Monday, January 24, 2011

Maybe being vegetarian isn't all bad

You may have noticed that most of my recent meals don't contain many fruit and vegetables. You would be very correct.

莲花阁茶艺素食馆 -Lotus Room Tea Art and Restaurant

When going out for dinner, Chinese people rarely follow the "one meat and two veggie" rule -it's more like "heaps and heaps of meat and seafood.. Oh yeah, I suppose we should include one vegetable dish." Sometimes the vegetable dish has meat in it.

Tonight, however, we are going strictly vegetarian.

We crave fruit so much that we have the after dinner fruit before the meal

My wonderfully intuitive father figured out that I'd secretly been craving less meaty foods (by the huge amounts of Longan I'd been eating at home) and took us out to the Lotus Room which is situated in the middle of Fuzhou's famous West Lake. We are actually sitting on top of the lake itself giving us a spectacular view from our room on the second floor.

Our private room

Each room is beautifully furnished in the traditional way and has a side room for Gongfu tea. Despite being in such a great location, our guests have trouble finding the building (as well as navigating the heavy Fuzhou traffic) and we have some complimentary after dinner fruit while we wait for them. Our waitress also brings out hot cups of jasmine tea while we wait.

The non-complimentary fruit platter
..The traffic is so bad that we actually have the time to order another plate. The kitchen elves slice the fruit fresh and it is brought up straight away. It is so satisfying.

Back: Jasmine Tea. Front: Five Grains Soy Milk
I am over the moon when our guests finally arrive and our waitress brings out a warm jug of five grains soy milk to accompany our meals. It is sweet, fragrant and not too thick.

Steamed Lily Bulb(百合) with Blueberry Sauce

This was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. When consumed, lily bulb is supposed to very beneficial to one's heart and lungs -you can find more about its medicinal properties here. The lily bulb was sweet, crunchy and had quite a floury texture and the thick, blueberry sauce was but not too tart.

Individual "ham" and vegetable hand rolls
 All the meat dishes are made from tofu, gluten and flour etc. These hand rolls are expertly made and I was very impressed that none fell apart during dinner. The "ham" salad was very refreshing and full of flavour -they even added some fish floss! I only wish there was more than one for each person.

Fried "Fish" with Dragon Fruit
 The main theme of tonight is "oooooh how did they manage to make this look and taste exactly like meat?" 

How do they do that?
I may even go as far as saying that this fish tasted better than normal fish. It was lightly pan fried, flaky, soft and paired beautifully with a strawberry and dragon fruit jam. Unfortunately, the jam was used more as presentation and not enough was provided for my piece of "fish."

"Duck" with Orange Sauce
Looks and texture wise, this was a bit of a downer -I actually thought it was weird that my dad ordered a dish of burned bread. Taste wise, however, it was delicious. The orange sauce was very intense but not so strong as to smother the taste of "duck."

Kumara Leaves with Goji Berries

I like spinach and kumara leaves taste a lot like spinach -you could put the two in front of me and I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference for a good few minutes. I was confused by the weird tasting white liquid it was floating in though. The sauce was flavoured with century egg which usually has quite a pungent flavour which I usually like but, in this case, it was very mild and smelled faintly of Rotorua. I enjoyed the dish a lot more when I found out the strange taste was supposed to be there.

Stir Fried Mushrooms

Tofu Pot
With the "meat" dishes out of the way, we were incredibly impressed with the traditionally vegetarian dishes that were served. We were no longer distracted by the novelty of meat for vegetarians but could really appreciate the thought and skill that went into each and every dish. The mushrooms were cooked in a light garlicky sauce that did not smother, but actually enhanced their natural flavour. The silken tofu had been mixed with a little egg before setting to increase its slipperiness and softness as well as injecting it with a little eggy flavour. The sprinkling of caviar throughout the pot gave it a nice little change of texture.

Tempura Eggplant
By now, our waitress had caught onto the fact that I like to take photos of my food and brought this beauty over to me before cutting it up into manageable pieces for everyone. Can anyone say new favourite eggplant dish? Anyone who knows me well would know that I love my eggplant. Up until now my favourite dish had been the "fish scent eggplant casserole" but, now, it has been topped and replaced (not that I would stop ordering it anymore). This dish was amazing -I cannot stop raving about it to anyone who will listen! One, super long, piece of eggplant is finely sliced (but not the whole way through), dipped in tempura, deep fried and then covered with a thick, sweet and sour sauce. The batter was extremely light and crunchy and the center of each piece was so soft that it was almost gooey. I have a massive smile as I write this. Note to self: try to recreate this.

Deep Fried Cream

Lily Porridge with Lychee Pieces
Because we had eaten the complimentary fruit and the second fruit platters, we simply had to order dessert. The deep fried cream was kind of a disappointing finish to the exquisite meal we had -the shell was sickeningly oily and the centers a little chewy. Luckily dessert was salvaged by the lovely sweet porridge and the cream didn't taste too bad when I dipped them in my bowl. The porridge was lightly sweetened, creamy and the small pieces of juicy lychee were very pleasant surprises.

View from the balcony

I have nothing but praise for the Lotus Room. The atmosphere was exquisite and we felt like the busy streets of Fuzhou were miles away. A little part of me wishes I was back in Fuzhou just so I could experience the food all over again. Each dish was refreshing, light and delicate and I would seriously consider going vegetarian if every meal was like this (I can hope, right?).

The Lotus Room can be found at Zhuohai Park, Number 319-3 Guangrong Rd, Fuzhou, Fujian, China. 

Note: "Lotus Room" is not the restaurant's actual name. I translated it from its Chinese name to make it easier to write about.

All recipes are on Petitchef


  1. oh lucy, your blog brought back memories of my (n uncle geoff)visit to Fuzhou in Jan 2009. We hope to go back one day n revisit Fuzhou (n other places in China). Will definitely make sure we go to this restaurant!! Love reading your blog - keep it up xox

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