It's been weeks since I ate at Qingdao cuisine-specialized M&T Restaurant with Tristan, Grace, and Bram, but if I concentrate hard enough, I can still taste the garlic. What a magic night that was. "The Night My Mouth Became Saturated with Odiferous Sulphur Compounds."
Take a look at the Qingdao cold pasta with special sauce. That yellow mound on top? Raw garlic mash. And what's under it? I'm not really sure. But the New York Times calls it "jelly-like grass noodles." I call it "sort of flavorless cold translucent jelly slabs."
But that's where the garlic comes in, along with black vinegar, cilantro, and shredded cucumber and carrot. Mix it together and now the jelly flops tastes like "all of the above," making for a refreshing dish—the sort of refreshing that punches you in the face if you're not used to the flavors (I wasn't).
Next up was cucumber with pork head and shittons of garlic. Another dish that refreshes the palate with thick, crunchy slices of raw cucumber, and moist, fatty pork bits (from the head, I'd assume), infused with garlic and vinegar.
Chicken with ginger and basil wasn't our first choice for a chicken dish, but methinks due to a miscommunication, that's what we ended up with. Tender chicken nubs in...a sauce. A brown sauce. With basil and ginger chunks. Sorry for the crappy description; the dish was good, just not one that stuck out in my mind.
Battered and fried ginseng left more of an impression since it's fried—better yet, something fried that I had never eaten before. The ginseng itself didn't have much flavor (or maybe I missed it because I was in the early stages of some sort of cold), but it had an interesting texture that yields just slightly before cronching. The main flavor came from black pepper. Mmmm. Oh, and salt. Double mmmm.
For our resident vegetarian, Tristan, our friendly waitress (and perhaps the restaurant's proprietor) recommended mapo tofu, which also came with a side of sliced lotus root. Silky soft tofu cubes doused in a hot Sichuan peppercorn-laced sauce is always satisfying. Tristan loved it.
Overall, I enjoyed the meal—most of the dishes were ones I had never tried before, but fit in the familiar, "IT'S CHINESE AND DELICIOUS" category. I'd go back to M&T if someone in my dining party could read off the mirrored wall covered in Chinese specials that probably aren't on the menu. Alas, as the sole Chinese person in our group of four, I provided absolutely no advantage—I only know English, and even that I have trouble with sometimes. (Apologies to Grace, Bram, and Tristan for being fail Chinese.) If you're curious about the specials though, I'm sure the friendly staff will help you out.