I arrived in Tianjin in 2006 before any of the modernization that accompanied the city's involvement in the Olympics had really begun to kick in. At that time, the roads were badly surfaced and dusty, the transport system inefficient and dirty, and the whole demeanor of the city something from China's darker years. This was also reflected in the city's cuisine. Finding a good meal was difficult. Of course, grabbing local dishes was no problem, but getting a good taste of home was nigh-on impossible, unless you were willing to settle for Pizza Hut. Thankfully, three years later, due to the city's rapid growth and the modernization brought by the Olympics, Tianjin's options are far better. It might not boast the variety of Beijing or Shanghai, but there are now plenty of high-quality non-Chinese restaurants.
YY BEER HOUSE 粤园餐厅
There are two excellent Thai restaurants in Tianjin, YY Beer House on Aomen Lu and Parkway Thai in the Isetan department store. Both have fantastically varied menus and offer stunning cuisine. So, why does YY’s edge out it’s slightly sleeker counterpart? There are two major reasons. The first is the atmospheric colonial surroundings. YY’s is situated on Aomen Lu in the old concession area of the city in a quaint European two-storey building, which, even though it has certainly seen better days, offers a colourful turn of the last century feel. Inside, a combination of crumbling paint, antique furniture and sepia-tinted maps hung on the walls, creates a wonderful rustic atmosphere. The second is the range of beers on offer. The two large fridges come stocked with standard offerings such as Tsingtao and Carlsberg as well as a great selection of international brews. These range from well-known international labels such as Tiger and Guinness, through to four or five varieties of Russia’s Baltika and the deliciously expensive Belgian beer Chimay. All of these come served in chilled metal mugs decorated with elephants in traditional Thai style.
YY BEER HOUSE 粤园餐厅View In Map
Add: 3 Aomen Lu, behind the International Building, Heping District, Tianjin
Tel: 022 2339 9634
At first, I was no great fan of Barwachi. The Shanggu complex in which it is housed is sleek, modern and highly sanitized, which somehow takes something away from the traditional Indian flavour – the walls are so white and the lighting so bright that you could easily be in an office. And on my first few visits, despite insisting to the waiter, chef and owner that I liked my curry spicy, every dish I ordered came out rather tame. However, after finally persuading the chef to take off the kid gloves, the food certainly provided enough flavour to make the whole place feel warm and inviting. The menu offers a wide variety of traditional curries from milder family favorites such as the korma, through to a powerful mutton vindaloo. Probably the strongest string to Barwachi’s bow, though, is it starters, appetizers and side dishes, which at times can provide a meal in themselves. The selection of naans and other breads is fantastic; served alongside the chicken tikka they make for a very special meal.
BAWARCHI 芭瓦琪印度餐厅View In Map
Add: 69, 3F, Shanggu Business Complex (West Building), Tianta Dao, Nankai District , Tianjian
Tel: 022 2341 2786 or 8998 5801
Were it not for the middle-aged security guard across the street with his trouser legs rolled up and belly exposed, enjoying dinner at Venezia could actually feel like you were in Italy – or, at the very least, in Shanghai’s concession area. Despite the local quirks, Venezia is by far Tianjin’s best Italian option, so much so that my ultra-picky Italian friends will actually eat there. Venezia provides some fantastic classic Italian dishes. The pizza is first class and some of the pasta dishes are truly stunning. The back-drop of the newly renovated Italian concession area of Tianjin is also wonderful. In its early days, the service was often slow and inefficient, with the staff often confusing orders and bringing the wrong dishes. However, in recent weeks, with the addition of a new manager, things have improved dramatically.
VENEZIA 威尼斯酒吧View In Map
Add: 58, Ziyou Dao, Former Italian Concession Area, Hebei District, Tianjin
Tel: 022 8761 3413 or 13132263763
STEAK FACTORY 牛扒工厂View In Map
In recent weeks this has become one of Tianjin’s hottest eateries. The main reason for this certainly isn’t the food, but rather the location, setting and entertainment on offer. This is not to say the food is bad, though it’s best described as “adequate” rather than “delicious” or “exciting”. Instead, Steak Factory has been grabbing plenty of attention because it is part of a new development along Xinkai Lu, recently transformed into a thriving entertainment complex. A 200m stretch of the road has been adorned with decking, parasols and railings to give it the feel of a European seaside town – the developers have even gone so far as to include life rings and small dingys. On most evenings, diners can sit and enjoy the ‘sea air’ to the accompaniment of live music played right outside the factory’s door.
Add: 1 F, Yuanyang Xintiandi, Xinkai Lu, Hedong District, 5mins from Tianjin Main Railway Station, Tianjin 天津河东区新开路远洋新天地底商(江西大厦对面)
Tel: 022 60896477
WEI HA PUB 韦哈酒吧View In Map
Situated way out in the Tianjin Economic Development Area, Wei Ha has long been a haunt for expat businessmen looking for a relaxed environment and good food. The menu is simple western fare, including favorites from across Europe and America. The Philly Cheese Steak and Hunter’s Delight sandwiches are both excellent as is the variety of pizza. However, equally as important is the warm, family atmosphere thanks to genuinely friendly and welcoming staff.
Add: Intersection of 2nd Avenue and Huanghai Lu, TEDA, Tianjin 天津第二大街和黄海路交口附近
Tel: 022 2529 3628
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