Lunch and Traffic

Yesterday we went to a restaurant owned by one of the faculty taking the class. The restaurant specialized in ‘western’ cuisine. The students practiced their sommelier service at the restaurant for half a day.

Picture 1 shows Dr. Lim practicing his opening skills doing the vintage port service.  Seated is Ms. Soon, the GM of the school.  We used the restaurants serviettes and water glasses and brought the cart, wine and tools.

We had spent part of our most recent ‘off-day’ trying to find a service cart we could use for sommelier service. Dr. Lim and Joyce Wu, the Marketing Director, were going to go find service carts, plates and ‘western’ cutlery.  They asked if I wanted to come with them, of course I said yes. So they took me to the ‘plate and knife’ market – the hotel and restaurant supply market.

In China they like to put all of the merchants selling one kind or group of similar products together in an area. Sometimes it is all in one building. In this case there were at least 100 stores in a 4 square block area, competing with each other for a customers business. We drove all the way across Hangzhou to get to the market.  I will show some of those pictures in a blog about the City I will do at a later time.

  Pictures 2 and 3 were taken standing on the sidewalk and shooting down the street one way and then turning and shooting the other.  Every store you see, in both directions, and for the next 3 blocks, sells nothing but hotel and restaurant supplies to the trade.  The owners and works in the store (often family – or extended family) life in the apartments staring on the 3rd floor above the stores. The second floor is storage for the showroom.

We went into several stores looking for a rolling cart to use as a guerdon as well as plates, cork plates and western cutlery. I took pictures in several stores, and frankly, you can hardly tell them apart.  The next couple of pictures were taken in the store from which we ended up purchasing two carts.

Picture 4 shows a large table with place settings and serving pieces.  If you look out the door of the shop  (in the back of the picture) to the store across the street you can see that they have a similar table set up to entice customers to go in their store. Picture 5 is a shot across the store of display tables. This store was larger than most.

There are no prices on anything, so bartering is the method of determining what price to pay. So I got to see some Chinese bartering – which is understandable even if you don’t speak the language. 

Some of it I was able to understand because Dr. Lim and the Marketing Director would occasionally talk to each other in English – a language less than 1% of the population in Hangzhou speaks, so it was a way they could talk to each other without the shop owner understanding.  The ease with which they went back and forth between English and Chinese makes me believe they had done this before.

She gave him a price she thought they could purchase the two carts for and he began a conversation with our salesperson.   He kept pointing out scratches and dirt on the cart, looking for anything to help support the price he wanted to pay. We even began walking towards the entrance, but were called back.  Eventually we purchased the two carts, plus delivery for one of them, for close to 300 yuen - $44.

This group of students has studied very hard, probably more than 5 hours a night, is what Dr. Lim told me, to prepare for the daily exams. All of them speak English, but it is still difficult to take a technical course in a second language.

After practicing sommelier service for 3 hours at the restaurant we had a 4-course ‘western’ meal; served in courses with a different wine with each course.  It was the first time that most of them, including the restaurant owner, had experienced this way to eat a meal.  Normally in this restaurant, ‘western’ food is served ‘Chinese’ style with everything being served at once. So I had to do a short talk on western table etiquette.

Our first course, called an appetizer that was really a salad, we had a seafood salad, shown in 6.  This was followed by mushroom soup – picture 7, and the main course – a steak, shown in picture 8.

The steak course generated some conversation for two reasons: (1) there are two starches on the plate and no vegetable and (2) the pasta was so spicy it overpowered everything else on the plate. Dr. Lim, who is also a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School of Singapore, talked about these issues with the Chef and students.

Dessert was a piece of cheesecake with a red date sauce top layer and chocolate. See picture 9. Yes, it had a tomato as a garnish – this generated some conversation as well. Following dessert was a fruit plate, shown in Picture 10.  Ending a meal with a fruit plate is classic for summer in China.

I have not been editing the pictures I am using with this blog, except the next one.  I have been intrigued with the stop light system they use in Hangzhou. It is one of the best I have ever seen, anywhere.  So I took a series of pictures as we sat in traffic and combined them into the sequence shown in the next picture showing the stop light sequence.

The stop light system uses arrows pointing each direction.  #1 shows all red: L turn, straight and R turn.  However you can see the number 2 next to the straight-ahead arrow. It is counting down the seconds, and began at 10. When it reaches 0 the light turns green, as in #2.  Next the right turn signal turns green - #3. In #4 you can see both the straight ahead green arrow counting down and the left turn arrow counting down. In #5 the straight ahead and right turn arrows have turned yellow and the left turn is still counting down.  Finally, in #6 the L turn is green and everything else red. This will then sequence back to #1.

This is one of the few intersections that has an arrow for a right turn, you can turn right on a red light in China just like the US, however, you do not have to stop before making the turn. So cars go flying around the corners merging into the traffic.

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