Monday, July 09, 2007

Lunch with Mr. Li

Mr. Li is the heroic taxi driver I met in Xiaoshan, who also took me to the West Lake in Hangzhou. He was a really nice guy firstly because he returned my N95 Nokia that I mistakenly left in his cab. During my day off we drove up to the West Lake where he took me on a personal tour of the area, while pointing out some of the cooler spots of the beaten track. In the afternoon I took Mr. Li out to lunch and he chose a pretty fancy spot. But its all good because I was in the mood for some extravagant food as well.

Hangzhou is best known for its tea as well as the notoriously spectacular West Lake. In fact there is a museum near the lake dedicated to Chinese Tea and its history. I was not really in the mood to walk around a museum at the time but we did drive through some of the fields where they grow tea. Tea in China is not like tea in India, or anywhere else I have been. They really take their tea seriously here. They are a huge variety of teas available in China ranging in price from $10 a gram to $200 a gram. I have never tried that but there is only 1 thing in this world that I have ever paid $100 a gram for. And it was money well spent! With that kind of product on the menu you got to be careful what you order. We went for a lower mid-range tea that had flowers in it. I believe this is chrysanthemum.

There is numerous tea houses one could stop at, some perched on high peaks. But it was a really hot day so we opted to eat indoors. The weather in Hangzhou gets cool around November. I am sure that would be an awesome time to visit West Lake and really walk around the area. The little gazebos would be great to chill in on a cold evening drinking hot tea. I let Li pick the main dish as the entire menu was in Chinese. He told me the fresh water fish in this area were really good so we went for it. The fish was simply steamed and drizzled in a light sauce. This really allowed the flavor of the fish to come through. I am not sure what fish this was but it was extremely tasty but a little too boney around the edges. But we both enjoyed it thoroughly.

I ordered a black pepper beef dish. These tender pieces of marinated ribs were off the hook! I enjoyed this dish a bit more than my friend Mr. Li did. He explained to me that the flavor of the black pepper sauce is very overbearing and does not really permit you to enjoy the flavor of the meat. He is quite a connoisseur and a fantastic companion. His English may not have been perfect but he expressed himself quite well, and the man had stories too. I love people who got good stories. So I liked the beef and he didn’t... Check out the garnishing on it. Is it just me or does that look like a Ganja leaf?

If you are ever in Xiaoshan or Hangzhou and you need to rent a cab, please look up Mr. Li. His number is 1386715770. You could not ask for a more honest or entertaining escort. And his cab is in really good shape too. Mr. Li, the best taxi driver in Xiaoshan!

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