I had a pretty easy schedule today - the only important event on my schedule was dinner with friends. So I strolled around my neighborhood late in the morning, and wandered back to Sapar (新疆伊寧遠征餐廳) for a casual lunch.
best plov I've ever had was still the one from Samarkand last year. I can still remember how beautiful it looked, and my mouth still waters at the thought of it.
I walked around a bit more and headed back to the house to read and rest a little. I met up with a friend late in the afternoon, and sat at one of the open air cafes on the Nanjing Road pedestrian shopping street for a while. Tall, modern skyscrapers intermixed with French renaissance style buildings from the 20s and 30s...and an endless stream of tourists, both local and foreign.
The main event today, of course, was the hairy crab feast at Xinguang Restaurant (新光酒家). It has long been my favorite place to enjoy hairy crab. None of my local friends have heard of it, and I was determined to change that.
In recent years the restaurant has started offering "set menus" for patrons. Rather than ordering individual dishes, the set menu now includes one hairy crab for each patron plus 4-6 of the "greatest hits" from the a la carte menu - with the portions sized according to the number of guests at the table.
check this out... or gimme a shout. Anyway, I digress... This was one of the best dishes to be had at the restaurant. The consistency of the noodles was similar to that of the "roe", and how much yellow crab fat was used in making the dish is plain to see. Need I say more?
And we did finally have to use our hands to eat the steamed hairy crab (清蒸大閘蟹). The ones we had were pretty decent in size. While I didn't specifically ask about the size, I thought I overheard a waiter telling the next table that they weighed half catty (半斤) each, which would make them gigantic. I doubt they were that big, but they were definitely at least six taels or more.
We were definitely very full from the feast. I was very, very happy with the meal, and I hope that my friends enjoyed it as much as I did!
One thing about Xinguang... it's a restaurant that many locals have never heard of, partly because most people find it overpriced. Crab is something that many people enjoy in the privacy of their homes, as you get your hands dirty and inevitably wind out with messy piles of broken shells in front of you. Most locals also wouldn't pay a premium to get someone else to extract the meat, as one of the joys of eating crab is the extraction process itself. On this particular visit - just like each prior visit - I heard no Shanghainese spoken by my fellow patrons. The clientele has always been mix of Hongkie, Japanese, Taiwanese and lao wai (老外). I guess things haven't changed much since my first visit at the turn of the century...