James G's Profile

Title Last Reply

Where's Chang?

Thanks, CEB, but since I'm in Beijing it's highly unlikely that I'll be visiting Chef Chang anytime soon. My inquiry about the dish is because it's one that I really liked but that I have never, ever seen anywhere in China. I've found something similar at a Xinjiang style place behind my apartment, but it uses lamb in place of beef, and thin "mandarin-style" pancakes in place of whatever it was that was used with the Chen Cang beef recipe.

Mar 19, 2010
James G in Mid-Atlantic

South Island recommendations?

Well, I'm back from my trip, and I had some amazing meals and some other less amazing (but never ever bad) meals. Among the highlights:

Oamaru: Lovely town, with amazing food at Fleur's (south of town) and Riverstone (north)
Cromwell: We had an outstanding meal at Feast in the Cromwell Mall; unpromising location but the food was sublime
Dunedin: Excellent food in a quirky setting at Plato
Blenheim: Wonderful food (not such wonderful service) at Gibb's, and nice simpler food at Wairau Winery
Christchurch: One of the best meals of our trip at Restaurant Schwass

We loved NZ so much that we are now contemplating buying a house in Oamaru (our favorite town)!

Mar 01, 2010
James G in Australia/New Zealand

Where's Chang?

I'm curious to know whether he has the Chen Cang beef (dry-cooked diced beef served in little steamed buns). Anyone see it on his menu?

Mar 01, 2010
James G in Mid-Atlantic

South Island recommendations?

I'll be traveling the South Island (of NZ, natch) in Feb for nearly three weeks, and would love any recommendations Chowhounds can give me for places to find interesting, exquisite or otherwise worthwhile chow. Thanks!

Jan 24, 2010
James G in Australia/New Zealand

Meat & Wine: A Mini-Review

Meat & Wine is one of the restaurants in the Ch'ien Men 23 complex (also home to Maison Boulud and Sadler's). It's part of a South Africa-based chain of restaurants (that is now run from Australia) that serves an impressive array of dishes that include a few South African specialities (boerewors, biltong, etc) though the majority of the dishes would be familiar to diners from anywhere in the West.

The dining room is nicely decorated, simple, with an open kitchen in the rear. Service is friendly, though, as is typical in Beijing, it's clear that, no matter how well the staff have been trained by the restaurant owners, the fact that most of them have never actually dined in a similar restaurant makes their approach very awkward and intrusive when it need not be.

The menu includes a couple of set menus for RMB 388 and RMB 588 (if memory serves), each comprising three courses and offering a choice of two dishes for each course. There are also sampler platters to be shared by either two or four diners, giving people who are new to the restaurant an opportunity to try out a broader range of dishes than would otherwise be possible. The night I was there, we were four people, and two of us had the RMB 388 set menus while the other two shared the platter for two (though, interestingly, after the third of us ordered that platter for two, the waitress still asked the fourth diner what he'd be having...). Although we expected the sampler to be enormous and difficult to finish, it was in fact just the right size, offering enough of everything that it included to afford a decent sample, but not so much that you wound up feeling like you'd overdone it.

The wine list is very sizable, and includes a good range of South African wines (though no Shiraz from SA for some reason). However, the wines are surprisingly expensive, much more so than in other restaurants, though the wines are generally of a very high calibre.

We really enjoyed the meal, and would go again, though now that we have sampled a bunch of dishes we'd probably order a la carte in the future. If you go, the steaks (there are several types) are among the standouts for me, along with the salt and pepper fried calamari. And the molten chocolate cake was a pretty darn good way to finish the meal.

Nov 01, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Just Moved to Beijing - Seeking Solo/Takeout Dining Info

Welcome to the neighborhood! I live in the same area (and am also from NYC!), and there are loads of places to go for solo food. If you don't speak Chinese, it's a bit harder, but if you're a bit outgoing, and willing to eat whatever come to you, you'll be able to get good food by going in to some of the places nearby and just pointing at things that other diners are eating. For example, there's a great Chengdu Xiaochi (Chengdu Snack) place on the same street that April Gourmet is on, a bit closer to Chunxiu Lu and on the north side of the street. There, for Y5 or so, you can get a bowl of dan dan noodles (dan dan mian in Chinese) or other one-dish meals. In fact, since nothing on the menu is "challenging" (no guts or weird things) you could really just point at anything at random on the menu and do just fine.

