Sometimes it seems like the only thing we ever do is eat. Well, at least most of our time seems to revolve around it.

Tonight we went to my favorite restaurant. Don’t even know the name of it, but it’s easy enough to find in the basement of the Victory Plaza shopping mall. VP is a pretty fancy place – Armani, Burberry, Omega, Choppard – and this little spot is not what you’d expect to find in such upscale digs. It’s more like a diner, very low rent and I’ve never seen a foreigner in there. Such is China though where the sublime mixes easily with the quotidian.

We were last here in January following our freezing trip to the Lushun Buddha. That day we had one fluent person with us so most of the work was done. Tonight, I filled that role, one which daily is becoming mine and mine alone. This place does have pictures menus (recall the shots posted on my last visit) but that’s about it. There is no English on no one and so the challenge is set.

We ordered a mess of plates, one giant beer, Cokes all around and a couple of bottles of water. For some reason, our rendition of “bottle of water” renders the servers dumbstruck. We’re going to have to work on that one. You pay before you eat and the food is on the table just as soon as the money changes hands.

It would be a gross understatement to say the food is good, because it is so much better than good that the words escape me. A couple of pork dishes, Chicken with dried peppers and those nasty little mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, green beans bathed in garlic, a truly unique rendition of sweet and sour chicken (no sweet sauce, rather a soy-vinegar mixture) and the nostalgic favorite, Hot and Odd Taste Sheep. All served up with bowls of white rice doused with canned corn.

Three-of the way fourths through the meal, the “hair challenged” fellows were working up a bright patina of sweat on their shiny domes which brought by a steady stream of server girls, checking them out and giggling. I caught more than one pantomiming the story with a hand brushing over their heads to their friends behind the counter. They saw me and broke into the biggest smiles. The napkins were pretty much single ply toilet tissue which made the mop up difficult.

Second round was another chicken and pork dish, simultaneously steaming and spicy hot. It was a tough call as to which was the best, but I think that chicken dish with the peppercorns continues as my favorite.

Total for the evening, 180 kuai or about 30uS for dinner for 5. A one litre beer and a bottle of water was $1.

As the week winds down, I’m glad to make it into places like this. It’s far easier to do the pizzas and chicken sandwiches and other close approximations to western food, eschewing the chances to go out and eat with the regular people. But taking the extra step always pays off, even if it’s only with a numb mouth.