The Purple Onion [Shanghai] – closed

Where did the Thirsty Pig Go?
The Purple Onion, part of famed Shanghai restauranteur David Laris empire, nice little European bistro. Though it is tucked away in a small alley, it is still conveniently located in the heart of the Shanghai French Concession. I thought we made a wrong turn somewhere, as we continued down the dark small alley of Shanghai old houses. Opened just a year ago, the Purple Onion is a favorite among my friends. Immediately as we walked in, I could see why this quaint little restaurant has regulars. The spacious outdoor al fresco area looked inviting, for the pleasant weather months, but not on this December night. The main dining area, with barely 10 tables, allows for intimate dining. Good for small groups and dates.

What did the Thirsty Pig Eat?
We decided on the Christmas menu, since we were in the mood. If you choose a starter, a main, and dessert the combination is 300 RMB. Unfortunately, they were out of the their chestnut and truffle soup, but they had their regular Artichoke Soup – which was pretty good. But I have say, I kinda like the sound of the chestnut and truffle for a soup. We also had the Soft Boiled Duck Egg, with Pancetta and Mustard Fruits for 78 RMB. I liked this salad – for the runny yolk and crunchy pancetta. Next up were the mains, the Roasted Pork, Stuffed with Apricots and Pistachios served with Parsnip Puree and Fennel for 168 RMB and Roasted Turkey stuffed with Prunes and Armagnac served with Caramelised Witlof for 168 RMB. I wasn’t sure what Witlof was, but I now know that I like it. The turkey and pork, both are notoriously dry, and unfortunately, Purple Onion’s was a bit dry as well. But I think they understood this and made sure that the sweet accompanied sauce blended the dryness to produce a nice meld. I was fine with this. I liked the turkey much more than the pork. (And I usually go for pork, regardless of the menu) Lastly, we had the Christmas Mince Pies for 48 RMB and Christmas Pudding with Brandy Cream for 78 RMB. The mince pies were these bite sized baked goodies. But they kind of reminded me of a holiday fruitcake (not a good thing). The Christmas Pudding was really tasty and moist – nice way to finish the meal.

Final Words
Since we tried the Christmas menu, I nary a look at their regular menu. I do intend to return try their regular menu.

What to Order: I have heard their Pizzas as really good
What not to Order:

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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The Purple Onion
No 16, Lane 351 Huashan Lu, near Changshu Lu
+86 21 6248 8747

The Geisha [Shanghai] – closed

Where did the Thirsty Pig go?
The Geisha is a Japanese themed restaurant with a dance club and bar lounge in a multilevel space. Situated in the heart of the French Concession of Shanghai 上海法租界, Geisha is the latest place to go for dining and dining. The Geisha, which opened toward the end of the Summer of 2011, is part of the Collective Concepts group, that brought The Apartment and Food Central to Shanghai.

I like the design and space of The Geisha. The dark lighting and red accents gives puts you immediately in the mood. The first floor restaurant features a sushi bar. The 2nd floor is the nightclub with couches and dance floor. I like tables with the built-in ice bucket, basically a hole in table for the bottles and ice. The center of the dance floor includes a raised bathtub for the go-go dancers. You can’t help but be drawn to the bathtub, even without a dancer. The third floor lounge, is my favorite, with a nice large outdoor deck. Unfortunately, you could probably only use this deck a few months out of the year, not during the sweltering summers and bitter winters.

What did the Thirsty Pig eat?
Our group started off with some of their signature cocktails. I liked how they are creative with their concoctions with infused vodkas. Nowadays, Shanghai bars and lounges need an edge with special and exclusive drinks. The Republic of Earth was pretty good, but not cheap at 65 RMB. The California in me, also liked the different rolls. I wasn’t really looking for a true Japanese experience with sashimi or sushi, so rolls, almost anytime, are fine with me. Cool names and nice combinations. Aside from the rolls, I didn’t care much for the mains. But I won’t get into that much.

Final Thoughts
The Geisha is a cool venue. But for dining, I wouldn’t necessarily go. I would just go prior for some light snacks or munching with drinks. The night club is cool, as well as the lounge.

