If there must be a headline above the signage of this restaurant, it should read “NO COMPLIMENTARY HERE.” The imaginary headline felt necessary because that phrase kept coming to mind while we were having dinner at Guangzhou’s No. 1 Spicy Hall 广州1号香辣馆 near Beijing Road in Guangzhou, China. It was the first and only restaurant during our vacation where we were hugely disappointed (read Service part below).
Review of Guangzhou’s No. 1 Spicy Hall 广州1号香辣馆 (Near Beijing Road, Guangzhou)
Interior design was very plain and not up to the mark. The atmosphere suffered because of darkness and the stressful feel of the staff. Also, with cartons piled up beside the dining tables, the two-story restaurant did not look decent but dingy and far from spotless. 看起来那么老了，多年没重新设计。
Service was weird, choppy, and frustrating in multiple accounts. It was okay in the beginning as there was no wait time and the waitress quickly responded with food recommendations when we came in. (Note: All text on the menu were in Chinese, and the staffs could only speak and understand Chinese.)
Later, a complete set of plate, bowl, and cup wrapped in plastic, a glass of cold water, sheets of tissue paper, utensils (wooden chopsticks and spoon), and house tea were provided on the table as we moved to the dining scene. For the record, we assumed, as any regular diner would, that those basic items were complimentary for use. Little did we know that we had to pay for them on top of our orders. Seriously?
I talked to the staff and the owner, contesting that they should not charge us for things that were not specifically mentioned had usage fees in the first place. I then wondered if this is normal in China. We did not even touch the tea. In the end, only the plate, bowl, cup, utensils, and tissue paper remained on the bill, which summed up to RMB 6 per person, over the food items.
Lack of attentiveness and lack of support for customer’s needs were also seen as problems. It felt like we were in school again, as we needed to raise our hands to get the server’s attention many times. Without trying to make eye contact, servers continually walked by us. Our table was positioned just beside the main counter, so it was truly impossible for them not to see. Le sigh.
广州1号香辣馆 knows how to do the classics right, and this plate of Pan-fried Dumplings 私房煎饺 (RMB 22) was a great example of that. There were better starters on the menu, but this one held us over just fine. With a hefty portion of flavorful pork filling, the dumplings were perfectly done with slight charred and a nice crispness on the skin. They weren’t at all oily, which was great, but maybe the pastry was a tad thick. Accompanying sauce was hot, giving that needed extra punch. 真心的美味，非常好吃，份量足够。
Next we had the Basil Chicken and Snail 紫苏田螺鸡 (RMB 48), which clearly took a lot of skill and technique to cook. It was exciting to eat, since the process of eating it was actually a lot like digging around in your back yard for snails and digging them out with a toothpick. The exquisite snail tasted like the bottom of the ocean. Glorious! 🙂
However, if you’re not a fan of something unusual, getting this may be likened as driving to a wrong turn or speeding off a cliff. Bounce back a bit with the chicken. Juicy and delectable, the basil chicken was slightly salty, sweet and strong. Taste was all-around excellent, but the annoying factor was it had too many bones. 🙁
Yangzhou fried rice rouses some sort of worldly must-eat-it-all instinct that’s almost impossible to quell. Similarly, the Guangzhou Fried Rice 广州炒饭 (RMB 22) or “Cantonese-style fried rice” was one dish we could not leave without ordering. The fried rice was salty and satisfying, with spiciness also kicking in every mouthful. Scrambled eggs, carrots, and chunks of meat were in the right proportion and size.
Price for Value: ★★★☆☆
While 广州1号香辣馆 is certainly a place to check out once for a unique dining experience, this restaurant didn’t leave us ever wanting to come back for more. With better ambiance and service, it could have gotten a more positive rating in this review.
In terms of food tastes though, there was nothing much to complain about. With the dishes we tried, we found ourselves stunned at how Cantonese cuisine can be super rich and decadent in flavor.