Xiao Ningbo Seafood City

Filed under: Restaurants — iain @ 16:35:18

I’ve been in Shanghai for three days now and a combination of tiredness (on Monday) and laziness (yesterday) has led to the wholly unacceptable situation whereby I have eaten dinner exclusively at the hotel. If this were not bad enough, the hotel restaurant leaves much to be desired. Things had to change.

So it was that I strode out of the lobby and resolved to keep on going until I found a place I wanted to eat at, which in this thoroughly depressing foreigner ghetto part of Pudong wasn’t necessarily going to be easy.

About 3km down the road I came across just the place. It turns out the restaurant is called the Xiao Ningbo Seafood City but they had me at "Seafood" which was prominently displayed on a giant neon sign blazing into the night sky from atop the restaurant.

Sadly it appears that they exhausted their technology budget buying the signage and had no money left to buy any credit card readers. I suspected this might be the case and made sure to query the validity of my plastic before placing an order, only moments after walking through the door to a chorus of astonished gasps from the staff. Yes, a westerner in our restaurant. Where no one speaks English. And he only has some very rusty Cantonese at his disposal; about as useful in Shanghai as it would be to enter a restaurant in Newcastle speaking Welsh.

I pointed at my Mastercard and received a solemn shake of the head from the waitress. Then I pointed to my Bank of China card and got an outstretched arm pointing vaguely down the street. "Well I’d best make my way to the bank then," I said, more to show some sort of acknowledgement that I understood than because I thought she might have a clue what I was saying, and headed to the door. Rather, we headed to the door, since the waitress had taken it upon herself to accompany me to a cashpoint the next block down.

I’d like to think that this was because she feared that left to my own devices I might head off to another eatery which would accept my flexible friend, thus depriving her of a future anecdote about how a white man entered the dingy, smoke-filled establishment and actually stayed for dinner. But she probably just fancied me.

On our return I was greeted with more gasps, a lungful of the aforementioned smoke and a rather hefty menu, which in another example of what one has to admit was becoming a decent run luck, was decorated with almost lifesize pictures of the dishes on offer. I pointed out some chicken’s feet, soup, a fish and beer. My new waitress, who had shooed the first away, waved her hands at the first fish, turned the page and pointed out another. Unsure as to whether my original choice was unavailable or simply perceived to be of too low quality for a visiting westerner, I nodded and said OK. The order was placed.

First up were the chicken’s feet. They were neither fantastic nor terrible. A solid start. Next came the soup. In a bucket. If its contents were poured into my bathroom sink they would surely overflow. There was no way I would come close to finishing it and it would be folly to try. And that’s a shame because it was really quite delicious. Finally came the fish, which ended up bearing very little resemblance to the pictures either of the fish I originally asked for or the one I was told I was getting. Nonetheless it was perfectly adequate.

On the whole the meal was, while admittedly not spectacular, a welcome change from the fusion dross I’d been served up to now. Going to a real rundown Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere where no one speaks English and gobbling some fresh seafood and assorted animal parts was refreshingly like old times.

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