New Restaurant

Perhaps you remember that one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, The Red Door Restaurant, was demolished a year ago. It was sad to watch it get knocked down day by day.

I’d hoped that they’d build a new restaurant, a bigger one on that spot, but alas they didn’t. The neighborhood got a cheap love hotel instead.

Well, last week I was walking home and bumped into the woman who seemed to manage The Red Door. Through pantomime I got her to write down her new place’s address and phone number. I got someone in our Foreign Affairs office to find its location on the Internet. On Saturday I convinced three Australian teachers to give the place a try.

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I’d been told that the place was about a 20 minute walk and I only had a vague idea of where it was so I thought taking a taxi there wo uld be best. Good luck finding one. We waited by school and then by Di Kou Lu and after an hour were still waiting. (It’s always been hard to get a cab at dinner time.) We wound up walking. We zigzagged through the neighborhood right to the west of school, where parts are rather squalid. One friend kept asking whether I knew where I was going. She wasn’t used to the drab, old, concrete buildings in the little hutongs.

We eventually found the new restaurant, with the help of some Chinese people who lived in its neighborhood and had yet to try it.

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We got the famed feng wei qiezi, a dish I’d hoped was spicy chicken with bread pockets, a spicy tofu dish my friends like and broccoli with garlic. The chicken was the only disappointment. I hope I just ordered wrong. My favorite version had pieces of cut chicken without bones. This not only had lots of little bones to be careful of there were chicken feet in it too. Everything else was as good as I remembered.

The familiar employees weren’t on duty that night, but someone must have called the owners because the woman and her not-so-little-anymore girl came to say hello. I’m sure this was the first time foreigners had crossed the threshold of this out of the way eatery.

I had my camera, but forgot to use it till midway through the meal. I do have to go back and see whether I can get the ‘right’ chicken with bread pockets and a few other old favorites. The street is far, but they seem to have a few good restaurants that might be worth a walk.

Why I’m Not the Least Bit Hungry

For Thanksgiving a number of us went to the Hyatt Hotel in Jinan where we feasted on: turkey, cranberry, rabbit, beef, ham, beef stew, carrots, Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, corn,  fish, prawns, clams, caviar, three kinds of cheese, paté, an assortment of breads, sushi, pizza, mini hamburgers, pumpkin soup, salad, and hot pot. I did not try everything, but most everything was scrumptious.

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For dessert there was ice cream, six flavors including pumpkin, which I’m told was delicious, pumpkin pudding, which I’ll say was outstanding, pecan pie, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, Napoleons, panna cota, pumpkin pie, which disappointed, peanut-chocolate brownies, mango cake, chocolate chip cookies, egg tarts, crepes, waffles, cupcakes that looked like turkeys, and fruit.

Time to exercise.

Breakfast at the Mercure

This morning some of us met a friend who was staying at the Mercure Hotel and had breakfast there. I think I like breakfast better than the brunch. Pancakes, French toast, sausages, bacon, as well as Chinese dough sticks, donuts, cappuccino various hot dishes and salads were all on offer.

Harbin, Russian Tea Room

Russian Tea Room, Harbin

Russian Tea Room, Harbin

Eating at the Russian Tea Room in Harbin is like eating in a Russian grandmother’s house. The decor is homey, full of antiques from former Russians who lived in Harbin in the early 20th century.

I enjoyed the Russian tea (14 rmb) and salad, but the chicken and rice (29 rmb) was bland. I don’t know much about Russian food other than borscht so I could be wrong, but the chicken and rice looked quasi-Chinese, though the menu offered Chinese chicken and rice as well. I’d definitely return, but I’d order something else.


C Rating

There’s a newer restaurant in the neighborhood that we call “Fahad’s Restaurant” because it’s the only one he’ll eat in. It’s got a rather up scale decor for this part of town with lots of red and gold. Fahad can’t bring himself to eat anywhere else around here.

Some of the restaurants in Jinan have posted a sign that shows how the food inspector has rated their establishment. Last week I saw that Fahad’s restaurant just got a C, the lowest rating symbolized with a red unhappy face. I’ve never been in that kitchen, but wouldn’t be surprised by anything here.

Needs improvement

Needs improvement

Yesterday I went to the “dumpling restaurant,” a hole in the wall with food I’ve always liked and a kitchen I’ve only gotten a glimpse of. I wouldn’t want to get a tour of that kitchen.

Guess what? Their inspection got the same result as Fahad’s restaurant. Hmm.

Any theories? I’ve got a few.

Jinan’s Irish Pub

Very Irish decor

Very Irish decor

Friday some of us celebrated St. Patrick’s Day early by going to the Irish pub here in Jinan, in the mall across from the old stadium. I was surprised to see a children’s birthday party in progess at the pub. There was a table with about a dozen 10 year olds. At the far end of the pub a big screen showed Despicable Me 2. So the atmosphere didn’t quite match the decor.