Here is New Year’s Eve diner menu.

What to Order: I liked the Lucky Seven and Ho Chi Min’s Horse
What not to Order: Didn’t care much for the Yellow Tail Carpaccio or the Blue Fin Tuna, Foie Gras Torchon On a Spoon or the Sweet Soy Braised Chicken

2 Pigs
Price Range 3 $/¥/NT

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The Geisha
390 Shanxi Nan Lu, Fuxing Lu
+86 21 6403 0244

Le Saleya [Shanghai]

Where Did the Thirsty Pig Go?
We were looking for a French restaurant and I hate to say it. . . it looks as if I settled on Le Saleya. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of trying to find and make reservations for a restaurant on a late Saturday afternoon for that evening. All the usual suspects were fully booked. I wasn’t really surprised. . .since I should have known better. Le Saleya had been mentioned in a conversation I had months ago, but I had never thought about going. But I was pleasantly surprised.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we walked into a dark courtyard. Looks like it would be a festive place when the weather is better, thus making a mental note. As we walked in, we found a loud and unapologetically happy crowd. Its as if we stepped into a friend’s home. The homey interior gives a warm and inviting feel. It just makes you feel comfortable – which is great when its your first time to a restaurant.

What Did the Thirsty Pig Eat?
For our starters we got the Moules (babasses) gratintes – Gratinated Mussels for 88 RMB and the Camembert au miel cuit au four – Baked Camembert Cheese with Honey 88 RMB. The Mussels were big and juicy and not overly salty. The baked camembert was also nice. But I kept thinking it was processed cheese, being the shape looked like it was just unwrapped and warmed up. Regardless – I liked the cheese to Laughing Cow cheese, since it has the same texture.

For our mains, we shared the Lapin Saute a la moutarde – Stew Rabbit with mustard sauce for 168 RMB and the La piece de boeuf grille (200g) dépend a votre serveur- Grilled piece of Beef (200g) ask your waiter for 168 RMB. My friend, Miss Y, expertly with surgeon precision separated the meat for the little bones from the rabbit. It was like a show with her fast skill. The beef, served as medium rare, was tender and juicy – just the way I like it. I enjoyed the beef more than the rabbit.

Last Words
I enjoyed the dining experience at Le Saleya. I would like to return again in the spring for a nice weekend lunch.

What to Order: Beef and Mussels
What not to Order: Rabbit (but if you like the work – to separate the little bones from the meat – by all means, order it)

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Le Saleya
570 Changle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu
+86 21 5403 6957

Meet, Kerry Hotel [Pudong]

Where did the Thirsty Pig go?
The Thirsty one and his friends went to the Meet at the Kerry Hotel. It was a invited dinner to try their Tomahawk Steak. The Kerry Hotel, just opened in 2010, is the latest 5-star hotel in Shanghai. Situated near the Shanghai International Convention Center in the PuDong district, the Kerry Hotel is part of the Kerry Parkside complex, featuring a shopping center, an office tower, and apartments. Part of the Shangri-La Hotel Chain, this is the first of 2 planned Kerry hotels in Shanghai, with a rumored 2nd one opening soon in the Jing’An district. While the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts are the more refined upscale hotel chains, the Kerry offers a more contemporary and modern feel. The Kerry Hotel would compete against the W, Indigo, and other upscale boutique hotels.

What did the Thirsty Pig Eat?
We had the Ningaloo Tomahawk Steak at the Meet (restaurant) at the Kerry Hotel. It was a large 1.9kg steak, 980 RMB, that fed the four of us. “聚”招牌战斧牛排 4 级+ 980 21 天排酸. Aged for 14-21 days, this steak has a marbling score of 4+. I have no idea what Ningaloo is, but I know 1.9kg is huge! The Australian restaurant featured beef from the same lands. With their own glass-enclosed temperture-controlled aging room and in-house butcher, they are experts with steaks! This particular cut is shaped like a tomahawk axe, featuring a large main rib bone of the beef. I couldn’t believe how big it was when they brought it out to us just before cooking. The meat around this rib is extraordinarily marbled and tender. Though there is fat, it keeps the meat juicy and flavorful. It was amazing. I think there was also a salad, some shrimp, and desserts. . . but I kind of forgot about them.

