Saturday, November 12, 2011

Two Ginkgoes

Among the last things I ate on a recent trip back to the home country were sashimi and a cocktail at Guu. Guu is a very popular Vancouver based family of Japanese izakaya - the kind of restaurant that does small plates to go with drinks.

When I got back to Chengdu and glanced at the business card I'd picked up from Guu, I was fairly stunned to see that Guu has a China location within walking distance from my home in Chengdu, of all places.

I noticed on the card that Guu shares an address and an expensive phone number (nearly all 8s) with Ginkgo Jingge. Ginkgo is a family of restaurants in Chengdu with each branch having its own specialty.  Ginkgo Jingge, near the Rainbow bridge, is best known for dim sum. On arriving, I couldn't find any sign of Guu though the staff assured me I was at the right place and handed me a dim sum menu. A server eventually led me to another section of the restaurant, with very few people, and came up with a menu card which featured some dishes from Guu. When I asked for drinks they only offered me fruit juice.

There were no staff behind the bar and the atmosphere was extremely quiet. The server eventually found an English speaking staff member who explained they do have some dishes from Guu, and the Japanese chef from there visits every few months. However, they do not offer cocktails at the Guu in Ginkgo. Also, the energetic staff greetings and informal buzz of a place like Guu in Vancouver is nothing like the atmosphere in a large, stately, restaurant like Ginkgo. Once we got over expecting a local Guu, we tried a few of the dishes.

Salmon sushi, OK.

This seared fish salad was beautiful, but the dressing was really lacking something.

This beef salad was the only real hit among the dishes we ordered. We both loved the dressing.

This boneless stuffed and grilled chicken wing was tasty and we liked that they provided some vegetation on the side, but the dish came off feeling a bit overdone to us. I mean, it's a chicken wing and I was supposed to be in a bar. 

Since this branch of Ginkgo is best known for its dim sum, which would cost about half the amount we paid per person, we'll ask for the dim sum menu on our next visit.

A couple of weeks later we got to try the dim sum at Ginkgo Chuntian, the newest member of the Ginkgo family at the Guanghua Village branch of Renhe Chuntian department store.

The first thing to land on the table were small bowls of pickles and spicy shredded chicken. They were fantastic, but the chicken was far too assertive of an introduction to delicate Cantonese food. 

Their durian pastry was super simple: fresh durian scooped into a pastry shell. Very nice.

Fish slice congee. Congee is a must order if we go for dim sum and theirs is great.

Shrimp dumplings, nicely steamed and with firm shrimp filling. Liked a lot.

Turnip cake, a little soft to my taste, but a decent rendition.

Firm-skinned dumplings filled with gingery, piping hot soup:

We didn't get to try a lot of the dishes we wanted to, but will be back.

Ginkgo Jingge is absolutely beautiful inside and is a restaurant to impress with.  Their servers are very polished but lack the warm, enthusiastic hospitality that characterizes very good Sichuan style service. Ginkgo Chuntian has the buzz you would expect from a new restaurant, and the servers were obviously not as experienced, but had the local 'reqing' and we felt better taken care of.  They were also enforcing the no smoking policy, while at Jingge customers were puffing away freely. We would go back to Chuntian first.

Ginkgo Jingge:

Ginkgo Chuntian:  

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