Paying the Piper

Well today I had to start preparing for the government meetings I actually was brought here to do.  Hard to complain since it got me a free trip to China. After eating breakfast at the Hotel cafe, I headed up to one of the business lounge level conference rooms.  There I met the other Microsoft employees (other than the UK guys) who will be participating this week.  We were briefed on the schedule for the week and given background.

About noon, we broke for lunch and piled in two taxis.  We went to a restaurant the was in an old converted government office building.  A couple of the Microsoft employees who spoke Chinese looked through the menu and started choosing dishes. An interesting note is that all of the restaurants we have been to so far have had menus with pictures of the dishes and English descriptions. After we ordered, one of the restaurant cooks brought out a bag and showed it to one of the Chinese employees.  He told us that they were showing him the fish he ordered for approval.

Almost immediately, waiters started bringing out dishes.  For 5 people, we probably had about 10 –12 dishes.  Everything is served family style and you just grab what you want with your chopsticks and put it on your plate.  I tried a lot of foods I never had before.  I figured since I am in China I am willing to try just about anything once (although I reserve the right to change my mind at some point).  We had some one dish with rabbit and another with bamboo shoots with garlic.  They were both pretty good although the rabbit was spicy and served cold.  We also had an eggplant dish and something they called Chinese date.

Next, they brought out a tureen that was steaming over some kind of brazier with hot coals.  The waiter took my plate and put some kind of small fish and vegetables on it.  One of my co-workers said that it was a kind of small eel.  It was very good.  There were other dishes like shrimp with noodles, whole crab in a spicy broth, and what I think was real Kung Pao Shrimp. Something else that was very good was a type of buckwheat cake that was covered with sesame seeds and filled with a bean paste. At the end of the meal, they brought a fruit plate with watermelon and cherry tomatoes.

At this point, I was full to bursting although there was still plenty of food on the table.  We found another taxi outside the restaurant and headed back to the Hotel.  It is actually very hot in Beijing today.  I’m guessing about 85 degrees or so.  There isn’t much humidity though and fairly windy at times.  The good news is that it cools of pretty quickly as soon as the sun goes down.

After meeting the rest of the afternoon in the hotel business lounge, we contemplated dinner.  Still relatively full from lunch, we headed out to find dinner about 8 pm.  Jing (the organizer of this week’s meeting, David and Graham and I went to a Korean restaurant that Jing knew.  At the restaurant, you sit at a table that has a charcoal grill in the middle and choose thinly sliced meats to grill over the coals. Although we really only wanted a light meal, the waiter kept insisting to Jing that she was not ordering enough food and that we wood leave hungry (apparently a really bad thing).  Consequently, we again ended up with a table full of food.  There were abut 3 different kinds of thinly sliced beef and calamari.  We also had some grilled vegetables, a type of salad, and some kind of fried doughnut.  They also brought vegetable tempura.  At the end of the meal, we were again brought a fruit tray with watermelon and some kind of green ice cream that was very good.

Once again full to the gills, we headed back to the hotel and I called it a night.  Sorry there are no pictures today but I didn’t think to take any pictures at the restaurants.  We have more meetings tomorrow but may have a free afternoon on Wednesday.  Maybe we can go someplace fun then.