I’m Not the Tour Guide

I’m Not the Tour Guide

Lo and behold, I went out last weekend! Yeah man, with John in the States on business, I’m livin’ it up Sex in the City style! Baam chica baam baam. Ok, so not really. But I did get my ass out of the house on a Saturday night. And I even hit a trendy lounge/club! Unlike my Bar Rouge experience in October, I had a decent time.

So last week, my friend Tegan invited me to join her, her beau, plus another couple for hotpot Saturday night. We first met up at Tegan’s apartment in the JW Marriott, where she and her fiance have been living for the past two years. I was pleased to see a US MNC maintaining some kind of product/service consistency in China. (Usually, MNC China operations adhere to totally different standards than in the US.) This particular Marriott appeared to have its shit together. The suite, albeit a bit hotelish with the hyper color coordination and squarish foam sofas, was super jazzed up with a nicely outfitted kitchen. (I know, I’m always scoping out hotels. Same with office buildings…)

Anyway, shortly after meeting at the Marriott, we headed for pre-dinner drinks at Barbarossa, a beautiful lounge/bar inside People’s Park. I had a mandarin/lime mojito that was eh, not that tasty, but the atmosphere was nice and luckily, the damage was minimal thanks to half-price happy hour. I drank on an empty stomach, so it didn’t take long before I was feeling lightly buzzed. Roasting under the heat lamp didn’t help either. I started getting a little sleepy and drowsy and it wasn’t even 9 pm!

Fortunately, we got hunger pangs at the same time, so we hit Sichuan Hotpot, a local shop down Huanghe Road. Usually, I’m not keen on hotpot. I find it kind of boring to just plop raw veggies and meats into a pot of broth. Might as well eat at home, you know? Plus, dog meat tends to crop up on the menu… But this hotpot experience was great. The secret is in the sauce! And eating out with the hotpot pros, I got the insider scoop. Unfortunately, I cannot recreate the sauce elsewhere, as none of them knew the sauce names, but at least I’ve got Sichuan Hotpot’s sauce mixing protocol down (and it’s a tough one): one scoop from any of the six jars on the left, plus 2-3 scoops from each of the two jars on the far right). Voila! Tasty central: a splash of hotness mixed with sesame and peanut butter all thrown into a thick, creamy goo. Yummy! With the magic sauce, everything tasted so flavorful: mushrooms, spinach, shrimp rolls, radish… And the best part about Sichuan Hotpot? The place is damn cheap! Under 200 rmb for 5 people, and that included some beer. So, I plan on going back (have to squeeze it in before the warm weather hits) to clue my other friends in. I suppose I could try other hotpot places closer to my home, but please, then I’d have to figure the sauces out all over again… too damn complicated. This keeps things simple and cheap. The only catch is I’ll have to take only my Chinese friends; otherwise, the restaurant peeps will mistake me for the tour guide (yes, I was asked!). Oh well, I guess that means my Mandarin passes for local standards? Ha! I wish.

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