Located within the beautiful grounds of the Banyan Tree Hangzhou resort in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou is the superb Bai Yun restaurant. Compact yet exceedingly romantic, this refined and sophisticated restaurant offers a combination of dishes from Guangzhou (Cantonese), and Hangzhou. High chair and rich mahogany make up the interior décor with an ambiance that projects elegance and romance throughout.
The kitchen is headed by the veteran and prolific Master Chef Simon Chen who brings along many years of experience in providing innovative Chinese dishes to his guests. He did not fail to surprise and impress us with his culinary magic during our dining experience. Perhaps one of the most inspiring dish I tried was the ‘five cold platters’, a combination of seafood (prawns), chicken, vegetables and pork all decorated in the shapes of either plants or animals. It was the first time I had come across a prawn being served in two where the head was sticking upwards while the edible body was sitting next to it (perhaps not a good sight for vegetarians but still good nevertheless). Then there were other luxurious offerings such as the ‘braised chicken and abalone with perilla’ and the ‘boiled mandarin fish with celery’. Beautifully cooked abalone with chicken breast provides for a fabulous addition to any romantic meal; while mandarin fish is a local delicacy taken from the waters of the West Lake or from the lakes around the Xixi Wetland Park. Both of these luxurious dishes are not easy to get in any other restaurant around Hangzhou, or if they are then the style in which they are cooked is for sure not easy to define as it has been by Chef Chen. He puts his whole mind and heart into every single creation, and invests a lot of time working along with the kitchen chefs to make sure that the quality of the final product is of utmost excellence.
In terms of drinks, most diners are recommended to try the local Hangzhou rice wine in small quantities. The rice wine is sweeter than say, most Chinese rice wines, hence why it should be taken in small quantities. The sugar is added to the somewhat damp tasteless original wine, but the strong sweet flavour of the wine makes it a sheer delight to have with mandarin fish, and abalone. Another dish worth awing at is ‘wok-fried leek and bamboo shoots with egg’ which looks rather like a Spanish omelette but tastes completely Chinese with its salts and local spices.
A different kind of smoothness occupies the dish all throughout with a touch of the leek lingering behind your tongue. Candle lit dinners can also be arranged for those wishing to surprise their loved one with the perfect moment for romance. It’s easy to say it or write about it but when that special moment in your life comes to mind then its perhaps the most beautiful that can happen to anyone, and dining at the Banyan Tree Hangzhou will just make things magical during that special moment in your life.
Come the summer, Bai Yun would be the perfect setting for romantic or family gatherings in the gardens within the immediate exterior of the restaurant. With room for 20 diners in the outdoor seating area, there is a chance to enjoy first class food in the tranquil and beautiful surroundings of the resort with the occasional sound of birds tweeting in the background. Just lovely.
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