Nov 01, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Authentic Vietnamese in Beijing?

There is not much in the way of good Vietnamese in Beijing. Muse has its fans (and they have a new location in Sanlitun), and there is Nuage in Houhai, but I don't think either of them is as good as what you can find in the DC metro area (not to mention Vietnam).

Oct 17, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Peking Duck for solo diner in Beijing

If you are looking for a true Chow experience, I'd recommend the Golden Lily (Jin Bai He), on Gongti Nanlu, opposite the north gate of the Chaoyang Hospital. They will serve a half-duck if you like, and it is a very homey place--no pretense at all. A full duck is only RMB 88, and it's easily one of the better ducks I have had in Beijing (where I live). Also, never an issue of waiting to get in, and they serve the duck with excellent seasonings, including a garlic mash and crisp apple strips--this is the only place I have seen this, but it really suits the duck very well.

Dadong is also a good choice, but it's a bit touristy and overdone to my taste.

Oct 17, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

China Trip Report - Beijing, Shanghai, Jiuzhaigou, Sangke Grasslands

They've edited the menu, so "shredded ass meat" is now longer the translation being used.

Sep 01, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

China Trip Report - Beijing, Shanghai, Jiuzhaigou, Sangke Grasslands

Noodle Loft is ideally suited for lunch (that's what we took Steve there to eat), and Three Guizhou Men is also fine for lunch, though if you prefer a lighter lunch it may not be ideal.

Sep 01, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Where are the best local restaurants in Beijing, China?

So many places in Beijing nowadays have photomenus that you should be able to make out what something is made of before ordering (and usually there is writing in English letters under the photos, though they often cannot charitably be called "English" words...).

Jun 12, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

Here's my email just in case you're around: jlginbj(at)me(dot)com

May 12, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

I arrive on Thursday, May 14. Are you in town then?

May 12, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

Thanks; I contacted Majeka House and they have availability though I'm not sure when/where we'll be in the Stellenbosch area; also found a place called Klein Genot in Franschhoek that sounds very appealing, and I'm leaning rather toward spending more time in the Franschhoek area.

May 08, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Recommendations for Xi'an Dining

In response to an enquiry from a poster on the Africa board here are some suggestions for dining in Xi'an:

Xi'an is most famous for it's noodles, dumplings and street food. There is a fantastic night market (also open in the daytime, but most exciting at night) in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque, where most of the street foods can be easily had. In all the trips I have had to Xi'an I have always eaten at this market and never had any health issues. In particular try the liang pi (cold rice noodles mixed with vegetables and a sesame-based sauce), rou jia mo (round breads filled with succulent beef or lamb), biang biang mian (excellent wide wheat noodles with a spicy beef sauce), yang rou pao mo (lamb soup into which you break Xi'an's flat bread to make sort of dumplings). Be sure also to try the dried fruits and nuts and the various nut candies, which demonstrate that Xi'an still remembers the traders who came via the silk road, bringing Middle Eastern treats with them.

Among restaurants, De Fa Chang, on the main road just to the east of the entry to the night market, is "the" place to go for Xi'an's rather touristy "dumpling feast", an entire meal consisting of nothing but dumplings (you choose how many courses you'll get, and the level of fanciness of the fillings, and it can be surprisingly expensive). It's OK if you're into dumplings, but honestly it does get to be too much and the restaurant is so touristy that it has become a mecca for thieves (my camera got stolen while there last October; the cops said it happens all the time).

At the terracotta soldiers there are a few restaurants that serve quite good local cuisine, though the menus are only in Chinese and no one speaks anything but Chinese (and many speak only local dialect at that). But they have been very friendly and since they're so surprised to see foreigners they really bend over backwards to make you happy. There are also vendors on the parking lot grounds who sell the meat sandwich things and the rice noodles and other typical street foods.

May 07, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Where are the best local restaurants in Beijing, China?

