by Lauren T
January 16, 2002
Jack's Place is a small local chain of restaurants owned by a Chinese man (whose English name is Jack) who has spent some time abroad and, during this time, apparently learned to cook some things. Upon returning to China, he opened his restaurants, which serve both western and Chinese food.
The staff seems to know their recipes well--they are able to produce tasty, or at least familiar-tasting, standard western food items. However, their knowledge of western food culture ends there. (I'm not sure if these people who are making and serving western food have ever actually eaten any of it). They aren't always sure which condiments are supposed to be offered with such foods (milk with coffee, ketchup with fries, salt and pepper with everything, etc.) and get confused on the order in which to serve things in.
Take my experience with breakfast this morning. It began last night when I was ordering my supper at the Ninghai Street location and I noticed the rather tempting looking American breakfast food selection on the menu (pancakes, French toast, omelets, etc.) I asked the waitstaff what time they opened for breakfast, and they told me nine o'clock.
Nine o'clock seemed to me a ridiculously late hour to open a restaurant with an extensive breakfast menu, particularly since the Chinese eat breakfast very early. However, when we showed up there this morning at 9:30 (only twelve hours after having asked them about this) they were still closed, so we headed over to the Shanghai street location.
They had a breakfast special there for 28 Yuan, which included pancakes, eggs, bacon, French toast, and either coffee, orange juice, or hot chocolate. This covered quite a few foods that I was missing so I ordered it.
The French toast came first (which was very good--the highlight of the meal). After I finished the French toast, I was brought a large pancake and asked for my drink selection.
Okay, I understand that the western idea of expecting your beverage at the beginning of your meal completely eludes the Chinese (you get used to that), but there seemed to me something comical about being offered orange juice upon the completion of my French toast. I find it hard to believe that anyone, in any culture, doesn't not find that combination disgusting. I chose hot chocolate.
After I had finished my pancake, they brought me my egg and ham (they were out of bacon). The egg was completely cold. I don't gather this was entirely negligent. I think they believed they were supposed to wait for me to finish my pancake for some reason.
Okay, this wasn't the best service I've ever had, but the food is decent and reasonably priced and you really can't be too picky about service in China--you'll starve.
From journal Weekend in Nanjing