A vegetarian meal can be a real treat in Guiyang. Maybe you’re actually a vegetarian and you don’t want to fight with a server over whether chicken is meat. Perhaps you eat only Halal but want to try more local food. Or, your stomach is just not letting you eat some of the local, meat-heavy delicacies. Whatever your reason, this restaurant is an excellent introduction to some of the flavors of Guiyang. It’s also very nice if you’re visiting the city because it has a gorgeous view of Jiaxiu Pavilion and the Nanming River. Several nearby cafes have a similar view, but this rooftop patio is open-air, so you don’t feel like you’re in a greenhouse during the summer. Show up a bit early to get an outdoor table with the best view! As a total bonus, there is a completely adorable giant rabbit that has free roam of the dining area that will most likely stick around for a quick pat or photo.
suāntāng miàn — 酸汤面 — sour soup noodles (38 RMB)
This dish is always a favorite, and if I see it on a menu I’ll order it. This is a huge bowl of rice noodles in fermented tomato broth. It’s sour, rich, and satisfying. A word of warning, though: I ordered this twice in the span of three days, and got two different kinds of noodles. The ones pictured here are mixian, thin, cyclindrical rice noodles that are glossy and a bit stretchy. The next time, I got another variety of rice noodle that is flat and thin, and has a tendency to stick together a bit more. For me it’s no issue what noodle they put in, but be warned they might switch it up.
sù chūnjuǎn — 素春卷 — spring rolls (Small 20 RMB/ Large 28 RMB)
Spring rolls are such a staple of overseas Chinese food, but aren’t really found in local Guiyang restaurants as a rule. At Shanzai Suyan, you can order a small or large serving (20 RMB and 38 RMB respectively). The photo here shows the small order, and the large is double that. It’s nice to be able to bite into these crispy little things and not worry whether it’s pork or shrimp or whatever else you don’t care to eat.
qiánxiāng qiéjīn — 黔香茄金 — Guizhou golden eggplant (38 RMB)
These golden-fried eggplant medallions were really tasty. The menu says that they’re Guizhou-flavored, but they aren’t spicy or particularly sour. I can’t put my finger on exactly what the sauce is. It’s a little sweet, a bit tart, and all-around good. Whatever it is, it goes great with battered eggplant.
xiānglà nèndòuhuā — 香辣嫩豆花 — spicy tender tofu (30 RMB)
This dish, on the other hand, is very Guizhou. It’s something that you can find sold by street vendors in the summer, and is spicy, sour and somehow refreshing. The tofu is so soft it needs to be eaten with a spoon, and comes in a pool of vinegar, soy sauce, green onion and peanuts. Slurp up some of the sauce with your tofu to get all the flavors at once, as the tofu itself doesn’t really absorb the sauce.
There are two more dishes we’ve ordered that also have not disappointed. Unfortunately, I forgot to make a note of the names from the menu. The first is a common local dish, slices of smoky medium-firm tofu with slightly spicy green peppers. It’s a great dish no matter where you get it, and goes great with a bowl of white rice. The second dish is a specialty of the house. It’s an iron-pot simmering dish of a thick, sweet and salty tomato sauce and egg that’s still cooking on the bottom of the pot. It also had diced carrot and some peas, and also worked well spooned over rice. Though they I don’t remember the names, it should be easy to spot either of these dishes on the menu. The tomato and egg one is on the pricier side, at around 48 RMB, but I’d definitely get it again.
Every dish I’ve ordered here has been really nice on every level. Presentation, table settings, flavor, texture and freshness are all top priority at this restaurant, so I really don’t think you can go wrong, whatever you order. It’s also fairly easy to order, as everything is on a tablet computer menu with clear photos and prices. Staff are patient, and will wait for you to flip through all the dishes before ordering. Food comes to the table quickly, still steaming hot from the kitchen.
Shanzai Suyan is across the street from Jiaxiu Pavilion, and a little bit closer to the interesection with Wenchang Nan Lu. Look for an alleyway to the left of an ICBC Bank. Follow the alley until you see a stairwell down to a long hallway. Take the elevator to your right up to the fourth floor. Walk forward, and then to the right to find the stairs. There is seating on the fifth floor, but you’ll want to carry on to the sixth floor if you’d like to be seated outside.