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Eat Your (Ox) Heart Out

We’ve enjoyed a number of over-the-top meals here in China, including hosted dinners last night in Xi’an and tonight in Shanghai. Chris Lee, owner of China Plus USA, is very well respected here in China, and so when he brings a FAM tour on a visit, his tourism friends pull out all the stops.

Last night’s dinner included a number of colorful dumplings, many shaped to resemble frogs, ducks or other animals, as well as a variety of local delicacies. Among them were some foods that you won’t find on western menus, such as ox hearts (I tried them — not nearly as bad as you might think). But the meal also included many wonderful pork, chicken, beef and seafood dishes. All together, we counted some 37 dishes that were served family-style to our small group.

Tonight we’re in Shanghai, China’s business center, and staying in the brand new Sheraton hotel that is currently in its soft opening phase. The hotel management treated us to a wonderful dinner at their upscale Japanese restaurant on the 37th floor. The meal included beautiful sashimi —  raw tuna, salmon and shellfish — as well as a number of traditional Japanese soups, salads and fried rice. The highlight, though, was the Wagyu beef, prepared in front of us on a tepenyaki grill. The cattle that Wagyu comes from are fed a premium diet, and caretakers massage them daily by hand to make their muscles extra soft and tender. The result was one of the best steak meals I’ve ever had, impossible tender and full of fresh flavor.

There are some perks that come along with working in the travel industry, and in China many of those are built on personal relationships. Here, as in so many other places, it’s all about who you know.

A platter of ox heart and other delicacies… yum!

Frog-shaped dumplings in Xi’an.

Gathering around the tepenyaki table at the Sheraton in Shanghai.

Fancy fingerwork makes dinner entertaining.

A splash of red wine turns beef preparation into fireworks.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.