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Restaurant review of the Dragon Well (or Longjing) Manor in Hangzhou

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Restaurant review of the Dragon Well (or Longjing) Manor in Hangzhou

Our table awaiting our arrival at the Dragon Well Manor.

© 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

The Bottom Line

A place to go with a large group of foodies, Dragon Well Manor is an experience, not just a meal. We were a large group that included kids - the quality of dishes was lost on them but the freedom to roam in the garden while their parents enjoyed a long meal followed by tea and conversation was not. It's a place to alight on the topic of culinary refinement in China and ruminate on it over a locally sourced meal and tea picked just steps from where you're sitting. You'll never forget your meal at Dragon Well Manor.

Pros

  • Exquisite, locally-sourced, as-organic-as-possible ingredients in traditional delicious dishes.
  • Beautiful, traditional setting the perfect place to enjoy the food.
  • Wonderful place for large groups that include children (babies also accommodated).
  • Just a half-hour from main sights in Hangzhou so it's easy to add to your itinerary.

Cons

  • Very expensive and only works if you're in a large group.
  • Difficult to book - work with your hotel concierge to help you make a reservation.
  • Outside public transportation, you will need to book a taxi or car to get there and back.
  • .

Description

  • Dragon Well Manor
  • Dragon Well (Longjing) District, Hangzhou
  • tel: 0571-87888777

Guide Review - Restaurant review of the Dragon Well (or Longjing) Manor in Hangzhou

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. But all of that philosophizing on food is often lost on travelers who are looking to have a great meal during their trip to [fill in the blank], China. I condone this behavior. 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.

We managed to reserve the last available lunch table (dinner was fully booked) for a Saturday afternoon. We were seven adults, four kids and two babies. Each party dines in its own private garden pavilion fronted by a terrace. Due to horrific weekend-Hangzhou traffic, we were over an hour late and the dishes all came out fast an furiously. I can't say that I even tasted every dish and by the end, there were so many bowls of various soups, grains and gruels I barely touched them. There were standouts – the chicken soup, while not an exciting dish was hearty and fragrant the way a chicken stock ought to taste, chopped fresh tender greens mixed with shrimp was outstanding as were the mixed vegetables. The key is that everything is fresh and full of flavor so while many of the dishes are simple, the flavors stand on their own.

If we'd had more time and hadn't been so late, I'm sure the service staff would have happily given us better explanations of the food. As it was, they were doing their best just to get it on the table while our hungry party tucked in. After we devoured the meal, we let the kids run free while we appreciated the beauty of the place. We were there on the edge of spring and everything was in bud. Another week and the whole place would be blooming. Set in the heart of Hangzhou's longjing tea hills, the manor occupies a large traditional garden. We sat in the sun on our terrace and looked out upon bamboo groves, tea bushes and little bridges that hop over a winding stream at the bottom of the garden. In the distance birds chirped and our children ran amok. It is in such a setting that one can actually imagine what it must have been like for the upper classes, owners and occupiers of the classical Chinese gardens that we now visit as tourists, to sit, sipping tea and appreciating nature (or sculpted, cultivated nature, such that it is in Chinese gardens).

The setup of the restaurant makes it a destination in itself but not an easy one if there aren't many in your party. First, the menu is set and very large so you need a minimum number of people just to get through the meal. Second, there are minimum charges that apply so it is not an inexpensive endeavor by any means. But if you are traveling with foodies and you want to have a real food experience, then you should definitely look into booking at the Dragon Well Manor.

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