The woman who served us spoke English well and was very attentive. There weren’t many people there. I don’t think this mall gets the same traffic as more central shopping areas do and that affects business.

Since it was Friday and Lent, I had the tuna panini. The beef stew with mashed potatoes looked good, though the portion was on the small side. Other friends got shepard’s pie and fish and chips, which again looked good. I loved my indulgent Bailey’s milkshake. What a great idea! They had Guinness stout and lots of beers. One friend had a Belgian beer, Delrium Tremens, which came in a glass with the brand’s pink elephants. Another friend ordered a different beer and that came in a special glass. While I don’t care for beer, these unique glasses have captured my imagination.

The prices were on the high side, but that’s how it is when you go for imported food. It was a nice way to end the week. If you go, go for a restaurant rather than bar experience.

Inspiration Kitchens

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I had a great brunch on Saturday at Inspirations Kitchens’ 3504 W. Lake St, near Garfield Park. It’s a restaurant where homeless people are trained for careers in restaurants. The atmosphere was bright, artsy and cheerful. The service was swift and caring.

You can check out their menu here. We began with hot cider, which was perfect on a cold January day after getting through the polar vortex. I had the broccoli quiche with a salad, which was light and tasty. My friends had banana bread with bacon French toast and sorghum marshmallow cream or a frittata with potatoes. The food was well presented and prepared; prices reasonable.

I rarely see chess pie so since my entree wasn’t sweet, I ordered and shared the pie, which was just the right size, not a huge slab or tiny slice. If you’ve never had chess pie, it’s a Southern dessert, more or less pecan pie without the pecans.

Tips at Inspiration Kitchens go towards the restaurant training program and for vouchers for low income families so they can go out for a restaurant meal. There’s free parking beside the restaurant and a location in Uptown.

More information on Inspiration Corporation:

Review: Club Lucky

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Club Lucky has a retro 1950s look and feel. It’s an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. On Friday and Saturday it’s crowded and reservations are a must. We went on Sunday and getting a table is a breeze. (We did have reservations.) The menu features loads of appetizers, salads, pastas, seafood, steaks and poultry. My sister suggested we share a meatball salad, which sounded weird to me. Everyone liked it and it’s a new favorite for some. I’m not big on meatballs so I just had the salad and was satisfied.

I liked my chicken tortellini with English peas and vodka sauce. The serving could easily serve two. Other tempting dishes were the steak sandwich, roast chicken and fettucini with chicken, asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes. We finished by sharing tiramisu, which was good, though not out of this world.

The service sufficed. Our waiter was polite, but missed the boat taking dessert orders. He later apologized explaining that he was detained giving people directions. We’d finished eating the birthday slice of tiramisu for my sister. While I probably would have ordered some dessert, that moment had passed and we were ready to go.

All in all, a fine place for Italian. Valet parking is $8. Good for groups or dates.

Restaurant Week: Tesori

In Chicago it’s Restaurant Week from Feb. 1 – 10. Participating restaurants, some of which are very pricey like Ruth Chris and the Peninsula Hotel, offer a three course lunch for $22 and a three course dinner for $44.

Yesterday I met some friends for lunch at Tesori at 65 E. Adams. We had a great lunch. I loved my butternut squash soup and dessert, a chocolate pannacotta. My artesian ham sandwich was fine. My friends enjoyed their lunches as well. The veal and lobster ravioli pleased. The orange cake looked good too. Our service was fine and the atmosphere has a casual elegance.

I was surprised that two of my friends didn’t know about Restaurant Week. Many cities do this in the winter and it’s a great way to kick the winter doldrums.

Thanksgiving in Jinan


Yes. I’ve just returned, completely sated, from Thanksgiving at the new Hyatt in downtown Jinan. The food was plentiful and so scrumptious. Probably a hundred dishes easily. I don’t want to tell you about everything I tasted as my gluttony would be fully exposed, but there was salad, several soups including curry pumpkin, which I didn’t try, and young pigeon, which I did. Turkey, ham, roast beef and duck, sauces for all, pastas, including lasagna, roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, hot pot, sushi, cheeses galore, breads, rolls, sausages, Chinese foods. Any gourmand would be pleased.

Then for dessert there was pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin mini loaves, chocolate souffle, chocolate mouse, chocolate tarts, chocolate cakes. Fruits baked in a wide array of pastries or wrapped in crepes. Gelato – six flavors. Fruits – melons, plums, pears, grapes, apples, citrus of every sort.

I’m so glad the Crowne Plaza’s staff didn’t know what Thanksgiving was. The Hyatt was the place to come.

Also, Thursday was Ladies’ Night in the bar so the women got free cocktails and we all enjoyed the singer and piano player in their chic bar. Tres bien.

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