We were initially lured to Xiang Mi Hu (a.k.a. Honey Lake Village, a resort town in the middle of Futian) by what was described to us as a “Mongolian yurt experience under the stars,” but when we came upon a dozen or so filthy yurts packed under a tin roof, we opted to go next door and treat ourselves to a northwestern Chinese feast in possibly the largest restaurant we’ve ever come across. The size of several football pitches, it’s just one of the many branches in a growing franchise. Despite its size, small mobs still wait outside the commanding restaurant.
Spicy, spicy, spicy—don’t expect anything else from Ba Shu Feng, which is famous for serving authentic, home-style Sichuan cuisine. The chain, first opened in 1998, now has six restaurants all over Shenzhen, and we visited its Luohu branch. This spacious venue is decorated like a small Sichuan village. We sat down under a big artificial tree and ordered the classic noodles with a sauce of pork bits and Zhong dumplings—both came in small portions, were incredibly cheap and proved perfect for warming up the stomach.
We sat down at this no-frills, all-business restaurant opposite an eight-dollar spaghetti house teeming with teens, and thought that the relatively higher prices here (around 30 bucks per dish) must reflect the quality of the food. It’s a shame that we weren’t exactly there with empty stomachs, as the items in the menu looked quite attractive and yet we could only bring ourselves to order two dishes. We decided on some fried “four season” green beans and hot-plate glass noodles—both of which, unbeknownst to us, ended up being vegetarian dishes.
Near Gucci and right next to Club Monaco in The MixC, the sprawling luxury-brand mall (“Shenzhen Festival Walk”), lies Belle Epoque, a grand French restaurant all done up in 19th-century art nouveau style. With stunningly spacious bar, lounge and dining areas, the elegant Parisian salon’s interiors (courtesy of famed architect and designer Peter Lynch) are highly stylized, decked out with curvilinear sculptural forms, flowing furniture, with an oh-so in vogue contemporary geometric lozenge wall and bar, plus a petit wine cellar in the corner.
With Sino-Arabesque patterns on the tablecloths and a quasi-minaret right outside the window, this no-frills restaurant serves the Islamic and Uighur cuisine of Xinjiang and China’s western regions. You can try sorts of buns, rolls, savory cakes and pasta of all shapes and sizes made from flour and more exotic starches, like an oblong noodle made from Tibetan green barley served cold, with a spicy sauce, or orecchiete and trofie-like noodles in a hearty bean soup.
This slightly hard-to-find restaurant serves the rustic cuisine of the Miao ethnic groups. The signature dish here is a plate of Xiangba Island “little lobsters” (Chinese crayfish), great with a bottle of Tsingtao. If you’re not too scared of fish bones, try the perfectly deep-fried “Three Gorges-style” whole fish, topped with a fragrant hot mess of chilies and garlic.
This enormous restaurant with hanging chili peppers as a design element features the rural cuisine of China’s great northwest. A flask of earthy buckwheat tea and bowls of boiled peanuts, roasted sunflower seeds and quail eggs sit on every table. The specialty here is youmian, a noodle made out of baked oats, cute little spindles of dough squeezed and twisted by an assembly line of women. The shape and feel of the pasta will be exotic for southerners, but totally nostalgic for workers from that region.