Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
Urban exploration. The phrase is more synonymous with hipster nerds getting their kicks by sneaking into fenced-off, former munitions factories, than with quality dining, but in the mysterious city of Chengdu, anything can happen. Think of the surprise on our earnest faces when a local friend told us to meet him outside of the ice skating rink at Sichuan University, located to the left side of their giant, Big Ben-turreted, frog-shark of a sports stadium. “Are we going to be skating or eating?” we thought to ourselves. The question, of course, was a false binary: here in Chengdu, you can do both.
The restaurant, which is officially nameless, but has been dubbed the, “Ice Palace,” by some witty student(s), is indeed located by an ice skating rink. Just behind it, to be exact. Making it a refreshingly cool refuge during the city’s unrelentingly muggy months, and particularly frosty during the winter. Unconnected to the rink, it serves up remarkably affordable Sichuanese cuisine to the, largely, student body.
They’re all smugly aware that they are dining at a restaurant whose location is, as locals like to say: “ayi san!”
Of the specialties, and Westerners take note, the, “Ice Palace,” carries fish-fragrant chicken fingers! Known as “yushang ba kuai ji” (鱼上八块鸡) (18RMB), it’s a huge stacked plate of Dennys-meets-Yang Yang’s sweet, fried, meaty, batter. The double pepper rabbit “hua liu tuzi” (15RMB), sitting in a classic red sauce, is tender and inundated with goodness, but mind the bones. For Chinese readers, the menu boasts pages of specialty dishes, but also does a decent job with the local standards that the 汉字-illiterate may recite by heart. Vegetable dishes run around 5-7RMB a plate, while meat dishes average from 10-18RMB. The sour rice noodle soup (suan fen si tang) is a great value at 5RMB.
Cold Snow beer is available (5-8RMB/bottle) for you to further the ice-themed evening. Just be warned: drinking and skating can be hazardous to your health! A full meal will run 15-25RMB/person.