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Venue

Qin Shan Zhai
钦善斋
10am - 2pm, 5pm - 9pm
247 Wuhouci St.
武侯祠大街247号
028 8505 3333
028 8509 8875

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Susan Johnson (more chengdu)
A tourist bus unloading into the restaurant where you are about to eat is usually a terrible sign. We pressed on since the object of our appetites that day was Qin Shan Zhai, Chengdu's most reputed restaurant specializing in health and medicinal dishes. The hostess' first question was whether we wanted to eat hot pot style 'tang guo' or order dishes off the regular menu. We opted for the regular menu and were seated upstairs and poured a tea far more dark and dangerous tasting than your usual cha shui. A server listed off several ingredients in the tea including black plum, goji, dates, hawthorn, and herbal medicine. The room was busy with diners tucking into dishes featuring gingkoes, mushrooms, and other fortifying stuff.

The menu at Qin Shan Zhai is large and well-illustrated with English descriptions explaining the health benefits of each offering in terms like 'strengthen yin and moisten the lungs'. We asked for mushroom baozi, which were light as pillows with a perfect amount of tasty filling inside. A dish of almond-fried long beans was as attractive as it was delicious. Another offering described in English as marbled pork in green been jelly was similar to what we usually know as ants climbing a tree, but used very thin strips of pork belly to great effect with a subtle spiciness. We also loved a dish of mountain yam and pork that came presented in a shallow ceramic bowl over a flame that slowly browned the pieces of mountain yam. Whatever health benefits these dishes may have, we were struck by how the menu is unmistakably Sichuanese but the dishes we sampled showed restraint and elegance in preparation and seasoning, qualities not often associated with Sichuanese food.

Our servers were buzzing around too efficiently to be attentive, but once whistled down they were helpful and did a good job explaining the dishes. The large jars full of medicinal liquor throughout the dining room added a bit more to the atmosphere than was necessary, especially whenever someone came by to fill a serving vessel with one of the strong-smelling concoctions, so we'd probably ask to be seated away from the liquor jars next time. Expect to spend between 50 and 100RMB/person for food.

Qin Shan Zhai
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