May 23, 2016
This week we are taking a turn away from the high end international restaurants and hotels that are usually described on this website and are going to a place that we stumbled upon by chance, but which is surely worth a repeat visit. And when I say ‘worth’ a visit, this place is all about value for money. It’s an all you can eat and drink buffet for a measly RMB. For that you would be right to expect low quality and a poor selection, but this place delivers just the opposite, as you will have seen from my photos above.
So, first of all, what is its name and location? Herein lies the rub, you will need a bit of a sense of adventure or a little Chinese because this is not a buffet aimed at foreign diners – we were the only non-Chinese there on the night we went for sure. First off the buffet is on the second floor of an unremarkable local hotel. It is situated near the junction of Xiandai Avenue and Xinghai Street, on the southwest side to be exact, on the other side of Xiandai Avenue from the Modena Building. The name of the hotel is Jinji Hu Shangye Guangchang; go through reception and up to the second floor. There you will see a restaurant that is styled like on Suzhou’s new subway stations. It is strange stylistic choice but not unattractive.
Before you go in you have to buy a ticket and choose from one of six soup bases (for yes, you are able to do some table cooking here, which is really popular in Suzhou). After 4pm a ticket is 89RMB each and 10RMB cheaper before then. The six soup bases include red and white varieties, with just vegetable stock, mushroom, pork or fish. Put your ticket through the turnstile, just like getting on the subway, and you are in.
From this point on everything is about eating and drinking, so make sure to go on a day when you have a fine appetite ready to be satisfied. First thing is to get a drink. Here you have a choice of endless local red wine, chilled snow beer, Rio alcopops, fizzy drinks, juices, milks and some funky looking local booze that perhaps is best given a wide berth.
For food there is a vast range of vegetables and tofus, including different varieties of mushrooms and greens, in a section rather oddly translated as “Beans Fishing Food.” I wonder what Google translate was trying to achieve there. Next is a rather lovely seafood section with prawns, fish, crab legs, squid, mussels and more. Besides this are cold and cooked meats and spring rolls as well as a line of already cooked typical Chinese dishes, which I don’t know the name of, but which involve some ingredients in various sauces (you might have noticed that I am not a professional food writer). There are cakes and fruit for desert as well as a selection of ice creams.
It is all local style food, as I said, this is not an international restaurant, but everything is well-prepared and everything we had tasted great. For less than a tenner you can have a bit of a feast. It is hard to see how they turn a profit, especially given the small mountains of food that our fellow diners seemed to be polishing off. We watched in awe and amazement as a young girl of around ten polished off what seemed to be about half her body weight in mushrooms, ham and prawns. This is testament to the very relaxed and friendly atmosphere that is to be found here. I can’t wait to go again. Though I won’t eat for three days beforehand this time!
Tel: 0512 62721977
About the Column
Markus is from the Isle of Wight in the UK and had been living in Suzhou since 2013. It is his first time living in China and before this he was in London. He has been teaching English all of his adult life and in HE since 2000. He is lucky to have his wife with him in Suzhou and together they are making a new life. His interests include eating out (a lot) and exploring local areas on his ebike. And recently, walking a doggie.