Known as “Lau Zhi Qing” among the Chinese or Cultural Revolution restaurant among the non-Chinese speaking, this franchise has to be one of the coolest themed restaurants I’ve ever been to.
The restaurant’s theme is based on the more positive aspect of the Cultural Revolution i.e. Mao Zedong’s decree for all youths (especially undergraduates) to be sent to the rural areas for a year’s practical education.
From the various movies and documentaries I’ve watched, these young people were to help the farming community with their daily chores and were not paid any wages – only food and lodging were provided to them.
It took me a while (and a few people to explain) to understand this positive side of the Cultural Revolution because the minute I’m in the restaurant, I’m surrounded by
- youths in dressed in Communist Party uniforms,
- posters of youths waving the Red Book,
- props of rural farming scenes (including farming tools, dry grass, earthern pots and other paraphernalia for a truly authentic setting), and
- the sound system blaring propaganda announcements or patriotic songs of the era.
If you were impressed with Beijing Olympics 2008, then you’ll understand how meticulous the Chinese are with style and substance – oh, what attention to detail :-). Ok, enough propaganda…let’s enter the restaurant!
Here’s the brightly-lit entrance to this popular restaurant, which has lines (and chairs while you wait) during the lunch and dinner hours:
Aren’t the waitresses’ uniforms cute? Each one of them is dressed in white shirts, green pants, black fabric shoes (bu xie) AND they all carry a satchel.
This sprightly girl is lunging after my toddler who’s playing with the farming tools props 🙂
One day, I’m going to ask if all of them actually have long hair because all the girls have their hair in plaits with red ribbons.
The older women (the ayis or cleaners) do not have pigtails.
The tables and chairs are good quality, unvarnished wood – each chair has the Communist red star on it. As you can see, the table setting is simple:
Various posters of the youth for Cultural Revolution theme plaster the walls of the restaurants.
There are also authentic black-and-white photos of young Communists in action in the rural areas.
I had to cool down the photography after a while because the other patrons (mostly Chinese) were starting to look my way…
Opening the menu, I was relieved to find colour photographs! Lao Zhi Qing is one of the first restaurants my Chinese friends would take us to – I guess the owner realized that with so many foreigners coming to the restaurant, it made sense to have professional photographs taken.
Since Lao Zhi Qing (Cultural Revolution restaurant) is listed under Northeastern cuisine in the expat guide book, let me show you some of the the dishes we’ve been eating:
Tofu and mushroom soup (Dou hua gen) – I ordered this dish for the toddler because it’s a light soup of soft tofu, chopped dried mushrooms and some brown thing. He loved eating it with rice but after a while, we found the soup slightly too starchy. In any case, I want to learn how to cook this dish because it’s delicious 🙂
Stewed pork bones (jiang da gu) – One of their trademark dishes, the stewed pork bones are HUGE and the meat,though quite flavourful, is a bit on the tough side. Hubby and I could eat it but not the toddler. We order this main dish a lot until we got really sick of it!
Deep fried egg squares (man kou xiang) – I thought these were deep fried tofu but the waitress insisted that there is NO tofu in it. They are made entirely of egg with bits of red and green peppers. Soft and delicious (acceptable to the toddler) but slightly on the oily side.
Stewed leg of lamb/mutton (yang tui) – I tried out this piece de resistance (it’s got a fancy name before ‘yang tui’ which escapes me) much, much later even though Hubby had recommended it earlier. I think I was deterred by the size of the leg!
It’s really HUGE – just a piece fills up an oval platter (RMB15) as you can see in relation to the teapot and tea cups. The dish comes with a disposable plastic glove is given for you to enjoy in barbaric delight 🙂
Tired of all the other dishes, I tried it one day with a soup and just loved it! The meat is tender and juicy and I wish they’d serve the gravy together with the meat because I bet it’d be delicious on the rice.
I feel really greedy holding and chewing on this gigantic leg but hey, I’m PREGNANT – I’m eating for two. I get to look greedy! LOL
Luckily, I had it a few times because now, the restaurant seems to have a problem with their supplier. Each time I call to ask, they’ll say “dui bu qi” or “bu hau yi si”, my favourite “yang tui” isn’t available.
It’s been three weeks already…I hope that the leg of lamb/mutton goes back on the menu because I’d like to bring my visitor there next week. I certainly hope that we can try out the other dishes (perhaps not the sago worms) served at this “revolutionary” restaurant 🙂