day and whilst riding home we rode along Gui Jie (Ghost Street) and saw a new vegetarian restaurant. When I previously lived in Beijing, the restaurant location used to be a Chinese tea house so we thought we would try it out. Ghost Street has more than 150 storefronts with 90% being restaurants so this makes it one of the most prosperous food streets in Beijing.
The layout of the street is like a dumbbell, wider in the two ends and narrower in the middle and during the evenings a sea of red lanterns hang over the street, which makes it really pretty to walk along.
So, one evening we took a cab to this new restaurant with a bottle of wine to enjoy with our meal. We arrived and were seated and immediately asked for two wine glasses and showed our waitress the wine we had brought. Our wine was taken from us and surprisingly, the waitress looked at it intensely then gave it to the chef behind us who commenced reading the back of the bottle. Finally our bottle was returned to us and we were told we could not drink it.
We laughed at first as we thought perhaps the wine was not good enough (but it was a nice New Zealand white!!) so then asked could we buy some wine. All this took about fifteen minutes and bearing in mind my friend and I can speak a little Chinese. We were shown the drink menu and saw bottles of wine…but then finally worked out this was a Buddhist restaurant (and the wine on the menu was non-alcoholic) and therefore, of course, BYO alcohol is not permitted. All throughout the waitresses were extremely helpful and sweet and were trying their best with the limited English they had so we all did enjoy a lot of laughter trying to communicate.
Finally we got around to ordering our food. The menu was on an iPad; we ordered quite a few dishes; too many as always!! We first ate a lovely taro root vegetable dish and Chinese pancakes with a Chinese vinegar dipping sauce – very tasty!
Then came a fabulous potato dish; very spicy but truly delicious. Most of the dishes arrived with lovely little flowers on the side…very cute!!
We then ate an amazing egg and capsicum dish. The egg was thick a bit like pieces of omelette and covered in a wonderful spicy sauce.
Then came the dumplings; all twenty-one of them…we ate ONE…as we were just too full.
We asked to ‘da bao’ (take-away) a couple of dishes and took the dumplings and Chinese pancakes away and as they were still warm we gave them to a homeless lady near the restaurant…I hope she enjoyed them. We walked home along Ghost Street and enjoyed the sights of the lit lanterns and when we got to my friend’s home the first thing we did was to enjoy our bottle of wine!!