Three Guizhou Men is an excellent choice (there are four locations, including one across from the Silk Market on Dongdaqiao, and another in the multi-storey restaurant building on Worker's Stadium West Road behind Bellagio) if you like spicy food that you won't easily find outside of China. Not touristy at all. Also you might like Noodle Loft, which has two locations, one on Xidawang Lu south of Jian'guo lu, and the other on Andingmen south of the third ring road. Very authentic Shanxi style noodles and other dishes.

For art, you might try the Liulichang art street, which is to the west of Qianmen, just south of Hepingmen subway station.

May 07, 2009
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

Rather than get yelled at for putting off-topic posts here, I'll post some ideas on the China board. But do I assume correctly that you have been here before, and thus are not looking to try much in the way of authentic Chinese food?

May 07, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

Wow, thanks for the tips! You mention autumn like that's a bad thing; is there something wrong with autumn in South Africa?? If I can offer any tips for you on Beijing, Shanghai or Xi'an don't hesitate to let me know!

May 07, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Recommendations for Cape Wine Country

We're heading from our home in China to South Africa for a few weeks one week from today, and will include a few days in the Franschhoek/Stellenbosch area while there. Since good food and wine will be one of our objectives on this trip, I wonder if anyone can provide any guidance on places to be sure to try to visit. If you have advice on lodgings in the area, so much the better!

May 06, 2009
James G in Middle East & Africa

Bangkok Chow Report

I just returned from a quickish trip to Bangkok and thought I would post my thoughts on some of the places where we ate for the benefit of others.

Naj: Our concierge recommended this place when I asked him for a restaurant where he would take his own family. I have serious doubts that he would ever actually do so, since there were very few Thais here (though there seemed to be a lot of expats there) and it was rather pricy, but nevertheless the food was pretty good. The setting is a nice restored old house on Convent Road across from the Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital and the service, though slow (abominably so, in my opinion) was friendly. Laab with duck was very good, as was the chicken with green curry and basil.

Curries & More: A friend who lives in Bangkok took us here one evening and it turned out to be surprisingly good. It's right near the Conrad Hotel off of Wireless Road, and has a remarkably extensive menu. The soft shelled crab curry was excellent, as was the chicken in pandanus leaves. Also a very big wine list, though we did not partake.

Old Siam Food Court: During a walk around Chinatown we got hit by a rainstorm just around lunchtime so we ducked in here. On the 3rd floor was an old-style food court that reminded me of a Singaporean hawker center. No English whatsoever was spoken here, or otherwise in evidence, but the vendors were very friendly and eager to help us out. Through the miracle of pointing and smiling we all managed to get a range of interesting and delicious food for ridiculously low prices. Unfortunately I could not even begin to tell you what these dishes were called!

Wat Phra Kaew Ferry Terminal Market: This is the market just in front of the closest ferry terminal to the Wat/Grand Palace. There are loads of vendors here, each of whom has something different. I grabbed a little roasted banana leaf filled with sweet rice and fruit and a bag of unripe mango with a side of chili paste and sugar. The sweet rice thing was just sweet enough and just the right size for a quick sweet tooth, while the fruit with chili was a gustatory revelation! The chili paste was an intriguing mix of spicy, salty and sweet, and was a perfect foil for the sourish sweet taste of the green mango. I must figure out how to make this chili paste myself!

Khrua Rommai: The best meal of the trip, the last meal of the trip, and the only one that was attributable to other 'hounds! I was looking for something authentic and rustic for our last meal, and this sounded promising, based on the review that another 'hound posted some time ago. Getting there took some doing, since our hotel was lightyears away, but it was well worth the effort! The restaurant is in a garden setting in a residential street near Sukhumvit (on Sukhumvit Soi 36, actually) and is run by a lovely family who are very helpful, given their limited English. The menu is broad and features Isaan (northeastern Thai) cuisine. The stir-fried morning glory was exceptional, as was the chicken lab and the chicken pa hot curry. The only uninteresting dish was nam prik moon (simply poached vegetables with a green chili paste). Definitely get the sticky rice (as opposed to normal long-grained rice) to accompany!