Final Thoughts
This was a pretty bad-ass dinner. I’d recommend the Tomahawk to any steak lovers. Though I am not a big fan of steak, I was thoroughly impressed and overwhelmed.

What to Order: 1.9kg Ningaloo Tomahawk
What not to Order: Doesn’t matter. . .you’ll be full with the steak by itself.

2 Pigs
Price Range 3 $/¥/NT

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嘉里酒店花木路1388号2楼 近芳甸路
Kerry Hotel Pudong, 2/F, 1388 Huamu Lu, near Fangdian Lu
+86 21 6169-8886
Open: 5:30pm-10pm

San Want Hotel [Shanghai]

The San Want Hotel is a mid-size independent hotel, which a couple of scattered locations in Asia, including Taiwan, Southern China, and Shanghai. I previously had a chance to try their dim sum restaurant at their Taipei hotel. I recently stayed over night at the Shanghai location.

Its a nice hotel. The rooms are fine, better than the average China hotel. The hotels has a feel of being airy and spacious with the high ceilings. The warm hues and golden yellow colors give a soothing feel. I’ve stayed at some crappy hotels both in the US and in China – I firmly believe colors offer a simple way to convey feels.

I think the biggest problem about this hotel is its location. Considered to be in Shanghai, it is not in the city proper or city center. It is located in the district of Hong Qiao, which is more of an manufacturing district. Tourists wouldn’t be recommended to stay there. Business travelers may be recommended. But I think the ultimate choice for the location is for transit customers who are looking to head to other directions. The Shanghai San Want hotel is conveniently located near the Hong Qiao airport.

Another interesting tidbit about the hotel is the happy go-lucky logo. This logo is the famed logo on the Taiwanese snack foods. The owner of the hotel diversified its holdings from just snack food production and marketing to include hospitality. The cool thing about this logo, you see it everywhere, from the sand ashtrays, the towels, the liquid dispensers, and the statue in front.

Again, if not for the location, I wouldn’t suggest staying at this hotel. At least, there’s a subway stop about a 10 minute walk away.

1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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上海神旺大酒店 San Want Hotel
650 Yishan Road (Yishan Lu) Caohejing Development Zone, Shanghai, China, 200233

Dr. Beer [Shanghai] – closed

Dr. Beer is a new entrant in the Micro-Bewery or gastropubs in Shanghai. Dr. Beer will compete on a few different fronts with other establishments. Related to Dr. Wine, just located down the street on Fumin Road, Dr. Beer has a different type of vibe – more of a loft/warehouse industrial look, with a cool DJ, a female no doubt, blaring above on the catwalk gantry. I like how these gastropubs now offer food that is considered more than just a footnote – like peanuts or pretzels.

With the Kerry Hotel’s Brew, Brix and Boxing Cat Brewery, Dr. Beer will have to step up its brew game. From other reviews, I have read that the beer isn’t as good as its competitors. I had the Pilsner and Wheat, which I thought was both pretty good. But I do confess that I am not a beer aficionado, so I can’t claim to know a lot about beers. Additionally, places like Apartment, El Coctel, as well as the previous named ones offer full menu dining. I really liked the pizzas at Dr. Beer, since they over did it with the cheese. I like really cheesy pizzas. The popcorn chicken was another favorite, with its spiciness.

With all this competition, I think the best thing going for Dr. Beer is the great location and space. The central-ish spot on Fumin road near Julu road, is ideal with the big main street close by. With other restaurants, like People’s, Guyi, and Coconut Paradise close by, Dr. Beer is a nice 2nd stop. The large warehouse space is cool with a variety of seating options with high standing stools, or loungey couches, or simple tables. The DJ adds an additional element of a club. I like it. But I do think it gets a little loud at times.

