Friday, June 12, 2009

顺兴老茶馆 - Shun Xing Traditional Teahouse

Earlier this week I planned a lazy morning of visiting the Yong Ling Tomb museum and then whiling away an hour or so in a nearby teahouse. Shun Xing Teahouse happened to be not quite as nearby as it looked on the map though, and once I found the right street I walked past the building a couple of times before asking a parking attendant if he'd heard of it. He pointed me to an elevator in a huge shopping complex, the last place you would expect to find a teahouse. This door is right opposite a clothing department:

By the time I got there I was pretty hungry so got seated in the dining area. Though there is not much natural light, the bamboo tree in the middle of the room and the wooden tables and chairs do a good job of evoking a Chengdu teahouse.

What added even more to the teahouse atmosphere was the ear cleaner. These guys use long metal implements to clean out clients' ears, and stroll through tea houses rattling their tools together for advertising. (After you have been in Chengdu a while, you recognize the rattle of the ear cleaner and the ding-ding of the candy seller.) However, with just a few tables of customers this guy was more aggressive than most and tried to persuade me to engage his services as I looked at the menu. "Come on, it feels great! (挺舒服!)".

The menu at Shun Xing is much more restaurant than teahouse. They have many traditional dishes as well as a few with very high end ingredients, including the famous Ya'an cold water fish. I was more interested in the snacks (小吃). The snack set menus looked like way too much food, so I just ordered three snacks and a plate of kong xin cai.

A bowl of seasoned cold bean starch noodles (凉粉), fried sticky rice balls in sesame (糖油果子), and tea:

I ordered chao shou as well, and got two small dumplings that tasted a lot more like wontons than chao shou. The snacks were all quite standard, but about five times as expensive as comparable versions in the snack restaurants. If I'd known the portions were so tiny I would have ordered a few more. The kong xin cai tasted ok but I would expect a plate of greens costing Y20 to be a little more carefully prepared. The leaves were too limp and the stems had brownish spots.

The rice I asked for never came. The servers here are uniformed and professional, but the type that are very focused on doing their assigned tasks rather than paying attention to the customers. I wanted to order more snacks, but after seeing the ladies at the next table have trouble flagging down a server to pay their bill I decided not to bother.

The interior and decor is very elaborate, with 3D murals in the walls and many displays of traditional Sichuanese crafts and artifacts. The place is really worth visiting for the interior alone, and in the evenings they have Sichuan opera performances as well. Geese by the pond:

顺兴老茶馆 沙湾路258号成都国际会展中心3楼

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