Oct 04, 2008
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Chaoyang District, Beijing

There is a good restaurant within short walking distance of you: Ba Guo Bu Yi is one of the city's leading Sichuan places and it's right on the Third Ring Road, just above the AVIC. Also not far away is Noodle Loft, which is on Xi Da Wang Lu, maybe a 15 minute walk from you. They serve great Shanxi style noodles, made in a large open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant. Both these places have English menus, with pictures.

If you want more suggestions, let me know.

Jul 29, 2008
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Beijing--Maison Boulud

Thanks for the input; I have also been to CRU (for a special dinner organized for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, of which I'm a member) and thought it was good, though not great, but I would like to go back for just a regular steak some day. I have been going to Chef Too for steaks for a little while, but find that they are way overrated and that it is far easier for me to make a steak the way I like at home.

Blu Lobster holds no appeal for me, but Le Pre Notre sounds interesting. I usually try to avoid hotel restaurants, though, so it may be a while before I get there. Buffets are an exception, and I have been to the Ritz for its buffet (again, as part of an event I was attending) and it was excellent. The Westin is also supposed to have a good buffet, though I have not yet been.

I have not been to Aria, but used to like South Beauty, though I know very well that good, authentic Sichuan can be had much better and cheaper at a zillion other places. Since I'm a Chinese speaker, that is also not a problem for me, but sometimes SB is a good place to take a squeamish (or snooty) visitor.

I have been to Duck de Chine, and liked the space, but the menu and the duck left me disappointed. Far better, though far less attractive, is Jin Bai He (Golden Lily) not far from there. And I am not a member of the Din Tai Fung fan club, since I find their dumplings way overpriced for what you get, and I go often enough to Shanghai that I can get my fix at any number of down-and-dirty xiaolongbao-erias there.

Thanks a lot for the tips!!

Jul 29, 2008
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Chaoyang District, Beijing

It's a huge district, probably the largest in the city. Can you narrow it down a bit?

Jul 22, 2008
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Beijing--Maison Boulud

My partner and I had dinner last night at MB in the newly opened Legation Quarter complex just east of Tian'anmen Square. This is of course owned by Daniel Boulud, and has been a much-anticipated addition to the Beijing dining scene. I am very pleased to report that, based on our meal, it should be a smashing success.

First of all the setting--the restaurant is housed in a building that once formed part of the US mission to China under the Qing Dynasty, built in 1903. The renovation looks lovely, and as you enter the restaurant you come into a large reception hall with an impressive double staircase at the back, with the reception desk to the left. Further to the left, through a doorway, is the bar area, with lots of sleek looking tables and chairs and a nice, though smallish, bar. Judging by the cocktails we had, the bartender was trained overseas, since the drinks were both sizable and prepared perfectly (both rare in Beijing, I find).

On the right side of the building is the dining room, with probably around 25 or so tables, decorated so that it would not look out of place in New York or London. We were presented with a drinks menu (this is where we had our cocktails) and then dinner menus, both of which had a very nice selection. The dinner menu includes a prix fixe selection at RMB 428, but we did not pay it much attention, so I do not remember what was on it. The starters on the a la carte menu had a good range of dishes, including foie gras, duck liver, and such, though we opted for an Alaskan King Crab salad with mango and a grilled scallop dish, both of which were excellent. Main courses include several fish options, though we chose cumin-coated lamb ribs and a beef prepared two ways--braised and roasted, and again both were excellent.

It was after our appetizers arrived (while we were still drinking our cocktails) that we realized we had not seen a wine list, so we called the sommelier over. The wine list is extensive, with wines from all over (including some Chinese wines--wonder if anyone will ever order them?), and we chose an Amarone della Valpolicella. Wine prices are a bit steep, I would have to say.

We were not so impressed by the dessert selection, but figured we had to have something, it being a birthday dinner, so we shared a dish of milk chocolate bavaroise served with a puff pastry filled with homemade walnut ice cream--very nice, though nothing I feel like I'd have to order again.

When the bill came, I was a bit surprised by the total, but it turns out that they had charged us for a Tignanello, and not the Amarone we had ordered (which raised our bill by RMB 600, or close to $100). The sommelier fixed it, but I was a bit surprised that they did not offer more of an apology than they did. Still, I was favorably disposed to the place, so did not want to make more of it than it deserved. Our bill in the end was around RMB 2600, or close to $400, half of which was the wine.