Anyways. . .Look for Alex, the manager, and tell him the Thirsty Pig sent ya!

What to Order: Wheat Beer, Pilsner Beer, Popcorn Chicken
What not to Order: Spicy Chicken Wings

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Dr Beer
PHONE:5468 1077
ADDRESS:83 Fumin Lu,
near Yan’an Lu

Mi Tierra [Shanghai] – closed

I’ve been planning to return to Los Angeles for a visit in January for month now. And it is December now, and I have been literally counting the days. Near the top of the never-ending list of things to do, eat, and people to get in trouble with, is Mexican food. I can’t help it. . .I really like (love) Mexican food. I the spiciness, the fresh salsa, and the tender carnitas. I have this need that I fill at least once a month while in Shanghai (or Taiwan). Chances are, if there’s a Mexican restaurant to be found/tried in Shanghai, I am going to do it. Though El Mexicano in that food court in Jing’an wasn’t that great. (I am going to have to make a trek to their main location).

Anyways. . . I was able to convince a couple of Hunan friends to make a trip with to Mi Tierra. Hunan is known for their wickedly spicy cuisine, though being overshadowed by their more famed Sichuan spicy, though mouth numbing foods. So, I figured their the girls would like it. I believe I had overtaken them in my new found tolerance for spicy, from our visits for Spicy Moment and Di Shui Dong.

Unbeknownst to me, it was Tuesday Fajita night, for all you can eat Fajitas till you burst for 99 RMB (thought I thought it was Tuesday Taco night – a supposedly worldwide celebration of all you can eat tacos). So, the three of us tried them all – Shrimp, Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Veggie. We got flour tortillas, which seemed to be quite good. I wonder if they make them fresh here in Shanghai. I wish I could tell. Of them all, I enjoyed the Chicken and Pork, with my slathering of gauc, salsa, and hot sauce.

But, I was wondering why I was having Tex Mex, in a Mexican restaurant. I researched and found that the Executive Chef and Sous Chef are both from Mexico City and certifiably trained. Why was I having Tex Mex? On top of that, all the fajitas, arriving on a hot iron plate, looked the same with the dollops of sour cream and gauc on top – and somewhat tasted the same. I guess I was used to Chili’s back home in LA. The corn and bean appetizer was probably the highlight of the meal, along with our pitcher of Margaritas.

Would I try this place again? I would, but not on fajita night – guess I could order something else if I do. I know sometimes, but I forget the day, they have a unlimited all you can eat taco night, too.

Check out their Christmas Special

What to Order: AVOID Fajita Tuesdays
What not to Order: Margaritas

1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Mi Tierra
永嘉路17号 (近茂名南路)
17 YongJia Rd (near MaoMing S. Rd)
+86 21 5465-5837

Itsuki Teppanyaki 五木铁板烧 [Shanghai] – closed

Itsuki is an all you can eat Japanese Teppanyaki/BBQ restaurant. Located in the Donghu hotel, they have a pretty good deal for 150 RMB, which also includes all you can drink (alcohol included). For beef lovers, this place features a pretty quality of meat. I’ve had some forgettable all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurants, but Itsuki, which comes highly recommended, is actually not bad.

Located in the foreign infested area of the French concession with Bar 88, Dakota’s, Monkey Lounge, Cantina Agave, Craft, and other eateries, Itsuki is hidden inside the Donghu Hotel. The restaurant itself has seen better days, probably when the hotel first opened. Now it survives on the gimmick of the All You Can Eat Japanese concept. I would venture to say that you wouldn’t find many of these Japanese BBQ’s on the top of many lists or have high ratings from Michelin reviewers or guides. Yet, seemingly on the bottom of this food chain, it does exist.

