Last Saturday evening, I found myself (as so often lately!) on my own for dinner, and so decided to try somewhere new. And this led to me to waive one (or possibly two) of the most basic rules of venue choice:
a bar or restaurant with no customers in it is almost certainly no bloody good.
The corollary rule is that if there's a place you've never got around to trying in years, there's probably a good reason for that.
On Saturday, with the streets thronged by premature Halloweeners, I was driven to trying a little Muslim restaurant on Gulou Dongdajie that had no customers in it at the time, and that I don't think I'd been in before. (Given that I've lived around this part of Beijing for a decade now, there aren't many long-established restaurants that I've never tried; most I've been into at least a handful of times, and the better ones some dozens of times.)
And it was indeed stupendously awful. The spicy green beans were undercooked, and so stringy as to be almost inedible. And not very spicy. And, despite being undercooked, they were not delivered to my table until several minutes after I'd received and eaten (or tried to eat) everything else. The egg fried rice was horrendously overcooked; very thin on egg, but doused in soy sauce which made it far too salty and gave it an unappealing brown colour; and I suspected it had probably been recycled numerous times. The beer was warm. The chuanr was OK, but a small stick for 3rmb.
5 young Chinese lads entered shortly after me (perhaps enticed in by the glamorous presence of a foreigner?). They still hadn't received any of their food when I left 20 or so minutes later, and were starting to look disconsolate and impatient.
Food service had perhaps been held up by the fact that the chuanr cook out front had dragged one of the indoor kitchen staff out into the street to have a protracted screaming row with him.