Tuesday, August 09, 2005

5 Star all the way

Last night we were treated to a banquet at one of Shanghai’s nicest restaurants. I don’t know the name of it still, but it over looked The Bund from across the Huangxi River (I think that is it’s name). The Bund is a long row of beautiful colonial buildings that used to be Embassy Row. These impressive buildings are now all home to financial institutions and insurance groups. Needless to say, the view from our private room was spectacular. I am really angry at myself for not bringing my camera with me.

There were eight of us present for dinner: my American boss, our translator, three of the China Fluidcare employees, and two higher-ups from Shanghai General Motors, and I. In China the relationship with someone is very important before business can begin. Business is avoided at all costs until the end of the meal, despite the fact that this was a business meeting… both sides must feel a personal bond to the other before the small talk can end. Even once the business aspect does start, everything is spoken in generalities, with no specifics at all. It is all about, “We hope that the western culture of US Fluidcare can mesh seamlessly with the eastern Chinese culture. Together we will form a strong partnership together, blah, blah, blah….”

We were seated at a large round table in our own private room. The middle of the table had a large Lazy Susan and a huge variety of dishes were brought to the table, perhaps five at a time. I made it a point to try some of everything, as to not do so would be rude. The highlight of the meal, which I didn’t realize until I was already eating it, was a huge lobster. If I had to guess I would say it was about seven or eight pounds… easily the largest I have ever seen. It was presented in a beautiful fashion… the lobster was posed on the plate in an attack stance with a huge mound of its meat on the plate next to it. It was quite obvious that the meat was raw, because it was semi-transparent instead of the normal opaque white. Well, when in Rome… so I decided to try some. It was absolutely delicious. It wasn’t until I was starting to swallow did I notice that the lobster’s arms and legs were still moving around, and it was staring at me with it’s beady eyes! That’s right, the thing was still alive!!! I nearly gagged when I realized this, but realized that I had already eaten it and would cause the host shame if I spat it out. The rest of the meal was delicious also, consisting of:
· Salad
· Dried minnows with chili pepper (the whole fish)
· Paper-thin steak in a very spicy sauce
· Curried Beef
· Some type of smoked fish (full of bones though)
· Raw Razor Clam (looks like a long straight razor blade)
· Pulled Pork
· Sweet and Sour Crab
· Ribs
· A whole chicken (head and all… don’t know how it was cooked… it looked raw, although it definitely wasn’t)
· Battered deep fried whole lobster (about three pounds)
· Pepper Steak (becoming one of my favorites… with chili peppers instead of bell)
· Chicken Stew
· Coconut Shrimp
· Collard Greens with garlic
· Lotus root stuffed with sweet rice
· Custard with fruit
· Squid cakes
· Dragon Fruit (never seen this before. Has a bright pink outer skin with a white inside fruit and lots of little black seeds)
· Watermelon (we call it the National Fruit because it is EVERYWHERE)
· Mango (ooooOOOOOOOoooooo….)
· Cantalope
· Oranges

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes… lots and lots of Tsingdao Beer. Every 20 seconds someone would cheers or toast. Every ten minutes or so someone would clink your glass and say, “Ganbei”, which approximately means bottoms up. When someone does this you must both finish your glass, regardless of how you feel or how full it is. Needless to say, everyone is dragging at work today. Plus, on top of a small hangover, I have had to deal with my stomach. It seems that lobster is pissed at me for eating him alive and is causing me to spend much time in the bathroom… perhaps he is still wriggling around in there :-)