The Missus and I attempted to hit at least one restaurant that featured well known local cuisine in each city. In Suzhou it was easy to find. Right off the inevitable Guan Qian Jie was a location of De Yue Lou, a Suzhou institution. De Yue Lou was originally founded during the Ming Dynasty under Emperor Jiajing.
If you're walking at night, you can't miss this location......
My goodness...... Vegas eat your heart out!
During the day the place looks a bit more subdued. The Missus and I decided to have lunch here since we figured it would be less crowded....plus we'd already done a good bit of walking and were famished.
This was one of those multi-level monstrous restaurants that we came across everywhere in China.
We were seated away from the crowds on the second floor overlooking the street.
Even more monstrous than the restaurant was the appallingly bad service.....bad even by Chinese standards. With nothing to motivate the young Servers who seemed to want to be somewhere else.....they would forget things, and not care if you complained about it....in fact they would complain about you having to ask for rice four times! There's no reward for doing a good job, no tips, demanding customers....so it seems that the attitude is to do the least, and disappear whenever possible. I could use words like apathetic, dismissive, but 'nuff said.
The menu is quite large........ and even includes this blurb in English.
Wanting to develop a baseline, we started with a Suzhou standard, the "Smoked Fish" which we always seem to get in places that serve "Su Cai" (Jiangsu cuisine), Huiyang cuisine, and even a good number of Shanghainese restaurants in the DGV.
Strangely, the flavor of this was very close to what we get at Chin's on Miramar Road, perhaps a bit sweeter, and much more tender....but very close!
There was one dish I wanted to try in Suzhou:
It was the Song Shu Gui Yu (松鼠桂鱼), the Squirrel Shaped Mandarin Fish. Versions we've had of this had always been really sweet, and not very good. But this was Suzhou.......
They should use this as signage during the evening as it looked glowing neon red...... as it arrived, it gave us both a start, bringing on memories of the gloppy-teeth aching sweet, artificial tasting sweet sour stuff served all over the place in the states. But it was not.....there was a light, complex and fruity sweetness, the fish was lightly fried, airy and crisp, almost melting in your mouth.
This was delicious, and we finished every thing we could......
The vegetables were also perfectly prepared.
Bai He (Lily Bulb), mildly starchy and sweet, the bittermelon added a good bitter contrast, but was also nice and crisp. The red peppers were sweet, and the cloud ears added an earthy flavor, grounding the dish.