Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LANZHOU - The Devil in Disguise

January 14, 2011
Eng: Lanzhou, Gansu, China
Chn: 兰州,甘肃省,中国
Written by Dan

So at around 6:00pm we finally make it back to the Korean restaurant and secure ourselves a little table with its own BBQ grill, right next to some already rowdy, middle-aged Chinese men and women. Thinking of nothing but food, we set off to the buffet area to pick out what we want to grill. At the buffet area, they only have small plates so Em and I grab a couple plates and split up to explore.

What we found was amazing! There was raw chicken, beef, lamb, seafood, and veggies for grilling, a conveyor belt of sushi, a grill kabobs section, salad bar, pizza (!), and an array of desserts that included a tray of fresh fuit on skewers and a chocolate fondue fountain!!!

Needless to say, we both went crazy and got everything we wanted or wanted to try, and everything times 2 so there would be enough for the other person. When we finally both got back to the table we realized we had each gotten almost the same things meaning about 4 portions of each thing. Didn’t matter though, we were starving.

We did actually try everything, but some of the items didn’t taste as good as we had hoped. For example the pizza was cold and consisted of mostly thick, soggy bread with mayonnaise instead of tomato sauce underneath the cheese – not appetizing. Some of the meat was pretty chewy and seemed to be more cartilage and fat than meat. Things we didn’t like, we just put to the side.

After a while we got thirsty and I wanted to try some Korean Shochu wine (like Japanese sake). The cheapest bottle was huge and cost 60rmb ($9 USD) which didn’t seem like a good investment. So I asked what else they had to drink, and the lady looking at me in disbelief as if to say “what? You don’t know?” pointed me to a giant ceiling-to-floor shelf of unlimited beer, Chinese red wine (4% alcohol), and Chinese grain alcohol (52% alcohol), all of which is included in the 45rmb buffet!! Now we understood why people come here…. Trying not to imagine what the floor and bathrooms look like each night after patrons consume unlimited hard booze with their low-grade BBQ, I took a reasonable single bottle of beer and small bottle of Chinese grain alcohol – just for a few toasts.

 Not even half the food we brought to the table

Dessert including the chocolate fondue

A few drinks and a couple more nibbles later and we were ready to go on our way. Since Em and I just came from 2 years working in a café, we think we’re being nice when, after every meal, we stack all the plates and cup and pile all the leftover food and garbage into one bowl. After doing this, we called the waitress over and asked for our bill. She took one look at our pile of leftovers (which included non-edible items such as our used napkins, shrimp heads, skewers) and told us that it is restaurant policy that if leftover food weighs more than 200 grams (0.5 pounds), we will be charged an additional 45rmb! Fair enough when you think about it, but shouldn’t they have told us this when we walked in? There were no signs anywhere and the staff never told us.

Either way, being more worried about money than our health, we decided we had no choice but to “eat a little more” as the waitress suggested.

And so, with already full bellies, we began to pick out the ‘edible’ items from our pile and nibble slowly. Cold, spicy skewers of lamb and chicken went down very slowly. The bad pizza went down even slower. Having listened to the entire exchange between us and the waitress, our neighbors began to watch us and laugh as we ate in silence with a look of utter disgust on our faces. At one point, I remarked to Emily “what started out as a dream come true has now become a nightmare gone horribly wrong”.

We laughed so hard we almost puked. The laughing was contagious that our entire surroundings erupted. When we could catch our breath we shot them looks and explained to them that they better watch out or they’ll suffer the same fate. Then slowly each table of guests turned to look at their own mountains of food and the smiles turned upside down. One table actually tried to get a bunch of newcomers to join them and share some of their bao zi. This being an all-you-can-eat buffet, the newcomers obviously refused thinking they could just get their own. I wondered if these newcomers learned the easy or the hard way about the 200 gram rule.

With the last bites of pizza still in our mouths and carefully divided piles separating the edible from the inedible, we wave down the waitress to ask for approval and she gives us the thumbs up! Finally, the nightmare is over and we can go. Emily, who started the day with dry heaves is now ending the day the same way. We walk home in silence and pass out.

The final piles of edible and inedible - it tasted as bad as it looks

1 comment:

  1. Great story! I'm going to Lanzhou soon... just looking around the web to learn a bit about it.