About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008
The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World
Caught the first of a four part series on West Lake Restaurant last night, billed as the biggest restaurant in the world, as attested to by the Guinness Book of Records, with the capacity to serve 5000 diners at the one sitting.

Labour practices appeared to be straight from Chairman Mao's little red book, with plenty of exhortations to the staff to work towards the success of the company.

It is a pretty amazing place all the same, covering a huge site and beautifully landscaped with myriads of rooms to choose from, one level does a floor show of Chinese dancing during service.

But there was one segment that will forever be etched in my mind.

A chef grabbed a fish and scaled it with the back of his cleaver. Then he slashed it to the bone a couple of times on both sides, grabbed it by the head with a cloth and dipped the tail section only straight into a wok of boiling hot oil, creating a deep fried/sashimi combination. The fish was then plated and sauced. The chef was only considered to have succeeded with the dish if the fish at this point was still alive.

The SBS warning of animal distress at the start didn't even begin to cover this. It was the cruelest thing I have ever seen.

And then some.

The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World, 4 part series, SBS, 8.00pm Wednesday
 
  posted at 7:35 am
  12 comments



12 Comments:
At 2:29 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said...

I too watched the show and it was amazing on a few levels.

Just the scale of the place and the amount of staff and chefs needed and food consumed was astounding. How they keep a handle on the orders from different kitchens should be noted by some Melbourne restaurants who can't get your meal right with only one kitchen.

The part about the staff reciting things such as "the most important thing to us each day is our distinguished guests" made me laugh so hard. The old communist China is still there, just with some profiting more than others from business.

And finally, the fish scene was utterly disturbing. I was squirming in my seat. But I found the beheading of the snakes and then skinning them in hot water and finally chopping them up so the parts were still pulsating even more disgusting. I know food has to be killed by someone, but is that the most humane way?

A fascinating show that I will continue to watch just to see how things are done in other parts of the world.

 
At 3:05 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi thanh, it was a bit like watching a car crash, impossible to take your eyes off it. I didn't mind the snake so much, after all, we chop heads off chickens, but I'm not sure I'd want to be served its still beating heart!

You're right, it's not our culture, but no restaurant here could do what they did and not expect to be closed down.

 
At 1:46 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

. . . ah . . . .gadfry . . . car crash you can't take your eyes off . . . reading maybe enough for me. So this is a TV show from China? Heavens to Betsy . . . I guess I don't know what to say.

Maybe the best thing is that it is possible to match a diner with an order.

 
At 9:31 am, Blogger Squishy said...

Sounds facinating but gruesome at the same time. I will watch the next one. The fish thing seems very extreme and cruel that's something I have not encountered. But the snakes beating heart is something I have seen done in Vietnam with a Cobra. It's a tradition there.

 
At 4:46 am, Blogger david santos said...

Great menu!
Congratulations!!!!

 
At 6:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent menu. Sounds terrific!

A little recommendation, I found these to be so delicious and useful in my kitchen: http://bajoseasonedsalts.com/

Cheers.

John

 
At 9:39 am, Blogger gigi said...

Gad, that sounds horrific. Why, I wonder, would the success of the dish depend on the fish being alive? Is it, like the beating heart in the snake and other such dishes I've heard defended elsewhere, supposed to be related to taste? Or is it perception of the chef's skill, to be able to cook without killing? Or is it a primitive human fascination with cruelty? Personally, I suspect the latter. And it's very unappetizing.

On the other hand, I'm all for restaurant efficiency! Proper timing and getting the orders to the right tables is becoming a lost art in these parts.

 
At 3:28 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said...

Thought that I had left a comment - sorry if it shows up later.

The saddest part about the live fish episode is that it was part of a competition - so lots of fish were tortured and not consumed by paying guests. Just to see who was the fastest live fish cooker.

 
At 10:56 am, Anonymous Lucy said...

Hmm...interesting. Wish I'd seen it now. Have just read Thermomixer's comment...how awful.

Anyhoo. Guess that's just life, eh?

 
At 11:51 am, Blogger Thermomixer said...

But wait, there's worse.

This week, a live chicken was dunked in boiling/very hot water and plucked while it still appeared to be alive. It was presented with head still intact. Don't think that it had been stunned first, judging by the flpping.

Very sad.

 
At 8:57 am, Anonymous Dani said...

Human rights have not exactly been China's forte so while it saddens me to hear of such inhuman "butchering", I can't say I'm surprised.

I think I'm glad I missed it.

 
At 5:07 pm, Anonymous Max mickle said...

So, first I thought about how some Chinese restaurant probably touts themselves as having the Biggest Egg Roll in town, and how that would invariably cause an Egg Roll Arms Race where the Chinese places try to out-do each other with bigger and bigger Egg Rolls.

 

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