Yu Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing
Dining at the Yu Restaurant at second floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing is an experience to cherish for again, and again. The Chinese people pride themselves in on being one of the earliest people to develop sophisticated notions of polite social culinary interaction. This includes the highly sophisticated rules of etiquette governing acceptable table manners and tastes. Yu Restaurant, which can hold up to 110 dinars, presents exactly that and nothing more than sheer sophistication. The restaurant offers a traditional tea-themed Cantonese cuisine. As I sat in one of the seven luxurious private chambers to dine like a Qing Dynasty emperor, I was mesmerising on the thoughts of what surprises I may be in for. A large water feature welcomes guests to the restaurant.
What’s more is that a tea master await all comers to intimate and sumptuous gastronomic affairs. Yu in Chinese stands for ‘Jade’, and there is plenty of it decorating the walls and the interior of this luxurious eatery. The interior of Yu is bathed in a bright red and mahogany wood colour, blended in neatly with golden beige accent pieces. These somewhat create a sooth feeling of elegance, sheer prefecture, and absolute comfort. Each of the seven private chambers is named after a type of jade stone, for example our room was called ‘Blue Jade’. Attention is paid to even minute details, from the tea corner to the silk wrapped menus. The menu includes at least a dozen tea samples encased within the menu.
As I was presented with the menu, I just looked at the Chef de Cuisine, Ku Chi Fai, and asked him to ‘Surprise me’ with his culinary magic. Then there was the house tea sommelier who was available to assist in guiding our choice of tea to go with each dish.
It’s best to commence with the sweet yet tangy flavoured ‘Double whelk matsutake soup’ (松茸炖响螺) which is a lovely medium-to-deep yellow in colour, and shows the red and black cherry aromas as the soup touches the back of your tongue and neck with each sip.
Yu offers an extensive menu of refined Cantonese dishes made with fresh ingredients and precise execution. The ‘Appetizer selection’ (前菜拼盘) contains the popular honey roasted suckling pig—a classic Guangdong dish—has skin cooked to a perfect, crisp orange and a smooth and juicy centre. Also, watch out for those baby cucumbers- they are immensely tiny and cute!
If you have a special place in your heart for seafood, like I do, then go for the main gem of a dish: ‘Braised cod fish ball with spices in casserole close-up’ (大千焗银鳕鱼). It looks like a piece of art work rather than a dish. Dare to tuck into the noodle nest which achieves high level of sophistication, as the whole dish is edible. You cannot argue with exceedingly good boneless pieces of succulent codfish lying side-by-side with the baby shallots. Yummy!
Continuing with the seafood theme (they love seafood in Canton!), the next dish that sandwiches the meal is ‘Grilled prawn with preserved vegetables dry eggplant’ (宫廷梅干虾球). Bright, elegant, and delicate looking (and tasting) prawns add enough sweetness and sourness to this wonderful gastronomic jewel. Autumn breeze marks the perfect season for slightly nutty yet buttery dishes such as the grilled prawns.
No Cantonese meal is complete with the ‘Taro puff and egg tart’ (芋蓉酥拼蛋挞), this ‘out of this world’ dish is a delight to have with any Cantonese dish. Its not really the presentation of the dish that matter’s but rather the taste. Cantonese people (especially those from Hong Kong), would not hesitate in pointing out the quality of a perfectly made egg tart. Soem will even argue to the point that their egg tart is the best in the city. The bright lemon colour of the yolk inside the tart, and the slight softness of the tart indicates to outstanding quality of the product. The easier it is to drop out of your hands, the worse the quality (i.e. the stronger the egg tart, the better it is). Challenge any Cantonese person and they will have no hesitation is proving you wrong. The nose of the dish displays a certain aroma of vanilla (it may be true), and lemon. Enjoy it while you can and make sure that you don’t leave any bits and bobs lurking around.
For the finale, ‘Chilled sago mango cream, and fresh fruits’ (杨枝甘露拼水果) is the treat of the day. But forget the fruits, its the chilled sago mango cream that can eat your heart away. Slightly dry, sweet to the front of the mouth, but all in all a complete journey of sheer perfection and a beautiful long length of butter, sago and mango kissing your throat with each spoonful. It’s great, and it’s all truly Cantonese at the Yu restaurant. It’s one of such prestige appellation to round off a perfect meal at one of the most sought after eateries in Beijing.
Just a simple, yet basic observation of how fast the Chinese economy is growing at. There are a few key indicators that portray the health of a country's economy. These include the following:
Below is a photo showing some basic food items that I bought in the supermarket in Shanghai. These days it is common in the big Chinese cities to come across western supermarket chain stores such as Tesco's (U.K.), Walmart (U.S.A.), Jusco (Japan), and Carrefour (France). While the vast majority of the food items are actually 'Made in China', some, however, are imported (such as Cereals, pasta, wines, and other minor but important things that expat would miss when they are in China).