The maitre d' is a Belgian who had worked at Boulud's restaurants in NYC and who has been here now for five months. It seems that he has worked successfully to train the wait staff pretty well, though a few kinks remain (such as not delivering the wine list with our menus). We will definitely go back.

Also in the compound, by the way, is a Patek Philippe shop, so if you have money left over after dinner, you can spend it there.

Jul 21, 2008
James G in China & Southeast Asia

Southside 815 in Alexandria - Report

I happen to live in China (as I believe Soup does, too), and am also very familiar with the Chinese food scene in the US (having lived many years in NYC and the DC suburbs) and while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I am afraid to tell you it's just wrong... Perhaps you were taken around by a tour guide who took you to "tourist-friendly" places, or otherwise were led astray, but believe me, Chinese food in China is infinitely better--at any price--than "Chinese" food in the US.

Jul 20, 2008
James G in Washington DC & Baltimore

Wasabi Tobiko at home

I am trying to make a dish that requires wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe that has been steeped in wasabi so that it is very green and has quite a kick). But I live in China, where all I can find is the orange kind with no wasabi. I can also find wasabi, so I was wondering if anyone knew whether I could just mix the orange tobiko with the wasabi to approximate the stuff I'm looking for? What do you think?

May 27, 2008
James G in Home Cooking

Chicago So Far

Interesting, since my experience of the veal chop was that it was amazingly flavorful, and complex. Perhaps it's a different preparation from what you had?

Mar 13, 2008
James G in Chicago Area

hyatt regency downtown area

I have just been in Chicago attending a conference at the Hyatt and have had pretty much all my meals within a very small radius of the hotel. If you look for my user name (James G) you'll find my reviews of Cafe Spiaggia, North Pond, Trattoria No. 10, Vermilion, Aigre Doux and Frontera Grill, all of which were very good at the very least and some (Spiaggia and North Pond) exceptional.

Mar 13, 2008
James G in Chicago Area

Chicago So Far

As requested, here's my review of my last few meals in Chicago:

Frontera Grill: I had an excellent meal at FG with two Chicagoan friends, who apparently know the place very well. The only disappointment for me was my decision to have a blood orange margarita instead of the Topolo one, demonstrating that blind adherence to a bias for something is bound to trip you up eventually. But the food was great, starting with the Trio, Trio, Trio combination of seviches, and having an amazingly rich and complex Pato en Mole de Chabacano (red chile-rubbed wood-grilled Gunthorp duck breast in savory red chile-apricot mole with chipotle mashed potatoes and Three Sisters Garden "shoots" salad). Excellent!

Aigre Doux: the friends who took me to FG recommended AD instead of going to Topolobampo, so I made a lunch reservation there, taking one of my Chinese colleagues along for the experience. I had the celery root and chanterelle raviolis to start, followed by the pan-seared halibut with fingerling potatoes, swiss chard and roasted tomato vinaigrette. We were told not to miss the sticky toffee pudding dessert, so we ordered one of these to share, too. I liked the food very much, though the raviolis were served under-heated (they replaced the dish readily) and the dessert I found very disappointing--nothing like the sticky toffee pudding that I am used to in the UK.

Finally, a solo dinner at Vermilion. The menu was a bit hard to navigate, but a waitress helped me out--in the end we chose a starter of duck vindaloo arepa brushed pomegranate molasses and a main of pistachio crusted veal chop roasted in mexican classic hierbos de olor, on channa saag with chaat onion rings. The former was a bit of an anti-climax, but the latter was fantastic. Truly deserves having been named one of Chicago's top dishes by Chicago Magazine.

Thanks for your tips!!

Mar 12, 2008
James G in Chicago Area

Chicago So Far

I meant to write that it was the Cafe for dinner (we had the wine at the restaurant proper). And I have come to the same conclusion re Topo for dinner tonight; instead I've made a reservation for Vermilion, and plan to go to Aigre Doux for lunch.

Mar 12, 2008
James G in Chicago Area