If you've heard of this restaurant then you probably read Fuchsia Dunlop's article about Dragon Well Manor in The New Yorker. The article made the email rounds, at least in Shanghai, in 2008-2009 and I've since wanted to go. Reading Dunlop's description, the place sounds idyllic, the food transcendent. Many of us who've been in China for a while have profound views on food. We've all overcome our Western mis-educated understanding of what Chinese food is and have our own, very opinionated views, likes and dislikes. Cocktail party banter often quickly whittles itself down to favorite dishes and restaurants and I've even seen a kilo of Yunnanese goat cheese being passed around at an upscale party on the Bund.
But all of this philosophizing on food is often lost on travelers to China who are simply looking to have a great meal during their trip to [fill in the blank], China. I condone this uncomplicated goal. With so much delicious food to be found from street-corner to five-star restaurant, there's no excuse for a bad meal during your trip to China. So while you can, and should, read the articles touting Dragon Well Manor as the "Chez Panisse of China" to understand the restaurant's philosophy and the owner's commitment to recreating traditional dishes and using only the best available ingredients. I have imparted my experience there so you can decide for yourself whether to make this a stop on your Hangzhou itinerary: Review of the Dragon Well Manor, Hangzhou.
Photos: top - our first course; middle - our private dining pavilion; bottom - fresh chickens being carried to the kitchens. © 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.