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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MUGA Day #29: My final meals in Beijing

This will be a particularly long posting covering a day and a half.  My quest for the perfect Shanghai dumpling failed.  For breakfast at the St. Regis I had...


...dumplings, but none was a Shanghai dumpling.  I might add that the St. Regis here has the best toilet system in the world, better than even Japan:


The options to clean your bottom are extraordinary.  Plus the seat is warm.  In Australia, must be the material used, but there is a shock to your system every time you sit down.

I took the following photo today from my room:


There were no clouds nor fog, only air pollution.  Here is the Beijing real-time air quality:

Beijing AQIBeijing Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
219
Very Unhealthy
Updated on Monday 10:00
Last 2 daysCurrentMinMax
PM2.5 AQI
Beijing pm25 (fine particulate matter)  measured by U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor (美国驻北京大使馆空气质量监测). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.219126223
PM10 AQI
Beijing pm10 (respirable particulate matter)  measured by Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People s Republic of China (中华人民共和国环境保护部). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.11657126
SO2 AQI
Beijing so2 (sulfur dioxide)  measured by Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People s Republic of China (中华人民共和国环境保护部). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.22644
NO2 AQI
Beijing no2 (nitrogen dioxide)  measured by Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People s Republic of China (中华人民共和国环境保护部). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.271649
CO AQI
Beijing co (carbon monoxide)  measured by Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Center (北京市环境保护监测中心). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.191019
O3 AQI
Beijing o3 (ozone)  measured by Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Center (北京市环境保护监测中心). Values are converted from µg/m3 to AQI levels using the EPA standard.16252
Temp
Beijing  t (temp) , expressed in degrees celcius and  measured by wunderground.com14718
Dew
Beijing  d (dew)  measured by wunderground.com4-34
Pressure
Beijing  p (pressure)  measured by wunderground.com101610131021
Humidity
Beijing  h (humidity)  measured by wunderground.com502968
Wind
Beijing  w (wind)  measured by wunderground.com1010


What does that 219 index mean?

APIAir Pollution
Level
Health Implications
0 - 50ExcellentNo health implications
51 -100GoodNo health implications
101-150Slightly PollutedSlight irritations may occur, individuals with breathing or heart problems should reduce outdoor exercise.
151-200Lightly PollutedSlight irritations may occur, individuals with breathing or heart problems should reduce outdoor exercise.
201-250Moderately PollutedHealthy people will be noticeably affected. People with breathing or heart problems will experience reduced endurance in activities. These individuals and elders should remain indoors and restrict activities.

So 219 is not good.  Well, I do need to have lunch at Maison Boloud, but do I dare walk around?

Getting anywhere in a taxi in Beijing can be an adventure.  At the hotel, the doorman carefully explained to the driver where to take me, with a map in Chinese.  I was dropped off at least a mile away on the wrong side of Mao's Mausoleum.  So I caught another cab, for my map showed that Maison Boloud was close by.  He dropped me off across the street, and crossing streets near Tiananmen Square is a challenge.  Anyway, a uniformed person at the hotel was not sure, but pointed to the right.  So I walked for ten minutes and showed another uniformed person my map.  After checking with someone, he pointed further right.  As I was getting close to Mao's Mausoleum, it occurred to me that I might never find this restaurant, when I came across a concrete compound with another uniformed individual.  There was nothing indicating Maison Boloud, but, thank heavens, this was it.


Hidden in the back is what looks like a French mansion.  I was warmly welcomed.  To the left is Jarrod Verbiak, Chef de Cuisine, who came by to chat before the meal:


There was the usual first amusement, followed by foie gras courtesy of Jarrod:


An impressive start, with French Rose and Rhone.  Next, the best pesto soup I've ever had in my life:


The Caesar salad was exquisite, with the anchovy almost fresh and a nice avocado touch:


The pasta was perfectly prepared:


Interesting that this was mostly an Italian meal.  Staci Chen, the Manager, dropped by a couple of times, but didn't want her photo taken unless I was also in it:


I wondered why she spoke better English than me, until she mentioned that her previous stint was at Daniel in New York, which ranks #25 in the Pellegrino Best World Restaurants list.  Daniel's last name, of course, is Boloud.  She must live an interesting life.  Dessert of creme brulee was wonderful, with a cappuccino and Calvados:


Unfortunately, this was not the end, for they served petit fours and a special baked mini something:


The whole meal cost less than $100, and this much only because the drinks were not exactly cheap.  However, I wonder if there was a decimal point problem in my favor, for all the food above cost around $30.  This is easily, by far, the best $30 French meal I've ever had.  I paid this amount for a bento on the Shinkansen.  If the charge was $300, this would have been more in line with other top restaurants, and I would have been satisfied at that price.  The whole dining experience with the ambiance, service and cuisine I would rank among the top three on this trip.  Coming back here will be a must.

On the way back to my hotel, I caught the subway, where the station was only five minutes away if you know which underground tunnel to take.  I saw a "green" massage opportunity, so I went in.  I was talked into a manicure and pedicure in addition to the foot massage,  which extends up to and including the knees.  I now have the shiniest nails I've ever had, for they apparently place nail polish on men here in this country.  Note how well my right thumb looks now.  Don't click on the problem I had a few months ago.  The last remnant of the old nail fell off last week.

I then went over to the Press Club for a champagne and cigar, which is allowed in this section of the bar:


There was a group at the table to my right, and one of them began talking to me, for we both had an interest in biotechnology.  David Elmaleh is chairman and founder of AZTherapies.  He is affiliated with Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, and is a molecular imaging expert.  His team is on the cusp of delaying the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.  He is in China to work out a financial partnership for his therapy.  As I say, you meet the most interesting people in this bar.

After all that eating today, I noticed that both 7/11 and Subway chains were across the street from my hotel, so I trotted over and bought a large can of Harbin beer plus a 6 incher as my final dinner in China:


The sandwich and beer cost less than $4.  The fruits came with the room.

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