When in China, eat Chinese food

Eschew the "Spaghetti Bolognaise".  Venture not unto the "Russian Bortsch".  And under no circumstances sample the "Cheese Burger".  But get the "Beef Brisket Noodles In Soup" for $10 and you'll eat it all and order it again later.

I didn't need to be reminded of this, really, but in the past the Baolilai has done a damn fine steak.  Not this time.  It was gristly and gelatinous - on the cool side of rare when I'd requested medium rare - and cost $34 for an 8oz cut.  The revolving buffet restaurant on the 24th floor has slipped too.  When I was here in 2010 I gorged myself on the raw bar.  Shellfish, sushi, this is a port town and it was all pretty close to nature.  They still put out a half dozen kinds of small whole fish which they'll grill for you on the spot, and that's really lovely, but the raw selection has dwindled.

I've been eating lunch at my company's cantinas.  The system goes like this.  If you're a production worker, you live in the dormitories and you get an allowance for three meals a day at the cantinas.  If you're an office worker, you get one meal.  There are two cantinas; the downstairs one has spicy food and the upstairs one is less spicy.  Downstairs you get what a westerner might expect:  chunks that are more bone than meat; thin broth; lots of rice; and vegetables that are mostly preserved rather than fresh.  The upstairs cantina, though ... honestly if I got that food from a sit-down Chinese restaurant in the US, I'd be very happy.  When was the last time somebody made you fresh pasta in front of your eyes, starting with hand rolled noodles that had never been dried or frozen?  I was enjoying one of these lunches when I came to the realization that the food at the cantina was better than half of what the Baolilai offered.  My coworker was shocked when I told him so.  The production workers are a captive market, the food doesn't have to be this good, but it is.

So I've been eating a lot of tofu, and I don't mind at all.  In other news, it has been determined that if I had to eat with chopsticks for a week with no access to silverware, I wouldn't starve.  But it ain't easy to pick up wet noodles with polished metal sticks.