Delicious Benefits | 锦品居

259 Xuefu lu 学府路

Shabbiness: 1 laowai

Food: 2 laowais

Mood: Disappointment

Concept: Luxury hole in the wall

As we enter this place with slight anticipation, two questions come up: is it a new trend in Kunming with fancy, clean hole-in-the-walls, and how clean can a place be and still qualifiy for a review on this blog? At first, we actually doubt whether we should make this review at all, because this place is almost spotless. The furniture is both normal-sized, clean and matchin (no diminuitive randomly colored footstools here), the walls are freshly painted, and the roof is as spotless as any we’ve seen in China. Were it not for the fancy black wall menu and a glittering bar-style counter that looks like it has been taken directly from Muse or some other concept nightclub, Delicious Benefits would feel as soulless as Hēilóngjiāng Jiǎozi Diàn next door – and then some.  Even the floor is spotless, and we actually see people cleaning the kitchen; words can’t really express how big that is in Kunming.  There is however a mysteriously  large amount of flies, as if something rotten is actually hidden away somewhere, and some food items are kept out in the open on a table in the corner. Nevertheless, there can be only one  shabbiness grade for a place such as this;  the lowest. This place could easily be a restaurant in Europe, though there is some weird, nondescript second world-feel to the general look of it.

The staff can, to their credit, actually recommend some dishes, but this turns out to be very much not to their credit in the end, as the food we get is extremely mediocre. The appetizer soup is actually the best we’ve had in Kunming (and the fridge where the beverages are kept is remarkably cold), but the main courses are bland and extremely non-laowai-friendly, with meat mostly consisting of bone and huge lumps of fat, the seasoning weak and plain, and the broth doesn’t taste much of anything. (The rice is warm though; small relief). Interestingly enough, this actually reinforces the basic assumption of this blog; the fancy places do not have the best food. With our raison d’être thus assured, we leave Delicious Benefits (a name which, by the way, has to be ironic), and are not likely to return.

At least it looked good...

Chéngdū Dàn Dàn Miàn | 成都担担面

16 Cang Yuan Xiang 仓园巷Chéngdū Dàn Dàn Miàn

Shabbiness: 2 laowais

Food: 3 laowais

Mood: Cozy familial

Theme: Outdoor seating

The first of several small restaurants tucked away on an alley next to Green Lake Park, the staff here immediately and enthusiastically greets us in what little english they know, in stark contrast to the less-than-warm welcoming we got  at the Hēilóngjiāng  jiaozi place. We’re further treated to a somewhat lavish picture menu, and outdoor seating in the evening sun; though on metallic benches in that particulary shabby shade we’ll hereafter dub “eyesore blue”.

While the restaurant isn’t the cleanest on earth, windows provide full insight into the kitchen, so we can be assured there is nothing hideous going on inside. There is also evidence for at least some vague effort to spice up the place; a random painting hangs on the wall, and there’s a swiss looking clock that’s so marvelously random it’s awesome. Somehow, the apparent happiness of the staff also detracts from the feeling of shabbiness; in a really shabby place, we reason, the staff should be ugly, grumpy, indolent and boring, here they are the exact opposite. While the outdoor seating has to be considered the main bonus feature, the neon sign is another nice touch that we assume to be the staff’s pride and  joy. There’s also a screaming baby that’s occasionally carried into the kitchen to drool everywhere, a recurring theme from Hēilóngjiāng Jiǎozi Diàn. While it there added to the angst-inducing atmosphere, it mainly makes things even more familial and cozy here.

We’re recommended a dish, and order two more. They’re all savory and nicely spicey, though we’re a bit divided as to if there’s too much chili or not, and whether the mushrooms are overcooked. The meat-to-vegetables-ratio is surprisingly good, and the meat is mostly fillet, no fat and bones. We get the rice borderline cold however, which is deemed a major error, and in itself almost enough to lower the rating. Another issues is the fact that two of the dishes are clearly better than the third; even though shredded pork and green beans are supposed to be really good, we find ourselves having much of it left when the other food is long gone, so something must have been wrong with it (too little seasoning, maybe?). The food is enjoyable, but not exactly culinary delights, and the issue with the rice can’t be overlooked.

All in all, Chéngdū Dàn Dàn Miàn gets a disappointingly low grade on shabbiness; it’s more kitsch than genuine horror, and a place with outdoor seating on a terrace just can’t be considered that bad. (They even have matching plastic tableware with a red and black color scheme that almost makes it look like ceramics). The food rating is average; we’d go here again, but more because of the nice location and staff than any particular culinary pleasure.

Look how happy they are!