Falling in love

By Dong Fangyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-05-16 07:30:56

Falling in love

Hairy tofu is named after the white hairy-like downy mould that grows on the surface during fermentation. [Photo by Dong Fangyu/China Daily]

But even before being charmed by the food and the restaurant's chic, almost whimsical decor, its name, Xiang'ai - a clever pun meaning both the love of Hunan and falling in love - gives a foretaste of the masterfully crafted delights that await the diner.

Starters are interestingly presented and full of flavor. We ordered two: marinated cucumber with sesame sauce (18 yuan), and marinated wheat gluten with Chinese prickly ash (22 yuan). Cucumbers are sliced into little slim sticks and delicately stacked into the shape of a Chinese character jing or "#". Here a surprise awaits because it is prepared with two kinds of cucumber, fresh or sour pickled, so you do not know what you have picked up until it lands in your mouth.

The next delight was a soup infused with natural and aromatic sweetness derived from longan fruit, which is stewed with silky black chicken and ganoderma mushrooms, both said to be very nutritional, and an aid to recovery in traditional Chinese medicine.

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