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Guangzhou, July 4, 2013

Though probably dead tired after landing in Guangzhou from Sydney at 6AM, our Guangzhou host would not take no for an answer when extending his dinner invitation tonight. Since Guangzhou is super famous for its Cantonese cuisine, it is Cantonese food tonight by no mistake. We walk in leisure to the restaurant which offers no common dining area apart from various themed VIP rooms. Exclusivity by all means is here to service this important trading province of Guangdong.

We are first seated at one sofa corner of the room where a tea ceremony is initiated. Being a very health-conscious person, our host orders a herbal tea, supposedly good for the liver, especially when alcohol is about to flow through one’s body. While the tea fragrance fills the room, an expensive bottle of red wine is being decanted at the main table. The bottle is then brought over to the host who passionately shares his tasting notes for this 1000-dollar bottle of 2005 Domaines Barons de Rothschild Chateau Lafite

“So you must be a French-wine fan?” I ask.

“Definitely!” answers Vincent.

“What are your thoughts on Australian and American wines that have made headlines in recent years then?”

Without a flash of hesitation, Vincent explains his philosophy about wine, “French wine is like a charming, elegant lady who comes from a noble and educated family heritage while Australian and American wines can be referred to as young, energetic, entertaining ladies who can be a lot of fun but won’tbe able to walk a journey with you.”

What a description! Though i am not sure if he has actually been sold the concept at one of the roadshows promoted by the Wine Association of France. The host then apologizes that he could not make us wait for an hour while our Lafite needs to breathe, and unfortunately that we have to start dinner sooner, knowing we need to rest early after a hard-working day. Without any prejudice on the 1000-dollar tag, Lafite tastes perfect to me, distinctively flowery though I am supposed to pick up flower, oak, fruit, and orange, all in all a very sophisticated combination. Pairing with fine Cantonese dishes of five-spiced tofu, Cantonese roast pork, roasted baby duck, pan-fried estuary fish, and an unusual Western cousin lobster thermidor on a bed of Chinese noodle, the dinner ends on a fine note with snowy custard dumpling for dessert.

As we walk back to the hotel that night, I can, for the first time in my life, feel the expensive gap between the social classes in China. One country, same city, yet it is heaven and hell intertwining in this rough city of Guangzhou.

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