This week we are in Shanghai China, and our restaurant of choice is a small family owned restaurant to the south of the city on Yishan Road called ‘Yishan Family Restaurant’ or ‘义山家族餐厅’.
While trying to find an ancient water town, I found myself in several towns and suburbs all through the outskirts of Shanghai. It was a fruitless journey that didn’t end in an ancient town, but did end with a charming little restaurant.
This was a beautiful place, tastefully decorated and staffed by lovely people who didn’t speak a word of English ha. When we arrived we were seated nicely and were excited to see our menus, unfortunately when we found them they didn’t feature a single word in English nor any pictures (my usual saving grace).
I then asked the mother in the family who owned the place, acting as waitress for the evening (in Mandarin) whether she spoke any English or whether we could see a menu in English, an unfortunate no in both cases. I then explained that we couldn’t read the menu and that we’d need help. She tried her best to assist us, but no amount of gesturing could do it. (I even mooed like a cow to symbolise that I’m happy to eat beef haha). She then found everyone in the family, and though her teenage daughter was taking English at school, she wasn’t yet confident to risk it all trying with us.
So our tireless waitress went out and found someone who could ask us a question she’d been trying to ask us for the past 10 minutes, “do you like spicy?” To which I was able to confidently reply in Mandarin a big resounding “no”.
Our luck then ran out once again as this was seemingly the only thing he could say in English, so he then pulled out his phone which converted Chinese to English and wrote us messages and told the waitress our answers, they involved questions like “fish heads you eat want?” and “Mushrooms you is eat?” and after a few more minutes they were satisfied they had planned a sufficient meal for us and left.
Although it seems painful, we had a lot of fun in the confusion and there was lots of laughter on both sides. Once the food was ordered I confidently asked the waitress for some tea, thankful to once again be able to speak some Mandarin that I was confident saying.
Until she brought out the pepsi, a big blow to my language confidence.
What then arrived at our table was a big metal bowl of vegetables and water, which she placed on the burner in the middle of the table and placed on the boil. As the food boiled it began to smell really amazing, and she returned with very thin slices of beef.
Now I’ve eaten this style of meal before, pretty much exclusively in Korean restaurants where you fry the meat on a burner in the middle of the table with some vegetables and eat it all on rice, but this was different.
Everything went into the pot, and we spooned it into bowls when it was ready, but it went one step further.
Our waitress over the course of the meal stopped being a random waitress and started being our mother, so we began to call her *Mom instead.
*(As I am still Australian by citizenship I’m going to spell it Mum for the rest of the post, Americans will have to be ok with that).
Mum was amazing. She turned up every minute or so and added more of our meat and vegetables over the course of the meal, and removed it whenever she felt it was ready and spooned it into our bowls.
Maybe she thought we were handicapped, or just big children because she did it for absolutely no one else in the restaurant, and she was the only waitress. But no matter how many people came she gave us no less attention, she still poked her head around corners checking on us, turned up and gave the pot a stir, and served us more food.
A couple times she put the meat in and kept it on the spoon and moved it up and down through the water, this hastened the cooking and it would be done faster but she would stay and do it until she had served us enough for the time being before leaving again.
We loved her so much we started talking about how great she was and how much we were going to miss her (in English) with her there and she had no idea, I translated that we were so grateful to her and she blushed and left. From that point on she came back every 10 seconds instead.
But eventually it came to an end, but not before a few more of her family turned up and they were laughing and chatting happily at the entrance to the restaurant. It was that point we knew, we had to go, her real family had arrived.
We paid and I told her (in my best Mandarin attempt for such a strange sentence) that she had become our Chinese mother. The woman that I had guessed was her daughter laughed quite a lot at that, and we left.
Overall the food was really delicious, nothing beats eating it straight out of the pot. The waitstaff despite the language barrier were the best I’ve ever had, right down to the guy with the translator phone. And I loved the family feel you just can’t simulate, this place gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars, a massive contrast to last weeks 2 star review ha.
So that’s the end to this weeks review, next Monday will be in Melbourne Australia one more time, and the week after that will be in Orlando Florida. Please subscribe for lots more action, and I’ll chat with you all again tomorrow, however if you wanna chat sooner leave a comment! See ya’s all real soon!