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Cheng Mansion Banquet, China(北京程府宴)
送交者: 天边的红霞 2020年07月31日13:51:12 于 [五 味 斋] 发送悄悄话


Cheng Mansion Banquet0001.JPG

【Aiden in English】

        And I thought my dining experience was luxurious in Fragrant Pavilion in Hangzhou.

When one mentions "fit for a king", one sees a massive set of food in front of a gluttonous man with a gold crown and handlebar mustache. In China, that fat man is replaced by the given dictator of that generation, and he doesn't have a mustache. Disregard my tangent. Tonight, mother and I dine like dictators. 

        Standing outside the Cheng Mansion, a courtyard house in Beijing, we confusedly hesitated to enter a rather ordinary red door. To the left, a brick wall — to the right, a brick wall. The red door had a camera and a microphone attached at the shoulder level. With nothing else to do, my mother gently rang the doorbell... She rang it again, less gently. The third time, she applied great force to the button, and as if the staff realized the danger of waiting any longer, they rushed out to greet a somewhat annoyed Chinese mother — second on the list of most dangerous animals behind the common angry Chinese mother.

        As if to rub the upper-class scent in our faces, our dinner would be served in a private room at a table of two, complete with a set of private waiters and waitresses and a picture of Mao Zedong creepily staring at us. Tonight's course of action (excuse the pun): a set of side veggies and meats followed by six dishes and moon cake. Now, I have a problem while on vacation and it's not necessarily a bad habit — I don't eat a lot. So when mother dropped the bomb about spending $587 ($1 = ¥7.02 currently) for a dinner, I avoided all consumables from 8 am and on. Twelve hours later, I barely felt a nibble of hunger, much less the stomach for a full six-course meal. But when the price tag is slapped in your face, guilt provides the motivation to get through many obstacles, food being one.

        Course One: Six Fresh Fruits. Not much to say here, let's move on.

        Course two: Braised New Zealand Black Abalone. The jump from course one to two was quite large. We went from average supermarket produce to hand-dived gold from the bottoms of the Pacific Ocean. Much like gold, I could almost taste the dollar bills in my mouth. The abalone was smoked and cooked like pot roast, but the texture and seafood scent gave the dish uniqueness. Oddly enough, the star of that course was a special side sauce that enhanced the flavor.

        Course Three: Decoction of Eight Ingredients. I'm pretty sure the golden rule for Chinese soup is "if it has random objects in the soup —edible or not— and has a meaty flavor, it's serve-able". The soup tasted like chicken noodle soup, and there were random floating mushrooms and other expensive ingredients. Checked all the boxes. Tasted pretty good.

        Course Four: Braised Lobster with Zealong Tea Noodle. A common stigma for lobsters is that the shelled redfish cost boatloads of money. Well, in comparison to some other luxury foods in the world, lobster is not ridiculously expensive; however, at this estate, regular lobster is not enough. The lobster meat was infused with lotus roots. For some restaurants, the chef would add an immense amount of lotus roots to cheapen the production cost, but not this place. No, they did not shrimp on the lobster (last pun I promise). Adding lotus roots provided crunch and tenderness, masking perhaps some of the imperfections lobster can have. The dish also had some oolong tea-flavored noodles, but I really did not care. Lobster demands the main stage anywhere.

        Course Five: Braised Ox Tail, Gourmet Morchella Mushroom, Black Tiger Prawn, and Crispy Sea Salt Slice. Ever wonder how old people eat meat without teeth? Well, they probably use all their retirement money to dine on cow tail. When I took my fork and touched the cow tail, the fork passed right through. As I recall the process of eating the meat, nothing really surfaces beyond me questioning "wow, is this even meat?" My subconscious kept saying "no". 

        Course Six: Handmade Mango Yogurt with Rose Cake. At first, I thought, "after all of this, you're giving me yogurt." Then I took a spoonful and I exclaimed, "This isn't yogurt, this is warm cheesecake!" Truly, the yogurt tasted exactly like a slightly warmer melted vanilla cheesecake, which is not a knock. If all yogurt tasted like this, you could say goodbye to weight watching. The yogurt had so much buttery goodness, I couldn't stop. Unfortunately, the cup only held so much yogurt, and any more butter in my body may have caused unwanted science experiments; thus I refrained from asking for more.

        $587. Final bill. Was it worth it? I don't believe so. Picture a graph of money-to-value ratio. The first $50 are normally spent for great value, but after $100 the value increase flattens out. An example would be that for $80, one can grab a great burger, but for $200, one can get an amazing burger that is only perhaps slightly better than the cheaper burger. At the same time, the $80 burger consumer would never know how good the $200 burger tasted like and thus would always perceive the more expensive burger to be two and a half times better. 

         Conclusion: great food, but not worth a second look.










        第五道菜:古法烧牛尾配海盐三色面片。是否想过老人家没牙怎么吃肉?没错,为了吃顿牛尾巴,他们搞不好要搭上全部养老金。当我用叉子插牛尾巴的时候,叉子竟然长驱直入。回想前后过程,我免不了疑虑重重:“哇塞,刚吃的是肉吗?” 可我的潜意识一直回答:“不是”。







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2017: Flash Story─My Glory to Your Honor(小小说─为你骄傲)

2015: 76ers Overnight Camp(费城七六人队篮球寄宿营)

2013: Drama Camp-5(戏剧夏令营之五)

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