January 13, 2019:
For dinner in Shen Zhen, my relatives brought us to Nanjing Impressions, a restaurant inside KK Mall. They had been here a few times before and recommended it due to the good quality and variety of food. Apparently, it gets very packed here by 6 and 7 p.m., prime dinner time, and the wait is up to two hours. To avoid having to wait, we arrived at Nanjing Impressions at 4:30 p.m. to get a table for seven.
The storefront of Nanjing Impressions is made to look like an old style traditional Chinese dai pai dong. In fact, the Chinese name of the restaurant is 南京大排檔 “Nanjing dai pai dong”.
I wish I had taken a video when walking in or had some type of Google lens so that you could see my view because the interior of the restaurant was phenomenal. The detailing and design made the entire place look amazing and so old school yet chic and sophisticated. There were brightly lit lanterns hanging from the ceiling to form a canopy as you walked through the restaurant. China is so developed these days and I’m sure something of this calibre wasn’t even much of a budget. It was amazing.
We were given a round table with a Lazy Susan on it. In the center of the table were a box of chopsticks, napkins, toothpicks, the menu, and some conidments. The plates, bowls, and cups were the blue and white coloured old style ceramics. It was beautiful and further fitting to the surroundings.
My aunt showed me where to retrieve hot water and tea. It was an old fashioned designed water tank holding hot tea and hot water with taps. Next to it, there was a hand washing station.
While the idea was neat, I found it inconvenient to have to fill up my cup at the station every time I ran low. The cups were very small in size. (For this reason, apparently you can pay 4 RMB to get a teapot at your table, which was what my cousin decided to do.)
My relatives chose a number of dishes for us that evening. The menu had a lot of Nanjing specialties that I’ve never tried before and the prices were so cheap! For example, it was only 9 RMB for a bowl of noodles! (That’s only $1.80 CAD.) As the evening wore on, the restaurant filled up with customers. In front of us, there was a small stage where two performers played some musical instruments. The dishes arrived quickly and in succession. All of the dishes that the food arrived in were so pretty and authentic.
The dishes we tried that night were:
Fried Eel: This was eel with onions sautéed. The eels were very smooth and silky soft. There weren’t too many of then in the stone pot, however.
Snails: These were a plate of small snails with ma la spicy oil. It was most efficient to use a toothpick to pry the small snail meat out. Remember not to eat the long tail end of the snail (excrement).
Mushrooms: These were mushrooms that resembled yellow chopped up potatoes. Even the texture of it seemed like potatoes to me.
Duck’s Blood with Silk Noodles: We ordered two pots of this. The duck blood was in strips in the soup broth with tofu puffs. The vermicelli soaked up all the broth and was delicious.
Honey-glazed Stuffed Lotus: This is a dessert. I’ve never had this before. It was a really unique dessert with rice stuffed into the holes of the lotus.
Jingling Noodles in Light Soy Sauce Broth: This is the 9 RMB bowl of noodles I was talking about. In Chinese, they referred to it as “onion noodles”. It was quite tasty and for the price, it was truly unbeatable value. We had a total of three bowls of these.
Sesame-crusted Fish Fillets: The way these were encrusted with sesame and fried thinly, it didn’t taste much like fish. There was more crisp than the fillet part.
Baby Rooster Stew with Special Sauce Served with Crispy Sesame Bun: This was an impressive dish for the reason that the chicken stew and sesame buns were placed in a small wok over a small fire. The flames were immense as it licked the bottom of the wok.
I didn’t think there was anything too special about the baby rooster meat but the sesame buns were tasty. We shut down the fire after a while since everything was already cooked thoroughly. The staff used the ceramic container holding the chopsticks to put out the fire.
Braised Pork Shank: This was a big plate of sliced pork shank with the bone put to the side. There was a dish of ma la spicy oil for dipping. This dish is great for meat lovers as there were a lot of it and it was tasty. It was a bit oversalted though and the ma la oil wasn’t even that spicy. I found the snails to be spicier.
Sautéed Silky Gourd with Garlic: We had two orders of these as the only sole veggie dish of the night. These silky gourds were indeed silky smooth and sleek in texture.
Tender Tofu in Shrimp Sauce: This goes well with rice. It’s a wide ceramic bowl of just tofu. I couldn’t discern much of the so-called shrimp sauce though.
Osmanthus-scented Steamed Sponge: These had the texture of rice cakes — gooey yet soft and dense. The osmanthus made it smell good. The denseness was favourable.
Traditional Sweet Taro Seedling in Lotus Starch with Osmanthus: The taro seedlings seem to be the star of this dessert and the lotus starch was largely ignored. However, I thought the lotus starch was really tasty! It wasn’t too sweet.
When we finished eating by 7 p.m., there was indeed a line-up of people waiting for a table outside.