Category Archives: Hotels

Comfortable Dining at Marco Polo

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As hotels go, The Marco Polo is not an imposing or a large structure. This is by design, as the management hopes for a more intimate, personable atmosphere. A smaller scale of operation means more time staff can focus and giving quality customer service and care. Like other western hotels in Changzhou, there is a self service dinner buffet.

The management knows this, and they have tried to figure out what can make their restaurant stand out. The answer was a recently added iron skillet barbecue. This is personalized to each table with a heating element. Diners are served raw cuts of beef, chicken, and more to cook themselves. The concept is very similar to local paper BBQ places, but the ingredients are of higher quality.

 

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In truth, it’s best to treat the new personal BBQ as an appetizer to the buffet itself.  There are tried and true elements that you can find in other hotels around Changzhou. For example, there is a hot grill with a choice of meat and gourmet sauces. The quality here is what you would expect from a luxury hotel.

 

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There is another similarity: sushi and sashimi. The cook here is a professional trained in Japan, and the sashimi is freshly cut to order. This is not a “buffet” aspect of the dining experience. You tell the guy what you want from what’s chilled and on display, and he delivers. There are also freshly made rolls to pick and choose from — along with the standard condiments of pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi.

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There are hot food service stations for both western and Chinese cuisines. However, there was one I found myself wanting to return to, and quite often. Without proper discipline, I would have made myself an outright pig with heaping plates. I really, really liked Marco Polo’s chicken curry. There is a reason for this; Changzhou only has two Indian restaurants: Kaffa in Wujin, and Indian Kitchen in Xinbei. There is also a Pakistani meal delivery service based off of Wechat called “CHILL MaRo.” Marco Polo’s buffet is not a South Asian restaurant, but they do offer a delicious curry dish in a town that doesn’t not have a lot of options when it comes to this sort of food.

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The Marco Polo Hotel is located very close to Dinosaur Park. This is the time of year where the Spring Festival lanterns are full on display there. A family could easily pair visiting these colorful sights with having a delicious dinner nearby. This is especially true for those in Wujin who need an excuse to go north for an evening.

 

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A Surreal and Ambient Place in Zhonglou

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Imagine you are eating a chicken dinner drinking red wine. Above you, clouds move, but they are not exactly white. They seem more of a soft yellow, and they are swirling in a way that normal sky clouds wouldn’t. Eventually, these whisps fade and change into abstract and gradually shifting gradients of red. You’re not really paying close attention to this at first. After all, you are eating chicken and sipping on a glass of wine. In front of you, there is also a stage. A woman is singing with a band. You are also idly chatting with a friend sitting next to you. The next time you look upwards, the red gradients are gone. They have been replaced by images of rippling water — which eventually morphs into a cityscape.

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All of this is supposed to sound like an otherworldly dream. However, such a surreal place exists in Changzhou. It’s a special events venue in Zhonglou on the grounds of the Dusit Thani Hotel near Qingfeng park. This space is as avant garde as it sounds. The structure consists of interlocking inflatable domes. A network of lighting equipment and video projectors creates a 360 degree multimedia environment. Images and patterns of smoke, fire, clouds, and a lot more are projected onto the curved walls and ceiling. The technology involved is advanced to the point where video with sound can also be played — a commercial for a automotive company, for example.

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All of this is the product Oracle Projects, an international entertainment and special events production company. Before coming to Changzhou, Oracle has helped host events at the Beijing Olympics and other places around the world. Essentially, it is a high-end venue space for hire. While Oracle is working and consulting on this project, it is actually locally owned by the Shanghai Aviation Future Cultural Development Company 上海中航未来文化发展有限公司.

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The event I attended was sponsored by Borgward. This is a German automotive company with a long history dating back nearly a hundred years. For a long time, this car brand was dormant, but Chinese investors helped relaunch the company recently. The evening consisted of a catered dinner, live music, dancers, a fashion show and more. To celebrate their relaunch, Borgward screened a new commercial on the venue’s curved walls. This was not a one-off event, either. Oracle Projects and its local partner have long term plans in Changzhou with other events to come.

The Hilton’s Buffet

Eating out in Wujin seems to be a completely different culinary landscape than a place like Xinbei. The options are totally different, and a lot of newcomers are especially keen on knowing where they can find western food. It is the ultimate comfort food when you are surrounded by Chinese cuisine. International hotels are usually a reliable choice when seeking that sort of dining, and the Hilton’s buffet is no different. However, anytime you eat in a western hotel, be prepared to pay high prices. And, by the way, their all-you-can-eat Japanese place Red is totally worth a visit. Here are some pictures from the last time I visited.

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