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Return to the Familiar: Western Dining in Changchun

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Fine dining at Citron Vert, Changchun.
Fine dining at Citron Vert, Changchun.

From a culinary perspective, northeast China can be a bit of a shock to the palate of a Westerner. As a visitor or a resident, you soon realise that Chinese food here is worlds apart from the menu and options of the Chinese restaurants you're familiar with back in your home country.

Whether you're living in, or visiting Changchun, the novelty of trying street food, or taking a wild guess at what you are ordering in restaurants might never wear off, but there will come a time when you start craving for a little something that's not Chinese.

The diversity in the local dining scene in this bustling industrial city slowly continues to improve, with the emergence of some little gems that the relatively small expat population, together with a growing number of locals, are embracing as a plate of something lip-smackingly good.

Turkish Restaurant, Changchun.
Turkish Restaurant, Changchun.

1) Sufi -Turkish Restaurant 淑芬儿土耳其餐厅View In Map

Tucked away in Xiakang Hutong in Guilin Lu is the simply named "Sufi -Turkish Restaurant". Set up by a couple of Turkish nationals living in Changchun, and staffed by a few well-spoken local girls, this Mediterranean cum Middle East food oasis never disappoints.

Succulent bite size morsels of beef and chicken, either grilled on a metal stick or shaved off the rotating doner kebab, are always music to our taste buds, whether it's wrapped up in fresh lavash flat bread, or laid out on a plate with delicious fresh salads and a generous accompaniment of hummus. Or there's the egg and vegetable combination, with a similar texture to scrambled egg that comes to your table in a piping hot iron dish – a great tummy warmer on a cold winter's night.

If you're with a small or large group, one way to get a sample of everything on the menu is to share a selection of dishes, with some good choices for vegetarians as well, including stuffed capsicum, eggplant kebabs and soft fluffy Turkish rice.

If the traditional Turkish Sheesha pipe is your thing, or you'd like to try it for the first time, there's a range of tobacco varieties, including apple and mint. Additionally, there are a few Chinese and imported beers to choose from, or you can take your own bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal.

They have a small number of different dining areas, but if you are going in a large group, it's best to book ahead. Sufi Turkish Restaurant is pleasant for your wallet as well – the most we have paid for two of us, including a few beers, was around 150 RMB.

Add: Xikang Hutong, near Baihui Jie, Chaoyang District, Changchun
地址:长春市朝阳区西康胡同(近百汇街)
Tel: 0431 85625211
Opening hours: 11:00-23:00

2) Citron Vert 青柠餐厅 View In Map

Up towards the city centre, about five minutes walk from the Shangri-la Hotel, there is another newcomer to the Changchun dining scene. At a location once known as the Rose Garden on Jianhe Street in the Chaoyang District, Citron Vert has emerged as a breath of fresh air. With a simple, tasteful interior and a well thought out floor plan, both on the entry level and upstairs, this is a welcome haven from the noisy car horns and the traffic outside.

You can take in the space over a Lavazza espresso, tea or freshly squeezed juice, perhaps even stay for lunch, or come back after dark for dinner. Whatever time of the day you spend in these calm surrounds, usually with a chill out CD playing softly in the background, you'll feel like you're getting a little escape from China.

The menu varies slightly from lunch to dinner, with an impressive combo lunch special that includes a salad, a soup and a stone grilled piece of beef or chicken with vegetable accompaniments – all for around 75 RMB. The "Stone Grilled" selection is their specialty, with the meat arriving at your table on a hot plate where it sizzles away for a few minutes to complete the cooking process. A regular's tip – if you select beef, ask for it to be cooked medium in the kitchen, so you can finish it off to your liking at your table.

The beef, chicken and pork all simply melt in your mouth, with a diverse choice of seasonings and sauces to compliment your meat, like teriyaki, lime and a Thai style concoction that sits perfectly with the chicken. The stone grilled meat dishes range between 48 and 198 RMB – with the most expensive being a beef and prawn combination.

Vegetarians are also well catered for with a garlic-infused braised eggplant dish, a mixed mushroom stone grill, stir fried vegetables and bean curd. The carb lovers don't miss out at Citron Vert either, with a small choice of pasta and noodles on the menu, as well as a couple of standard varieties of pizza. The daily specials list might occasionally feature a new pizza topping combination – usually between 48 and 68 RMB.

The dessert list is simple, but oh-so delectable with smooth creamy gelato, egg tarts and an ever changing dessert of the day. We enjoyed a Tiramisu the last time we dined that could quite possibly rival Nonna's best in Italy.

As far as drinking goes, there is a small cocktail list, and a cosy little wine alcove upstairs where you can sit surrounded by a wine cellar at a high bench with friends (or on your own with a book) to take in a few glasses of red or white. Priced between 300 and 500 RMB, the wine list seems to be quite limited with a few Australian and European wines, but they are happy for you to bring your own bottle, charging 20 RMB to open it.

The wait staff is attentive, without being overbearing, and a few of them have a basic understanding of English, but with the menu in English and Chinese, the ordering process is pretty easy. If you're dining alone, there is a long bench on the ground floor that is also perfect for sitting at with your lap top or iPad – the staff will give you the password for the free wi-fi.

Whilst not cheap by Chinese standards, the Citron Vert dining experience is quite an affordable treat, whilst Sufi, the Turkish Restaurant potentially offers more for those on a tighter budget. So, if you're hankering for something that feels a little like home, and just something that's not Dongbei cuisine, these are the places of the moment to find it.

Add: 367 Jianhe Street, near Xi'an Dalu, Nanguan District, Changchun
地址:长春市南关区建和街367号(近西安大路)
Tel: 0431 88965367
Opening hours: 10:00-24:00

Bon Appetit!

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Keywords: foreign food Changchun Turkish food Changchun foreign restaurants in Changchun Citron Vert Changchun

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2 Comments ( Add your comment )

1
comment|35770|234437
downtown_david

I agree somewhat with the reviewer impression of Citron Vert. The food is usually good and the atmosphere is nice and comfortable in a very western way. It may be one of the best places in Changchun for a romantic dinner for 2. I disagree with @Majdi opinion of Sufi-Turkish Restaurant, since it has already closed maybe it doesnt matter but its a place that is sorely missed. The food was good and it was a very friendly place to go. It was often crowded at dinner with mostly expats but a few Chinese. Im not sure what he means that it "received the lowest rating among all foreign restaurants in this city". Lowest rating from who? (the reason for its closing is the owners reopened the restaurant in Dalian).

Feb 16, 2013 20:05
2
comment|29675|0
Majdi

I'm quite disappointed to feel that this site has more 'commercial' purpose rather than informative. The Turkish restaurant has received the lowest rating among all foreign restaurants in this city, which is a totally different introduction on this site.

I've never been to the Citron Vert, but after reading about the Turkish restaurant, I'm have no excitement to try it.

Jul 19, 2012 05:07

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