Usually when one thinks of spicy food, our beloved Zhejiang ain’t the first province that comes to mind. While Sichuan, Hunan and even some Dongbei dishes are famed for their fiery qualities, no cuisine is “hotter” right now (ed. note: sorry!) in Ningbo than our provincial brethren in Quzhou.
This time last year you could likely count on one hand the number of Quzhou restaurants around the city. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the city without one. You’d also be hard-pressed to find one anywhere as nice as Chou.
Chou Restaurant, located on Jingjia Lu—one of Ningbo’s busiest (and most delicious) food streets adjacent to Youngor Stadium in Jiangdong—is part of a new class of restaurants that puts serious attention to design, service and cuisine. Even from across the road, Chou looks great. What’s inside, however, is truly special.
Quzhou food is somewhat reminiscent of Hunan cuisine. For Chinese geography aficionados that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as it lies at the western edge of Zhejiang province, neighboring Hubei. But as a brief descriptor it centers around savory and spicy flavors and eschews fattier cuts of meat like the belly in favor of leaner ones. As a whole, it’s a balanced approach to food that’s not too heavy in any one direction or the other, but certainly will leave you reaching for a drink pretty often. Not a bad thing.
On top of being absolutely gorgeous as a restaurant, Chou’s dishes are prepared masterfully. Nothing too oily, simple but pretty presentation and good hearty eats. In other words, everything you want from a restaurant.
Kao bing (烤饼), basically a meatball stuffed in a pita, is essential Quzhou food and it’s done to perfection at Chou.
While not battered and deep-fried, a certain Southern boy was absolutely delighted to find fried green tomatoes (青番茄) on the menu. For the unaccustomed, green tomatoes are like a tart, peppery cousin to the more popular red variety. On top of being absolutely delicious, they’re not something found very commonly in these parts.
Also outstanding was the rabbit, which was recommended to us by Chou’s owner. We’ll go ahead and extend that recommendation too.
The trend of Chinese restaurants looking and feeling nicer is a welcome one. While we certainly still have a lot of love for the many dingy-but-delicious dives in our fair city, it’s nice to see people taking pride in what they do and being tasteful about the way they decorate. It really does make a huge difference. Pay Chou a visit and check out the future of dining out in Ningbo.