China returns lagoon-side across from the rest of the Pavilion.
The Sichuan Spicy Chicken is new, though the same thing is offered at Lotus Blossom Cafe, the Pavilion’s quick service arm. The Black Pepper Shrimp are supposed to come with Garlic Noodles but instead are served with the same sichuan noodles that were served last year.
Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Hoisin Sauce – $6.50
The duck is sweet and salty covered in the crystallized hoisin sauce and the vegetables and onion provide a nice crunch in between the soft, chewy, largely flavorless steamed bun. It’s on the expensive side but the flavors are unique and I think duck presented in this way is somewhat rare, which potentially raises the value. It’s an interesting bite.
Sichuan Spicy Chicken – $5.75
The chicken would be more novel if the same exact thing wasn’t served in much larger quantities every day of the year at Lotus Blossom. Still, this is potentially an opportunity to try a couple of bites at a reduced price. The chicken is not particularly spicy, but the rub does a nice job of creating some heat without needing a thick, sugary sauce. I think this is at least a dollar overpriced, but that doesn’t necessarily have to stop you.
Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles – $5.50
Last year these were known as “sichuan noodles,” but now go by the “garlic noodles” moniker. No matter what they’re called, they’re largely soft, rubbery, slightly spicy noodles underneath four small pan-fried shrimp. There’s a lot of heft to the dish, but it’s largely one dimensional and the shrimp don’t have a ton of flavor on their own. This is about as much food as you can get for $5.50 though, which elevates the value some. It would do a nice job of soaking up the alcohol if you can find any.
Chicken Pot Stickers – $4.00
Four dollars buys you two chicken potstickers, which I would have trouble differentiating from the big bag of Ling Lings I buy at Costco. They are expertly pan-fried and delicious, but it’s about a dollar per bite and the flavors are straightforward.
Tsingtao Beer – $3.50
Store price: 8 cents/ounce
Festival price: 58 cents
ABV: Not enough
The website weeps. Defenders would point out that Tsingtao is the #2 best selling beer in the world, but Clorox is the #2 best selling bleach and I’m not sure I want to drink that either. If for some reason you have a stroke and accidentally order six ounces of 4.8% American adjunct lager, you can expect a largely skunky light bear backed up by stale grains. Or like the other standard lagers, it’s refreshing on a hot afternoon. It is at least less expensive than most other options.
Strawberry Plum Wine Cooler with Takara Plum Wine – $7
This is an extremely refreshing, sweet cocktail that just has about an ounce of plum wine splashed on top of what is otherwise non-alcoholic juice. If you’re looking to pick up a cocktail, but don’t want to end up falling on your face later, then this might be a good choice, but there is not a lot of alcohol involved.
$8.75 Happy Peach with Dekuyper Peach Liqueur and Myers’s Dark Rum and $10.50 Ritzy Lychee with Courvoisier Cognac VS and Smirnoff Vodka
The alcohol is poured on top of both drinks here as well, but each liquor packs much more of a punch than the 10% ABV plum wine. China’s drinks end up being among the strongest at the Festival thanks to what are usually heavy pours. You might scope out who is doing the mixing and see how it’s looking before committing. While the drinks are very different in appearance and ingredients, they both tasted similar with the alcohol masked nicely with fruit flavors. Both are recommended.
Kung Fu Punch with Smirnoff Vodka and Bols Triple Sec – $8.75
The Kung Fu Punch is a refreshing, sweet, orange-flavored drink with a healthy pour of vodka on top. It’s easy to drink and has a decent amount of alcohol, making it one of the best cocktails available at the Festival.
Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk – $6.75
The Bubble Tea this year is darker with the creaminess of the milk clouding the otherwise sweet mango juice and maltyness of the black tea. The bubbles are a lot of fun to slurp up and I think this is ultimately a smarter buy than the Plum Wine Cooler. It’s a bigger, tastier drink for less money. And even though it’s officially non-alcoholic, so is the plum wine (more or less).