We were looking for a nice restaurant in Hangzhou and came across a relatively obscure but very well reviewed restaurant housed in a boutique hotel - Tianlun Inn. The restaurant is small by China standards - but pretty large by normal Asian standards. It can easily seat more then a couple of hundred dinners - and the dining area is divided into several sections. The interior decor is very stylish and beautifully done.
The menu is quire overwhelming. There are literally pages after pages of mouth-watering selections. Asking the waiters for assistance wasn't much help - as they tend to steer you towards the more expensive items on the menu. After studying the menu for about 20 min - I managed to complete the order of around 15 dishes.
The food at Tianlun Inn is expertly prepared and beautifully presented. In fact it was one of the best dining experiences I have had in China. Course after course came out - all of which were delicious and some were even surprising and exciting.
Even the appetizers are very unusual. The pickled radish looked like something else completely.
These were some kind of very small dried plums or prunes. Packed with flavours.
Braised pork ribs - very tasty small morsels of pork.
Dried baby jellyfish served on an ice bed. Dipped into a vinegar sauce - these were very crunchy and addictive.
The pleasant surprise was a simple salad of "Shieh Chai" - literally translated as snow vegetables. They have lots of little hairs which made them look frozen. Served in a delicious vinaigrette - these were so fresh and crunchy. We had to order a second serving.
Deepfried quails - expertly executed.
Tung Po Pork - one of the best versions I have tasted.
Chinese spinach with prawns, garlic and century egg - a common dish elevated by the very good stock.
The only dish that had a mixed reception - deepfried yam balls with prawns and onion. Perhaps the yam balls were a little too starchy in comparison to the other dishes.
Aubergine with baby squids. Another common dish with the unexpected ingredient of baby squids which were very crunchy and sweet.
Slow cooked beef rib - the beef was so tender and flavourful, and the sauce had a subtle hint of ginseng. This was one of the most popular dishes of the night.
Spicy fish soup - very fresh slices of fish with cubes of tofu in a subtly spicy broth - one of the best fish dish we had in Hangzhou.
Smoked tofu - first time I had this dish. It looked simple and unappetizing - but the tofu had a very unusual texture owing to the preparation method - and the smoky taste matched really well with the savoury sauce.
The dinner at Tianlun Inn was one of the best meals I have had in my visits to China. If you are in Hangzhou - you must go and give it a try.