Best in China so far

Oct 11, 2012

Summer vacation: Trattoria Verde

Our Italian splurge

Real Italian food!
Our new friend at the table next door took a picture of us all fancyPeter, outside the restaurant

The online expat reviews of this Italian joint were strong, so we made a reservation and got all dolled up.

The split-level restaurant is cozy, and has a breezy, beachy style — with quirky, cute artwork and tchotchkes on the walls — that wouldn’t be out of place on Main Street in Southampton. Upstairs is a little dark, but we were sat downstairs, with a view of the open kitchen. I can verify that everyone was working very hard.

It was exciting to see a real wine list after so much time. We were trying not to go too crazy, however, at a restaurant that was at the upper end of our budget, so I ordered a glass of the house red, which did me right. Peter’s martini was garnished with a black olive — the one small disappointment of the meal.

We started with an appetizer of roasted asparagus with some sort of hard cheese shaved over the top. (It was something delicious and fancier than Parmesan, is all we can remember; one lesson of this trip was: take better notes.) This was the first time we had seen asparagus anywhere in China, and so we anticipated the dish hungrily. And, oh, it was so good! The asparagus was roasted just perfectly, and the salty tang of the unknown cheese was a wonderful compliment.

As for mains: Peter went with a cheese ravioli, garnished with pine nuts — another rarity over here — and I got a pizza with prosciutto and ricotta cheese. The ravioli were incredible, and the pizza was the Best in China So Far. The crust was thin and crispy, and the sauce (which is most often what Chinese pizza gets wrong) was light and just the right amount of sweet and salty.

It was a pricy meal, but we definitely felt that it was money well spent.

The Trattoria Verde kitchen

Let’s repair to the bar for a digestive …

Sep 23, 2012

Summer vacation: Fatema Indian Restaurant

The best Indian meal in China so far!

Fatema Indian RestaurantOur mealOur meal

The exterior of Fatema Indian Restaurant was modest and unassuming. It was in the middle of a quiet block that we had written off as non-commercial on a previous jaunt through the Hong Kong Garden neighborhood that the restaurant called home. Inside, the setup was no more fancy — but the smell of spices wafting through the air was immediately inviting and set our taste buds to watering.

The owner and staff of the restaurant are all Indian residents of Qingdao, and we had heard that Fatema was the most authentic of the city’s (two) Indian places. With Bollywood videos blasting on the overhead TV, we looked over the menu. The hardest thing to do was to not blurt out, “One of everything, please!” We narrowed our choices down to an aloo chaat, a chicken curry dish, a cauliflower something or other (I’ve got to take better notes!), garlic naan, spring rolls and the most delicious spicy pickles. The cauliflower was kind of a dud compared to the rest of our dishes, which were absolutely glorious. The chicken was tender and well-seasoned, and the aloo chaat was savory and rich. The star of our meal, though, had to be those pickles, which were tangy and sweet with just the right amount of heat.

We only managed to eat about half of our meal, so we took the rest to go. Back in our hostel room, we didn’t have forks, but the leftovers still made a fantastic midnight snack.

Qingdao’s signature attraction is up next …