Think of all the changes Hangzhou has seen over the past decade. The city’s once modest skyline has been forever transformed by the appearance of lofty skyscrapers, its time-honored stores have been replaced by trendy upscale boutiques and its quiet lanes have made way for a steady increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
But no matter how the city changes, some restaurants remain comfortably rooted in a simpler past, with unassuming dishes that never grow old and prices that always seem reasonable.
If you’re hankering for a taste of old Hangzhou, or growing jaded with the city’s upscale dining scene, here are three of the city’s best, and oldest, casual eateries.
With its humble façade and narrow dining area, Three Sisters Restaurant looks like just another hole-in-the-wall nestled away in a quiet residential neighborhood. But what sets this place apart is its delicious dishes, fresh ingredients, fair prices and the owners’ fastidious attention to cleanliness.
This place has all the standard dishes you’d expect, including slow-simmered sliced pork, fish soup boiled with tofu, and fried shrimp.
A word of warning though: this low-key-looking eatery draws huge crowds during meal times. Diners are encouraged to show up early. Also, the restaurant is closed on weekends.
Address: 29 Hengchangshou Rd
Tel: (0571) 8703-3293
Nostalgia is catching on among Chinese in their 20s and 30s. And one of the first restaurants to capitalize on this longing for simpler times was Tong Nian Xiao Zhu.
The no-frills menu includes many home-style dishes that China’s young adults grew up eating. The most popular dish is rice mixed with soy sauce, with the rice cooked in the sort of clay pots that were once standard in local home kitchens.
Another dish likely to recall pleasant memories of youth is fish jelly, a congealed treat made with fish stewed in soy sauce.
Along with these nostalgic nibbles, the restaurant also features a decor straight from the 1980s and 1990s. On the coarse brick walls are period-authentic slogans encouraging diners to work and study hard.
Sliced Boiled Pork
Address: 789 Shenhua Rd
Tel: (0571) 8700-7013
Rice Mixed with Soy Sauce
It’s not uncommon for the owners of Puppy Noodle Shop to sell upwards of 500 bowls of noodles before the end of lunch. And, with only 30 square meters of space inside, Puppy’s owners have been forced to provide outdoor stool seating for those who can’t fit inside.
Even on the most frigid winter mornings, savvy diners will brave the cold to slurp down this shop’s irresistible noodles. As for those living in the nearby residential communities, this 13-year-old shop has become an indispensable part of local life.
Like countless other noodle dispensaries across China, this local institution originally opened without a name. Over time, regulars began referring to it by the nickname of its owner and head chef: Puppy.
In addition to traditional Hangzhou-specialty pian’erchuan noodles, which features preserved vegetables and sliced bamboo shoots, noodles served with soy sauce are also a hot seller.
Beef and stir-fried pig’s liver and kidney are also considered signature dishes, and pair well with noodles and the shop’s distinctive dipping sauces.
According to chef Puppy, the secret to his noodles is lard, which he uses instead of oil for a richer taste and smell.
Address: 113 Fuxing St S.
Pig's Liver Noodles