Showing posts with label nanjing_road. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nanjing_road. Show all posts

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nancy Coffee

I have a new favorite place. Located just south of Nanjing West Road on a lopsided intersection of Tianshui Street, near Huating Street and some random lane, Nancy Coffee and Snacks looks as though it’s been frozen in time in pieces between the 1920s (with its dark wood lined, art deco windows and Depression Yellow glasses) and the 1970s (with its retro burnt auburn faux-leather chairs and equally worse-for-wear tables).

I love the view from those vintage windows. I love the funky mid-century light fixture that forms a starburst of light on the ceiling, and the hanging birdcage lamps in one corner. I love the horrible brown-rug creaky floor and the old wood post room divider that reminds me, for some reason, of the first house I lived in (even though it did not have such a divider). I love the old folks who look like they live in the corner, covered in cobwebs, and the wall-installed HDTV they watch. I love the hideous art on the walls.

I love how the counter is about two feet high, horrible brown Formica (I think – I missed Formica’s boom years) with two hairsprayed women who are clearly more comfortable with the dips and twangs of Taiwanese than dry, proper Mandarin.

I love how the Cheese, Ham and Egg sandwich is exactly what it says it is and the coffee comes in small cups but makes your heart race. I love that it’s bitter but it’s not that Starbucks burnt bitter that forces you to add sugar. I like how they don’t have wireless access (though I wish they did).

I love the neighborhood – whatever you need you can find it in the bylanes and backalleys of Nanjing West Road. I love the store that sells widgets and the other that sells dingbats. I love the rows and rows of chemical lab supply shops and apothecary jar stores (I love that the pharmacies in this neighborhood still use apothecary jars). I love the old scraggly dude who sells sausages, and the old scraggly lady who naps in a folding chair under the monolithic temple – really a glorified gate – across the street from the 2/28 marker (the 2/28 incident began near here). I love the shops that sell baubles and crystals, and how every kind of fabric and jewelry supply is available. All those hoo-hoos and whatchits you see in the USA and have no idea where they come from are sold here, except they’re not attached to any coats, briefcases or handbags. I love how next to those stores are other stores that sell pressed fish eggs and shark jaw. I love how some of the stores are so old that their signs are crumbling, and some of the proprietors are as crumbly as the signs.

So, I love Nancy Coffee and Snacks. I think it might be my new favorite place on Earth. Bad lighting, strong coffee, stained walls, wobbly tables and all. I hope it never changes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seafood Noodle Something

I found another great place the other day on Nanjing W. Road, near Dihua Street.

Problem is, I don't know what they're called. I snatched a paper menu with the name across the top but the characters - I tried to look them up by radical - are not in my 3000 character dictionary.

So the title reads to me as 海鮮麵 something-something.

Their specialty - other than, of course, seafood noodles, is extra-large shrimp wontons. They offer regular-size wontons, as well, but they're pretty generic.

Another thing they have that is a bit unique is squid xiaochi (the Hakka-style small plate snacks, usually served cold). I've seen lots of xiao chi in my time, but this is one of the first times blanched, cold squid has been available. It's cooked perfectly - rings of squid that are soft and easy to eat - not even a hint of rubbery over-cooking. The subtle taste of the squid is allowed to come through; in most dishes I find it's used as a base flavor while the tangier, louder flavors of the seasonings form the main crux of taste. Here, it's seasoned with just a bit of sweet soy sauce and coriander, and left to be enjoyed as is. In any other restaurant that would equal tastelessness, but the freshness and well-cooked nature of the squid allowed the understated yet fine flavor to come through.

The large shrimp wontons were, of course, delicious. I got them served with rice vermicelli in a broth that was so light that I thought, disappointed, that it was tasteless. A few more sips revealed that it did have a lovely was simply very subtle. In the end I did add some vinegar, chili oil and sesame oil though. The wontons themselves were as promised - huge and bursting with delicious, fresh shrimp. A mottle of ground shrimp was interspersed with small whole shrimp and it was large enough that you felt you were getting real, substantial meat. Most shrimp wontons and dumplings feel as though they're mostly bread with just a smattering of actual seafood inside.

All in all, a delicious meal and highly recommended for seafood lovers who want to try something quieter than a night at a 100-kuai-a-plate seafood&beer joint.

Seafood Noodle Something-Something is located on Nanjing W. Road #157 (north side of the road) not far from the Chongqing/Ningxia/Dihua area.