Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tang Lee Food Art - Guangzhou

Last week I revisited a restaurant I had been to earlier this year in Guangzhou. It was introduced to me by a friend of mine from Ghana (Manna), who in turn was taken there by a Chinese friend of his also from Ghana (Mr. Eh!). Tan Lee Food Art is about a half hour drive from the city center and I do not think many expatriates know about this place. It has a pretty grand entrance but it is tucked slightly away from a large highway. If you were not intending to go there then you really would not come across it by chance.

The restaurant is located in what seems to be a small park in the middle of a lake. Apart from a central dining room there are numerous tables and private dining rooms scattered around the area on the banks of the lake and even in boats on the water.

The menu at Tang Lee Food Art features a wide variety of sea food dishes and Chinese delicacies that are on display just as you cross the bridge on to the island. As you can imagine all the food is fresh and looking your dinner in the eye as it swims around its talk can make some people quite squeamish.

Before making way to your seating area you can stop at the tanks and select what you would like to eat and instruct the chef on how you would like your food cooked. They had a large assortment of styles and sauces they use for preparation that insure you are not bored for choice. Not being able to speak Chinese often causes this process to take an extra long time but with enough pointing and grunting you can get almost what you want. All the usual suspects were on the menu, such as the lobster, a range of different fish, prawns, shrimp, and crab.

There are also some less common delicacy items on the menu. I would like to say I ventured down this path and tried snake, turtle, or water beetle, but I did not have the guts and neither did my compatriots. I like to think that if I had adventurous company with me I would attempt a few of these select items just for the sake of it. And if I was ever to try these dishes I would rather do it at a proper establishment like Tang Lee Food Art rather than some sketchy joint in the city.

Right by the entrance is also a tea house where they have a wide assortment of teas for patron to choose from. China is known for its awesome variety of teas and there is an art in their preparation as well. One of these days I should actually blog a whole tee experience but every time I plan to do it I end up ordering beer instead. But none the less there were some outlandish teas there and for anyone who is in to that, you would dig it.

Once you have had your fun playing god and dictating which creature gets toasted, the hostess will lead you to a table. The walk through the area is quite exciting as you walk under thick foliage of trees, over bridges, and through narrow paths with red Chinese paper lanterns hanging over you.

As I mentioned before, some of the dining areas are directly on the water. If you have a large group of about 10 people you can actually have your own boat which has an enclosed room on board. It is rooted into the foundation and does not even float so there is no chance of any sea sickness but it does create a unique ambiance.

For smaller parties of up to four people you can sit in boats out on the middle of the lake. The boats are also well rooted so they do not bob around but your food is actually brought into you by waiters on boats. It can be a bit hot in the summer but around now the weather is actually getting cooler so it is a pleasant environment to dine in.

Lighted statues of fish and flowers are surrounding the dining area creating a pleasant glow that actually proves to be quite romantic. The water is clean and smooth bouncing of reflections that make the row of sculptures seem to go on forever. For some reason, sitting out there under the trees, the pace of the city seems to be drowned out and you can barely ever here the rumble of cars in the distance.

The food at Tang Lee Food Art is spectacular; each dish is unique and flavorful. The ingredients are all fresh and you can tell they are high quality as well. There were only 6 of us in our group but we ordered a pretty decent range of dishes to experience the full flavor they had to offer. As the name of the establishment suggests, the presentation of the food is also attractive but not overly pretentious. A couple of the dishes that were especially good were the crab, steamed fish, and pigeon. I had never eaten pigeon before this and it was surprisingly delicious. The meat was similar to duck but slightly tenderer, melting in the mouth. Pigeon meat is also a little sweet. I quite enjoyed it.

Tang Lee Food Art offers a unique dining experience in a distinctive natural location in the middle of a bustling city. Unfortunately I lost their name card so I can not really tell you where it is but if any you should find yourselves in Guangzhou and in the mood for some traditional Chinese food I will hook you up. I kind of remember how to get there. I thoroughly enjoy good food and original concussions. Getting down and dirty with your food and an establishment like this is truly part of exploring what a city has to offer.

Bon Appetite. And thank you Manna and Mr. Eh! For sharing this place with me.

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