Surprisingly, Itsuki, does have some pretty good quality meat. The manager must have found it in his heart or the pride, to select good cuts of beef. The clientale, mostly local Shanghainese, with nary of foreigner or Japanese in sight, must taken a liking to this place. Outside of hotel guests, I’d surmise that most of the customers are repeat ones or daring Dianping followers (with Itsuki garnering 3.5 stars). Yet, after the beef, I wouldn’t hardly recommend anything else – the kimchi pancake was horrendous and the soup was bland. Surprisingly, the Korean soup was flavorful. This leads me to my never-ending question – why does a supposedly Japanese BBQ (AYCE) have kimchi, kimchi pancake, kimchi fried rice, and spicy (Korean-Style) soup? Is it because it is Korean owned – as other joints I’ve been to in the US are). Do the Japanese really have spicy pickled cabbage – not likely, since Japanese don’t really eat with their tummies. But I am lead to believe, and wouldn’t be that surprised – that these restaurants are truly Korean owned, yet, the Japanese angle with the master prep and use of beef is more of a marketing ploy.

Regardless . . . Itsuki is a place I would return to. I would also recommend as well. The one thing I do hate though, is the lack of ventilation with the oily smoke hovering around us and our clothes.

What to Order: Beef
What not to Order: Kimchi Pancake

2 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

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Itsuki Teppanyaki
+86 21-54044146

Bistro Burger [Shanghai]

Burger Bistro has just introduced their new burger challenge. In 20 mins, one has to finish a Bistro Belt Buster Burger with fries and milkshake. Priced at 160 RMB, the burger is a 3 stack (600 grams total) super burger with extra trimmings, layers of mozzarella, blue, and cheddar cheese. Topped with grilled onions, bacon, fried egg, tomato, lettuce & pickles.

This burger is built with 3 baked pieces of bread. Each of the 3 layers of meat had a distinct flavor – with the top featuring the friend egg, the 2nd layer with the mozzarella cheese, and the bottom with the pickles. The only way to eat this burger was to separate each of the layers and to taste them in this manner. I liked how the burger wasn’t salted prior – which allows you to make it as savory as you wanted. The burger patties, though almost too thick, held together quite well. The buns, which is often ignored, was an important component, since it held everything together quite well.

I conquered the burger with fries and milkshake in about 15 mins. I must confess that I was stressing about the burger since I hadn’t seen it. The manager, Xavier, kinda calmed me down and said that he completed it in 15 mins, as well. I do wish the menu had a picture of the burger, prior to me accepting this challenge. I do also believe the most daunting task of the challenge is not the burger itself, but the milkshake. If they had an option to select a nice large glass of draft beer, I might have liked it more. Anyways. . .excellent burger and something I would recommend – if not a challenge, perhaps to share.

What to Order: Bistro Belt Busting Burger, the Original Burger, the Crispy Fries
What not to Order: . . . If you don’t like your Fries Crispy (I am indifferent about them)

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Bistro Burger
富民路291号1楼, 近长乐路
1/F, Mansion, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu
+86 21 6170 1315

Tu Hsiao Yueh on Nanjing East Road Night Market [Taipei]

A few months ago, I wrote about Tu Hsiao Yueh, the original from Tainan. I found this knock off copy cat at a little night market in Taipei near Nanjing East Road. I sort of just stumbled upon it while I was going back to my hotel. I simply asked the taxi driver to find me a place that had good hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese dishes. Sometimes, you find some of the best places to eat, by talking to taxi cab drivers. Anyways. . .

This place had some of the same dishes, like braised pork on rice, fried pork chop, and noodles, that you’d find at the original Taipei location. I’d assume with the flux of Tainanese in Taipei, that you’ll find some similar restaurants. Or perhaps, this is a franchised outlet, while the original is an original owned. Or this could just be a disgruntled employee that wanted to copy the original. There could be a bunch of stories as to why there is this knock off. Who knows?

Anyways. . . the food was practically the same. As much as I consider myself an expert in braised pork rice 魯肉飯, I am not. I know this – the original Taipei location has some of the tastiest 魯肉飯. The fried pork chop was actually good, here. I like the crispness texture of the batter, more than the flavor. One thing I really enjoyed, unexpectedly, was the fish soup. This large bowl of soup had this huge piece of fish. The fish was a light flavor, with a moist flakey flesh. The skin was left on, for some nice oil taste. Most of all, since I am somewhat of a foreigner (ABC – American Born Chinese (or Taiwanese)), I liked how there weren’t too many bones in the fish. I was quite satisfied with this fish soup.

