Monday, July 12, 2010

Bistro Manchu

Tonight I went out to Elgin Street with some work colleagues.  A couple of them were in from out of town so we were treating them to the only Manchurian restaurant in Hong Kong.  Bistro Manchu is indeed unique in Hong Kong, although the level of service isn't.  We walked into an empty resturant at seven p.m., and they took us to the very back, hidden away from the street and right by the toilet.
Now, I don't mind a bit of gloom, but it wasn't as if they were rammed with punters, and although the place filled up a bit as the night went on, there never was any risk that we would be occupying some other party's table.  However, when we asked if we could sit closer to the front of the street, the waiter looked first a bit confused, then said "no".  And that would have been that if we hadn't had a local with us who berated him in Cantonese, and a few seconds later we had our table out at the front.

I do wonder if anyone in Hong Kong has ever thought about customer service training for their staff.  Or training.  Or a pad to take orders on.  Almost without exception, every restaurant I've been to in the last two weeks has the server struggling to remember what we've ordered, or scribbling it down on a handful of loose sheets of paper, or, in the case of Bistro Manchu, a long scrap of what appeared to be tracing paper that somebody had been sitting on all day.  I told the others about my plan to retire rich by selling pads of paper for staff to take orders on, but they thought this was a ridiculous idea that could never catch on.

The food, however, made up for this.  Starter was a bitter melon dish that tasted much better than I suspected.  There was some delicious, very soft aubergine, and the roast lamb was something that everyone raved about.  They also went mad for the sesame-seed encrusted pockets that you could fill with chicken; since I think sesame is foul and don't eat fowl, I was less convinced, but then I did have two kinds of tofu, so nothing to complain about there.  One was the fairly bog-standard beancurd plus mushrooms that is the staple of vegetarian food in Hong Kong, but the other was a really spicy dish with (I suspect) horseradish in it, that had me reeling.  Great stuff, even if it did sting a bit.  And if eating sesame-seed pockets is a little reminiscent of student days subsisting on Pop-Tarts, then so be it.

Thence home, to find I'd forgotten I was meant to be cooking tonight.  Oops.

On the positive side, the cat has so far failed to take a dump on the bed.  That's twenty-four hours without significant misbehaviour (apart from yowling at three a.m. until I got up, and then rolling around on the floor and stalking off).  The next three months should be eeeasy.


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