Most of the meals here are interesting in one way or another (once you get past the “Chinese food again?” stage), but here’s a couple we went out for specially.
This starts with a big pot in the middle of the table, on top of a burner. This is filled with some kind of stock, which could contain almost anything. Sometimes the pot is divided in two, so you can have separate spicy and non-spicy stock; this time, ours was just full of chicken-based stock, using all of the chicken, as you can see. The only bit we couldn’t find was the beak.
You order a selection of food, which arrives separately, uncooked. We had wafer-thin slices of beef and pork, a selection of green leaves, a few different kinds of mushrooms, and a load of fresh noodles. (Of course, we forgot to take pictures of any of this.)
This is chucked in to the simmering stock, a bit at a time; fished out as it’s cooked, then eaten straight away. Repeat until you’re stuffed! If you’re still hungry, you can drink the stock too.
Another meal where the “cooking” is done in the centre of the table. Each table has a ‘fire pit’ with an extractor above it. You order a suitable piece of meat, something like a leg of lamb or pork shoulder, along with whatever side dishes you fancy. One of the staff comes round with a pile of ready-heated charcoal briquettes and lays them out in your fire pit, then the piece of meat is brought to your table on a big spit. It’s already been oven-cooked, and just has to sit above the coals, being turned occasionally, for long enough to heat it and char it to your taste. Once the outer layer is ready, each person has their own set of long-handled knives and forks, and carves off chunks.
Unfortunately, this restaurant only has Chinese language menus, no pictures, and our vocabulary is a bit limited, so our method of ordering was to wander round the other tables in the restaurant, pointing at things and saying “zhège” and “nàge” (“this” and “that”). If nobody was eating something that we wanted, we had to wait until somebody else ordered it, then ambush the waitresses as they came out of the kitchen carrying it, then use more pointing and Chinese number gestures to order it.
It sounds a bit chaotic, but it seemed to be good entertainment for the rest of the diners. We managed to get our big lump of meat (ribs), plus sweetcorn, fried dumplings (delicious!), salad, and some kind of bread that was like flattened wholemeal rolls with a slight cinnamon flavour.
The other diners were obviously enjoying the spectacle we were causing, particularly the table next to us. One of them kept challenging Clare to “gānbēi” her drink (literally “empty glass”, down in one). Another who’d made sure that we understood what piece of meat we’d ordered by pointing at his own ribs, also seemed very impressed that I was managing to entertain six ladies by myself, and introduced himself to me. By pointing at a picture on his phone he managed to let me know that his name was ‘Sky’; to be honest, he might have meant, ‘Night’, or ‘Clouds’, but I don’t think it mattered. We were also sent a plate of edemame beans, with a piece of paper inviting us to “try these you will like”. We didn’t tell them that we often eat edemame beans at home…
So, a decent meal, drinks and entertainment, all for ¥42 each (about £4.20). Bargain.