What to Order: Fish Soup
What not to Order: anything else is fine – not special

2 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

Unfortunately, I have do not have the address. I just know it is off of Nanjing East Road in Taipei. There is a small alley that doubles as a night market. Check out the photos below for the exact location. I am not even sure I could find it again, myself.

Mayan Grill [Taipei] – closed

With growing emergence of Mexican restaurants, in both Shanghai and Taipei, I have seen both high end restaurants like Maya, everyday type of restaurants like Cantina Agave, and almost fast food types like Oola Mexican Grill. Mayan Grill, which opened in the spring of 2011, has entered with its own concept, featuring a great dining space, which is also suitable for drinking.

Located in Zhongshan district of Taipei, Mayan Grill features great Mexican fare from quality ingredients. The salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce are made from scratch. You can taste the freshness. I was especially fond of their proudly made hot sauce in different degrees of pain. It was so spicy that they use eye droppers to apply the sauce. When you use that – you know you have to be careful with the sauce.

Today for brunch, I had one of my favorites, Chilaquiles. This simple dish with tortilla chips, cheese, and egg, all smothered in sauce, is a great dish to pick and nibble on, while downing a Lime Margarita. The sampler platter of appetizers, with quesadillas, taquitos, and chimichanga, was also a good show of the yummy Mexican foods.

Anyways. . .if you are looking for a place to have great Mexican food and relax with drinks – check out Mayan Grill. They also have a nice little outdoor patio on the 2nd floor.

What to Order: Sampler Platter, Chilaquiles, Enchiladas. Make sure you try their spicy sauces (if you dare)
What not to Order:

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Mayan Grill
No. 6, Lane 65, Zhongshan N. Road, Section 2, Taipei City
+886 02 2511 6282

Bei Hai Hotel黄山北海宾馆 [Huangshan] China

North Sea Hotel, directly translated from Bei Hai Hotel or 黄山北海宾馆, is a strange name for a hotel being that it is located in a land locked province. Yet, after visiting, you realize the poetic sea of clouds that surround the mountains make the name quite appropriate.

The hotel, during the autumn holidays – as when we went, is arguably the busiest time of year. The annual holiday brings in tourist from all over the country and world. The cool time of year is my preference, since I’d rather avoid the sweltering summer months.

This hotel is one of the oldest on the mountain, with over 280 rooms. This time of year, they get so many requests for rooms, that they have ingeniously provided accommodations with tents, sleeping bags, and air mattresses. But I have heard that the sleeping bags are dirty. Anyways. . .we got lucky my booking of a room, though it was more than double the normal price – at around 1300 RMB a night. The beds were adequate, but the bathrooms were simple and spartan. The fluorescent light gave me an eerie feeling.

Would I recommend this hotel – well, I would. There’s also a large main dining room for breakfast buffet, and lunch & dinner. They even have a foot massage parlor – which we used twice. Located nearby are the chains or locks of love or commitment. Couples lock “locks” onto chain links, in a representation of their commitment to each other. After being on the mountain for a couple of days. One of the best things about the venue is that it is located relatively close, about 1/2 hour hike/walk from the Yungu cable car station. I strongly suggest this less travel route.

It is truly amazing how this hotel and other building are built on top of Yellow Mountain (Huangshan). There aren’t any direct roads leading and on top of the mountains. All there are cable cars. Yet, in order to get the supplies, people have to hand carry from the cable car station to each of the sites (minimum walk/hike of at least 1/2 hour) up and down stairs on the mountains. I am still in disbelief, as I kept looking for roads for trucks to drive up to the buildings. There aren’t any helicopter landing pads, either. Chinese labor is amazing.

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Bei Hai Hotel
安徽省黄山市黄山风景区北海景区 242709
BeiHai Scenic Area, HuangShan city, AnHui 242709
+86 559-5582555 tel
+86 559-5581996 fax