I had a truly excellent lunch at Zhi Wei Guan, today, after spending the morning hiking and sampling tea at Dragon Well Village. Although I've had far more dongpo rou than is good for me in the past week, I'm sure, I couldn't resist sampling a small portion, here. Lucky thing, since it was fragrant and meltingly tender. Really a good version. Almost as good as my mama's. :)
My group had two other dishes that were also regional specialties, I believe: (1) a braise made out of fish heads, fried tofu, ginger, dongu mushrooms, scallions and a smidgen of greens that may have been watercress; and (2) smoked duck with pan-crisped glutinous rice. (I'll attempt to load pics of these later.) Both dishes were phenomenal. I'd never had either, so I've no idea whether they were true to traditional form, but it was clear that they were expertly cooked with very high quality ingredients. The fish was perfectly fresh, not overcooked, and the broth / braising liquid was complexly flavored, though pretty salty with soy sauce (noticeably high grade). I don't know what kind of fish it was and wish I'd asked.
The duck... my goodness, the duck!! It was possibly the most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth. It was just smoky enough and slightly crispy in parts, and layered very attractively over crisped, pan-fried glutinous rice, then sliced like a pie. The ratio of duck to rice was perfect, as was the ratio of lean to fatty duck meat. Some might find the presentation off-putting, since it was served with the duck's head perched atop, but the server told us that some people eat the duck's head. I couldn't quite figure out a graceful way to do this without an example to watch.
Our final dish was a stirfry of asparagus with lotus petals -- also perfectly cooked, very tender, and surprisingly complexly flavored given the simplicity of ingredients.
The only potential downsides for some diners: the restaurant -- at least the portion we sat in -- doesn't have the best views, really, though it is on Xi Hu (West Lake). We had a fairly unromantic view of the parking lot. The menu had English translations, but servers didn't speak any English. And there were tons of cute kids running amok in the restaurant (which I rather enjoy, but some might find annoying).
Overall, the food was amazing and the restaurant very clean, with fairly upscale decor. There was none of the kitschy glitz that characterizes places like Lou Wai Lou. And it was a fantastic deal. With a huge bottle of local beer and two bowls of rice and another meal's worth of leftovers, the total came to about 240 RMB.
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