TEDA's Third Avenue

TEDA's Third Avenue
By Mike Cormack , eChinacities.com

For foreigners living in Tianjin, TEDA is a little mysterious. TEDA, though considered part of Tianjin, is forty kilometres away, or forty minutes by light rail, and has numerous distinct characteristics.

There are more Western-style bars, with numerous foreigners in who are more likely to be engineers than English teachers. Gleaming new buildings flank the clean lines of the broad avenues and there isn’t a mass density of people as found downtown. The cars are bigger and the atmosphere appears wealthier, even more so than the Nanjing Road/Yinkou Dou shopping epicentre.

One of the main dining and nightlife areas is centred near 3rd Avenue, or Di San Dajie. Between Nanhai Lu and Xicheng Xi Lu junctions there are a wide variety of bars and restaurants, as well as a few large, well-known shops. Let’s look at what they’ve got on offer.

Baiyi Teppanyaki
For those who haven’t experienced teppanyaki yet, the diners sit in a horseshoe shape around a chef frying or steaming their choices on a large hot plate. For 150 RMB per person (which includes a 50 RMB voucher for the next time you visit), you can choose as much food and drink as you like. The range in Baiyi is excellent, with tender steaks, oysters, sushi, shark, chicken wings and prawns amongst the meat choices, while you can also have green beans, mushrooms and rice dishes. The experience of the chef cooking your food in front of you, with the aroma wafting around, certainly gets the stomach juices flowing! Drinks include red wine, beers (mostly Qingdao, bottled), sake and various fruit juices and sodas.

Each hotplate can seat up to eighteen diners, meaning that if there a few of you, you may be seated next to other groups. Baiyi’s look is a sensuous mix of hot red and black and the service is prompt, though not always efficient – you may not always get what you ordered the first time – but you can always order more!

Dublin Irish Bar
What’s are Ireland’s main exports? U2 and Guinness, obviously, as well as Boyzone and Westlife, plus, of course, Irish theme bars. You think of Ireland and you think of cosy bars, with wooden tones, fireplace and a fantastic selection of draft ales. The Dublin Irish Bar might lack a fireplace, but it’s got the other parts down. The range of draft beers is excellent and includes Guinness, Bodingtons, Stella and Qingdao, as well as a fine selection of spirits to choose from. The food is mostly standard bar grub with plenty of burgers, pizza and pasta, but there’s also steaks, fish, burritos and other hearty fare – plenty to line the stomach with. The bar has a pool table, darts board, big screens showing sports and bands playing on the weekend.

Thai restaurants in Tianjin are few in number, but the ones that do exist are well worth the visit. Sawasdee is a case in point. Its décor is warm though not overly cosy, with white walls backlit with orange lighting and a decking-clad ceiling. Various Buddhist figures and beautifully framed pictures of Thailand’s exquisite scenery give a visual taste of the nation.

The pictured menu is divided into starters, mains, curries, seafood, soups, vegetables, rice and noodles, and puddings. The food comes well presented and of a high standard; the biggest problem is choosing which dishes to have! The drinks selection is reasonable but not extensive, with only Chinese wine and a moderate selection of spirits and beers, but service is prompt and efficient. Take-away menus have an Indian section, with vindaloos, naans, bhunas, and madrases, though these are oddly not on the restaurant menu, which is unfortunate as there is now no Indian restaurant in TEDA. Prices are pleasantly comparable to a Thai restaurant in Europe, around 120 RMB per person.

JPT Pizza and Champion Pizza
Do you like your pizza mediocre? JPT Pizza and Champion Pizza, almost next door to each other, offer a similar level of average pizza, albeit in different ways. JPT has a clean but slightly chintzy look, with white patterned paper, dark beads hanging from lights, and an S-shaped sofa with tables at either curve in the middle - though rest at least are regular four-seaters. However, the pizza is fair to middling at best. Champion Pizza on the other hand looks somewhat more inviting, with rich red walls and clean seats. The service on the other hand is, in my experience, consistently poor.

Babi Club
If you like your nightclubs shiny, mirror-filled and dazzling, with hip-hop and electro-funk, plus dancers and performers, then Babi is your place. Open from 9 pm till late, it is mostly attended by young, local Chinese, though it does catch a smattering of ex-pats in the later hours. Babi has numerous small bars, and sofas and tables are scattered across its two floors – be beware, if you go on the weekend, you have to pre-buy a certain amount of alcohol to sit at them. Orange-shirted members of staff attend patrons attentively but unskilfully – which will come as no real surprise to anyone with experience of Chinese bars.

Does what it says on the tin. It’s on two storeys, with the upper floor looking out onto the Nanhai Lu junction, which is spectacular.

As well as those mentioned above, this stretch of 3rd Avenue has the supermarket Ren Ren Le, the toiletries store Watsons, a McDonalds, and numerous Chinese restaurants from hotpot to Sichuan. If you’re in Tianjin – take a trip to TEDA. It’s worth the ride!

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