Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
We turned off of slick, modern, Renmin South Road onto narrow Yulin East Street and felt like we had gone back a few years in time. The street is lined with small shops and services including a traditional pharmacy where we watched herbal prescriptions weighed out in a hand balance and the bill toted up on an abacus before heading to dine at Tian Tian. We'd heard Tian Tian was a small neighbourhood place but it was a bit more upscale than we expected with tablecloths, a picture menu, and a heater keeping the place toasty. Their offal dishes are awfully popular so the chicken entrails over bean starch (鸡杂凉粉) was a must order. We wanted to see what the kitchen could do with pork intestines too, so we ordered them stir-fried with potatoes (土钵肥肠). We asked for a recommendation on a tofu dish and the server pointed us to something called old tofu (老豆腐). A dish of greens and ginkgoes rounded out our order.
When the food came, it was easy to see why the chicken entrails over bean starch is so popular. We usually enjoy bean starch with condiments as a simple summer snack. We've tried more elaborate bean starch dishes with meat sauces, but had never really run into a convincing version before. The pork intestine dish was a little too barnyardy for our tastes, though the potatoes were very good. The real surprise was the old tofu, which came bubbling in a fragrant broth with bits of pork belly. It showed the kitchen was capable of some refinement.
The servers had the 'reqing', or warm hospitality, that characterizes good local service and knew the menu well, though the noise level was such that we had lots of practice using the single syllable 'Fuwuyuar!' to call them over a few times. The crowd was mostly families and friends, and Tian Tian seems a good setting for this kind of gathering. Our bill came to a hundred and change and they told us to forget the change.