This post will be unique. At least it should be for quite a while. Why, you may ask? Well because Pingyao is not exactly conveniently accessible for anyone. This fascinating city, which is part of the Unesco’s world heritage sites, lies in Shanxi. This province is not exactly the most prosperous, but it has an awful lot of history. So does Jing’s residence, a Relais & Chateaux residence, right in the city centre.
Whilst this hotel might not have many rooms, it certainly has an awful lot of charm, and combines the best of western and Chinese cultures. The rooms are of a refined, understated luxury, and are best described by pictures.
The food however was surprising for such a backwater. Most of what we had was tasty, simple and loyal to the region’s culinary traditions.
Take for instance the Pingyao beef. Boiled and pressed, then served cold with vinegar, it is a tasty if chewy starter. Such cold meat starters startled me in all of China, as they were often dry, and without much interest, at least for an ignorant westerner.
Already much better were deep-fried rings of some kind of cereal. These had an intriguing texture, intense flavour, and were delicately spiced with chili and coriander. It was the dish of the night, as it was technically faultless, and highly interesting. Very good.
Also good, and equally simple were green beens, pan-fried with pork paste. Enriched by some chili oil, this was intensely tasty, and gave a healthy punch of umami. This was again a treatment of vegetables, that makes some French restaurants look old. Very good.
Whilst the food here is far from being spectacular, some dishes are well worth mentioning. Throughout the meal there will be dishes that are simply useless, such as prawns with mushrooms. Those were clearly of poor quality, and deep-frozen. With such dishes one wonders why a hotel and restaurant committed to serving something authentic is serving such dishes. However, as this place feels special, one is willing to not be too critical. Maybe because of the beautifully simple style, or the location, one thing is sure, such gems are rare, and should be explored. Funnily enough, despite being a good 10hrs away from Beijing, the board members of a large German automobile firm were scheduled to come here for a meeting a week after we left. Well, well…