Ginkgo - Northeastern Chinese cuisine par excellence

Sharon and I had some friends from Texas stay with us recently and we were in need of some tasty food before we headed out for the evening to a friend's party. We were not in the mood for cooking, so we decided to take the Texans out for Chinese food at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in Christchurch.

Ginkgo is on Hereford Street - look for the red lanterns outside - and serves delicious and authentic cuisine from (northeastern) Sichuan and Dongbei areas in China. We have eaten there a few times before and it has always been a great experience. We decided that it was time that Operation Dumpling paid an official visit!
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into Ginkgo is the amazingly decorated interior. It is unlike most other inexpensive Chinese restaurants in Christchurch, which are either Chinese-come-fish'n'chips or are quite bare and unappealing on the interior. At Ginkgo, there is an overwhelming sense of warmth and, dare I say, decandence, from the plush red carpet and walls, and the ceiling wrapped with a silky gold material. Chinese sculptures and carvings surround the tables and the walls have an array of Chinese art and Chinese lanterns. It's quite beautiful.
The waitress greeted us at the door, dressed in a silky red kimono and led us to our table. The menu, as in most Chinese restaurants, has quite a lot to choose from. Having eaten at Ginkgo before, we knew that the portion sizes are quite large, so we decided to start with some dumplings (of course!) and then share 2 dishes between the four of us. We ordered Kung Pao chicken, which not only has a great name but also tastes good, and some Dongbei vegetables.

We had some Chinese green tea served to our table and we chatted and drank tea whilst we waited for our food. We were all very hungry and we zealously attacked the plate of dumplings with our chopsticks when they arrived. We ate them so quick that I forgot to take a photo of them!
Sharon and I paused from eating long enough to take a photo...

I had not had lamb dumplings before, as most of the dumplings we seem to get are pork dumplings. I don't know if lamb is a traditional dumpling flavour in China of if that's a bit of the New Zealand influence coming through. The dumplings were the small circle variety and were more on the soft side rather than being a little crisp (steamed instead of fried), which is the way I prefer them. They tasted very good, but did not rival the dumplings that we had at the China Kitchen, which, so far, are our favorites!
The Kung Pao Chicken is a favourite that we have eaten every time we have been to Ginkgo. The dish consists of small pieces of chicken and a thick sauce with peanuts and a hint of almost caramel-like sweetness cut with a bit of a chili bite. There are large pieces chili in the dish (the 'pao' we assume), but they are not too hot. My only criticism is that this dish would be nice with a few vegetables in it.
Kung Pao Chicken!I think mike is giving sharon a texan stare down
over the plate of Kung Pao chicken.
Better get in quick while you can!

The other dish was the Dongbei vegetables. This consisted of a nice variety of vegetables such as capcicums, aubergines, and potato in a delicious sauce, slightly sweet and had a hint of ginger (we think). Sharon went a bit ga-ga over the Dongbei vegetables, actually, and said it's her new favourite Gingko menu item – even trumping dumplings! From Sharon that's high praise indeed.
Dongbei vegetables
Sharon was a big fan of the Dongbei vegetables

As we were finishing up our meal we were brought a complimentary Jin Deui; which, when translated literally means "fried pastry". Unsurprisingly, given its appearance, it is known to westerners as a Sesame Rice Ball. Biting into it, we discovered that it was a lot harder than you would anticipate. The taste was sweet and curiously familiar, yet I could quite place it. The center was hollow and had interesting patterns to the pastry on the inside, alas there were no fortunes to be found inside, but it was a nice way to finish the meal! (We found out later that the typical "Chinese" fortune cookie is most likely Japanese or American in orgin, so it's nice to know that at Ginkgo you're getting the 'real deal' when it comes to the cuisine).
Sesame Rice Ball
Laura looks for the fortune

Sharon and I love Gingko, and our Texan visitors had a great time there as well. The decor is great and the service friendly. If you are in Christchurch and want to eat some delicious Chinese food that is not greasy, not filled with MSG and is suprisingly affordable (if you share a large dish between two), you will be hard-pressed to find somewhere both as tasty and beautifully inviting as Ginkgo.
1 comments Posted by B on Tuesday, August 05, 2008