Unlike in the west, where food prices tend be of a similar status irrespective of where the food item is from, in China, however, the better the quality of the food item, the more expensive it is. You may argue that this is common sense that prevails everywhere, but actually it tends to stick out more in countries where attention to high quality is only given to those items that are being exported (though this is slowly changing in China).
My food basket below cost 89RMB (that's around £8 GBP)- which is no different to what it would cost back in the UK (or elsewhere in Europe or America). But the items I have in the basket are not imported, but all are Chinese local brands. So this goes to conclude that basically things in China are getting more expensive (including house prices, cars etc.)...but wait...are salaries also increasing? No. The average salary in China for a new graduate with, say a Bachelors or Masters degree, is 2,900 RMB (approx. £280 per month).I fear this may pose a tricky challenge for whoever is in the Chinese management (i.e. government) in the coming years. For now, all we can do is enjoy the booming success that this country is experiencing.
- Navjot Singh
100-years old...but he runs like a horse!
You would assume that someone at the ripe old age of 100 would either be relaxing at home whiling away their time, or taking a stroll in the park. But not for Fauja Singh (no relation to me) as the 100-year old Sikh is nothing short of a global legend- and many people can certainly learn a few things or two from him. Fauja means Soldier in Panjabi, and he stands by his name all the way! Singh, who started taking running seriously at the ripe old age of 89 years old after his son and wife passed away, holds UK records for the 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, mile and 3000 m for his age group, records all set within a single 94 minute period. He attributes his physical fitness and longevity to abstaining from smoking and alcohol and to following a simple vegetarian diet.
He has been quoted as saying "I am very careful about different foods. My diet is simple phulka, dal, green vegetables, yoghurt, and milk. I do not touch parathas, pakoras, rice or any other fried food. I take lots of water and tea with ginger. ... I go to bed early taking the name of my Rabba* as I don’t want all those negative thoughts crossing my mind."
On the 17th of October 2011, Fauja Singh amazed the world when he completed a 42-kilometre marathon at the Toronto waterfront to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Setting a new record he finished the Scotia bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 11 minutes and 5.9 seconds and became the world’s oldest marathoner.
"I run while talking to God."- Fauja Singh
Go Fauja Singh...keep going. May god bless your strong heart, and may you keep running for another 100 YEARS!! What an inspirational man.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life - and the only way to be truly satisfied is to what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to LOVE what you do.
If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle; as with all matters of the heart you'll know when you find it." - Steve Jobs
Now, that's a magical quote to leave the world. Steve Jobs, goodbye, and thank you.
Glorious Sunshine in London (in October)...
I should have put these photos up while I was in the UK but unfortunately, due to a short and hectic schedule I did not have enough time to update my weblog while I was in London. But nevertheless, here is a show of some of the beautiful weather that I happened to enjoy on my short trip. Rather unusual for London to experience such glorious sunshine in the first week of October. In fact the unseasonably warm weather brought in the hottest October for over a century to the U.K. Just four weeks before the clocks go back for winter, Britain was in the middle of an Indian summer like no other with sizzling temperatures soaring all over the southern region. It was nice to be a tourist in your own city for once and also to go to Hyde Park.
I recall my younger years in the 1980s when it used to start getting miserably cold during late September in London. This kind of weather would have been unheard of during this time of the year. I would not be surprised to see this kind of weather in the future. Here are the shots of London:
From Wuxi to London!
Greetings from a sunny London! Thanks to the ever lasting global warming that the world is experiencing all kinds of weird and wonderful weather spells. I left my home in Suzhou on Wednesday afternoon (London 8am GMT), and within that short time span until now I have had the pleasure of experiencing the sights and smells of the following places:
Wuxi (tiny town next to Suzhou- this is where I got the plane to go to Guangzhou), Guangzhou (lovely photos as taken below), Doha (airport Business and First Class lounge is NICE!), London (HOT weather in October), Milton Keynes, Birmingham, and then back to London again. Thats around 14,000km in approx. 90 hours and 23 minutes. Not bad at all I say.
Now, one thing that did tickle my fancy were the amazing shots I managed to get of Guangzhou as we landed in from Wuxi. Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province, sparkles at night, especially places such as Zhujiang New Town (as seen in the photos below). These photos were taken from a moving plane as we turned into the final approach into Guangzhou Baiyun Airport.
Guangzhou sparkles at night time! I flew in from Wuxi to Guangzhou on a clear evening last week, and was gifted with this beautiful view of Zhujiang New Town and Tian He District. You can clearly see all the city’s major landmarks, such as the Canton Tower and the Tian He 88 floor building! Guangzhou’s pollution levels have improved vastly in the past few years. 10 years ago there would have been smog everywhere and this view would have been impossible. Guangzhou is becoming more modern and clean as the days go by. Its not easy to get nigh time photos, and even from a moving plane. But I am pleased with this result.
For those of you who live in Zhujiang New Town, can you see your home? :-)
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