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Have a taste of Guangzhou
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Hai Nan Ren Restaurant

With Hainan cuisine, Hainan staff and many Hainan customers, the Hai Nan Ren restaurant gives people the illusion of being on the "Coconut Island."

Located in a placid neighborhood, the restaurant overflows with authenticity. Undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of downtown streets—an unusual situation for restaurants in Guangzhou—the place has long had the reputation among "Laoxiangs" (fellow townsmen) for being both authentic and inexpensive.

Indeed, live chickens and goats, along with special Hainan vegetables, are shipped by air to the restaurant every other day. Pork is purchased from families living in rural areas of Hainan.

Like other Hainan restaurants in Guangzhou, Hai Nan Ren's menu comprises Wen Chang Chicken, Dong Shan Goat, a selection of fish dishes, and many other widely known Hainan-style dishes. One standout is the Little Cattle dish, which features beef with skin.

Beef with bamboo shoots

Beef with bamboo shoots 

The restaurant's Hainan Rice Noodle, a mix of rice noodles, dry beef, bamboo shoots, peanuts and crispy flakes that is widely applauded for its taste, and its abundant local vegetable dishes remind many of its customers of home. For instance, taro stalk is rarely seen in Cantonese dishes, but people in Hainan use it to make pickles or cook it with bamboo shoots and clams. Water celery, "si jiao" (four-edge) beans and black bean sprouts also surprise first-time visitors. Staff members grow the bean sprouts and make bean curd from black beans by themselves.

"To many people, Hainan style dishes are healthy," says Ms. Zhou, the manager. Due to its selectiveness in choosing ingredients and simplicity in cooking methods, Hai Nan Ren lives up to this reputation.

Despite tense competition for customers, the restaurant still manages to cling to its policy of "Hainan cuisine only." It helps that it is located in a quiet neighborhood, away from the busy streets where customers demand a huge diversity of food.

Zhou worries little about finding customers. "We mainly cater our frequent clients and build up a good relationship with them. Then they bring in more," she explained. More than 90% of customers, according to her, are originally from Hainan and come for home-style cooking.

It would be pleasant this summer to step into the tranquil neighborhood and relax in the restaurant, eating a coconut soup that banishes the heat.

Ground ginger Sauce/Ground garlic Sauce/Soy sauce with pepper

Hainan yellow "latern pepper" sauce/ Chicken vinegar

Add: Wen Xing Buliding, Hai Nan Ren Restaurant, No. 32, Shuiyin Si Heng Lu, Yuexiu district.

Tel: 020-87048908

La Seine

Located just beside the Pearl River inside the Xinghai Concert Hall, La Seine is said to be one of the top places for making a wedding proposal in Guangzhou.

The interior of the restaurant was conceived by a Hong Kong designer with a strong continental atmosphere, both quiet and elegant.

There is an open kitchen at the right of the restaurant, resembling a stage where "good shows" play every day, demonstrating the culinary art.

La Seine boasts a grand view of the Pearl River in its outdoor area. Beautiful sunsets, gentle breezes, passing waterbuses and indulgent desserts all compose a perfect picture that diners won't soon forget.

In a world where "Fusion" is taking the lead, La Seine's cuisine has always retained its authentic character, refusing to compromise to local tastes, even during the early days when French cuisine and French catering culture was still new and not as popular in Guangzhou.

Nevertheless, La Seine has gained many fans over the years by cultivating French dining culture little by little among the locals.

Although the menu changes regularly, signature dishes such as the "Pan-fried Goose Liver & Caramel Vinaigrette Apple with Fig Red Wine Sauce" and "Baked Snails Served with Garlic & Parsley Butter" are always available.

Fine food is always best paired with the proper wine. At La Seine diners can choose from an extensive list of imported wines.

Dessert is another thing you should not miss at this French restaurant, so don't pass up a chance to see French pastry chef Lloyd show off his culinary skills.

Add: G/F, Xinghai Concert Hall, 33 Qingbo Rd, Ersha Island

Tel: 8735 2222 ext 888, 8735 2531

Toro Toro

Add: 7, Qingcai Gang, Jianshe Liu Road (Near Garden Hotel)

Tel: 8371 0259

Only two restaurants cater to Spanish tastes in Guangzhou, as Spanish food has traditionally not been very popular here. The oldest is Toro Toro in Jianshe liu Road near the Garden Hotel.

Toro, meaning "bull" in Spanish, is a showcase for the passionate Spanish personality. Here, walls are painted rough khaki, wooden window frames sport white cotton curtains commonly used in Spanish villages, red blossoming carnations adorn the tables and Flamenco music is in the air. All combine to suggest the setting of a relaxed back-alley restaurant in Spain.

Xavier, the restaurant's Spanish chef, is a young man who says many of his inspirations come from Gaudi and his architectural art. Like the straightforward Spanish people, Spanish food is served in its original state without too much embellishment, preserving its authentic tastes. Ingredients, mainly seafood and vegetables, are cooked in simple and healthy ways.

Unlike other western food styles, Spanish appetizers are quite simple. "Red Pepper, Sausage and Quail Egg," as its name suggests, is a single piece of bread with a slice of sausage, a fried quail egg, and a piece of red pepper on it. Sincere and original, beautifully simple.

"Sleeve-fish, Orange, Beans and Black Olives", thin and sweet, is quite a unique salad with chewy sweet beans.

The cold vegetable soup is specially made for Guangzhou's hot climate. It smells enticing and tastes both sweet and sour, teasing the appetite. Such a cool and slippery soup reminds me of a milkshake.

The restaurant also has a tempting rice and seafood dish, with the rice first cooked in a thin consomme of boiled fish heads, then stewed covered in a metal plate together with luscious shrimps and sleeve-fish. A taste of this rice fills the mouth with the flavour of seafood and the soft elastic touch of rice, generating unlimited aftertastes.

The cod could even be mistaken for an imaginative Gaudi architectural work; and the dish layout is unparalleled among western foods. As the cod lies on a snow white plate with a giant translucent fried mustard leaf, the dish looks akin to a realistic work by this eminent architect. No wonder why the Spanish consider chefs as artists!

The champagne chicken, like the cod, is also a work of architectural art. After a bath in champagne, the chicken delivers wonderful flavors and elasticity. Devour it in the typical Spanish way, straightforward and natural: pick it up in your hands and gnaw at it. Truly it’s another kind of art, to enjoy your food so simply.

The price here is a bit high but worthwhile.

It is also a favorite place for Japanese, somehow strange.

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