The Banyan Tree has opened a Chinese style resort on the outskirts of the Xixi Wetlands. The resort has created an elegant pairing of nature and classical Chinese style architecture. Arching bridges give access to the spacious villas scattered around the property. Nestled in the heart of the villas, is the new Chinese restaurant the Bai Yun. Serving 80% Hangzhou cuisine and 20% Cantonese cuisine, this small, tucked away restaurant is where good things are happening.
Upon entering the small restaurant, we were greeted by a long tea table. It looks like an ideal place for a group to sit and enjoy some Longjing tea as they learn about the process of creating good tea. We opted to sit outside on the wraparound porch, so we could enjoy the Chinese architecture and reflecting pools while we ate our food.
The BFIC crew was joined by the head chef, Simon Chen. The native Hangzhounese Chef is a traditionalist at heart, and seeks to make his dishes as authentic as possible. This talented chef has been cooking in fine restaurants for more than 15 years. His desire to cook purely Chinese food prompted his move to the Bai Yun. He has put together a menu of delicious classical dishes. Chef Simon told me that to create a new dish is one type of difficulty, but to perfect a dish that already exists, this is the real challenge. He personally selected four dishes for us to try.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall Soup
To start us off, we each had a simple brown ceramic dish set down in front of us. The little Buddha on top gave us a hint as to what we would find inside. Lifting the lid, we found the traditional Buddha Jumps Over the Wall Soup, a must for banquets and formal occasions. This classic soup has 10 ingredients. They are each carefully layered into the ceramic soup bowl and then steamed for 12 hours, making everything soft and flavourful. Each bite is a treasure trove, as layer after layer is revealed. Starting with shark fin, there is fish maw, abalone, dried scallop, pig tendon, snail, calipash, sea cucumber, pigeon egg, mushroom and it all ends where it started with a bite of shark fin. The clear brown broth is slightly sweet, and left a nice sticky feeling on my lips. The rich soup was not too heavy and felt healthy to eat. I was told it is very good for your skin.
Soon, another piping hot ceramic dish was set before each of us. Removing the lid revealed the Hangzhou traditional dish Dongpo Pork. This slow cooked pork is tender and rich. It was prepared in a sweet sauce (which includes sugar, salt and soy sauce) and then cooked for four hours. The perfectly balanced bite can be created by taking an equal portion of the pork meat and fat with the sauce and rice. By the time I had finished it, I was already quite full and wondering if I could handle any more dishes.
Stir-fried Wetland Lichen with Hangzhou Chili and Egg
The dish that followed was another traditional dish that people actually cook in their homes: Stir-fried Wetland Lichen with Hangzhou Chili and Egg. This is a version of light scrambled eggs, salted pork, mildly hot green peppers, and lichen. It was seasoned with garlic and pure rape seed oil. There was a very nice balance of flavours with no one ingredient standing out over another. It was simple and delicious, and a nice light dish after the other heavier dishes we had tried.
The Secret Dish
The final dish is a restaurant favourite, and does not actually appear on the menu. This secret dish is served at the banquets held at the Banyan Tree, but unless you know about this dish and order it ahead of time, you will not be able to try what the BFIC crew unanimously agreed to be the best dish. Braised Chicken and Abalone with soy sauce, is slow cooked for four hours, allowing the meats to become tender and the juices to fuse together. It is served in a light, sweet sauce made from rice wine, local soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. We did not want this dish to end. Slowly savouring each bite, we repeatedly dipped the succulent pieces of meat into the sauce in an effort to maximize the flavours we were enjoying so much. Once we ran out of meat, we used rice to mop up every last drop of the addictive sauce. It's 128 RMB per person for this dish. Be sure to call at least four hours ahead to order it: 571 8586 0000 ext 7283.
Dishes are all personal sized, and, as expected, a great deal of care goes into each one. The excellent menu is in English and Chinese, and the staff members are also bilingual. You can go to enjoy the wonderful food, but be warned, you may find yourself wanting to check yourself into the Banyan Tree for a full day or two of pampering.
Service quality: very good
Food quality: excellent
Price per head (RMB): 400-500
Add: 2 Westbrook Resort, 21 Zijingang Lu, Hangzhou
Tel: 571 8586 000 ext 7283
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Keywords: Traditional Chinese food in Hangzhou traditional Hangzhou cuisine good Chinese food in Hangzhou Bai Yun restaurant in Hangzhou
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