China is always full of surprises, however you'll always want to do your best to make sure the surprises you receive are of the pleasant variety. Tianjin is a thriving metropolis city full of vibrant culture, amazing festivals, and most importantly brilliant food. However, when it comes to food handling, not all Chinese are aware of safety guidelines, and there are plenty of others who simply wouldn't care even if they did know.
But this doesn't mean you should approach dining in China timidly. If you keep your wits about you, there shouldn't be any problem, and you’ll be able to safely experience all that Chinese cuisine has to offer during your visit. One area that can make a big difference is the places you choose to dine at, and unlike anywhere else in the world, simply seeing locals eating in a restaurant doesn't necessarily suggest it's a good one.
In fact, places that have a high volume of foreign patronage, especially if they employ foreign chefs or managers, are more likely to be safe choices for you. This is because when something is amiss, foreigners from Western countries tend to be more inclined to make a fuss, whereas locals will often be more mindful of saving face, than of righting culinary and food handling wrongs.
Now that we've got that out of the way, here are a few of the most recommended restaurants that have met with approval and high praise from foreign travellers to Tianjin:
This is primarily a steakhouse, however American and Italian classics such as burgers, pizza, and pasta are also available. The portions are more generous than most of the more expensive restaurants, which is great after a full day of exploring. Upon entering this place, you may well forget that you're in China. It’s clean, comfortable, spacious, and uncrowded, with a generous and delicious meal for two here, including drinks, costing around CNY 350 ($51 USD).
Housed in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, you can't expect a meal here to be cheap... and it certainly isn't. A buffet dinner for two could well set you back upwards of CNY 660 ($96 USD), and if you throw in a bottle of imported wine or champagne, the bill could climb as high as CNY 2000 ($291 USD).
Remarkably, however, it's absolutely worth the money. Not only is the food at Zest the very best buffet in town, it's totally safe, and there is a huge variety to choose from, with everything looking incredible, and tasting better than you could imagine. It may not be a place you'd dine every day, but for a special night out, you couldn't go wrong with Zest.
As you can probably tell from the name, Riviera features French-influenced food. Most dishes will be in the CNY 100 – 200 range (about $15 to $30 USD). The menu is solidly in bistro territory, but there's a touch of extravagance to everything. The interior is very chic and stylish, although the tables are a little small. The main part of the restaurant is designed for small intimate groups of two to four persons. Larger parties can be catered in the private dining room, with the view over the beautiful river being the main drawcard.
Flo Maison is a brasserie that tries very hard to create the illusion that it is actually French. As it is a fantasy dining concept, intended more for locals than for tourists, the cost doesn't actually get as extreme as you'd probably expect. So, this is a place to indulge in a little escapism, and it must be said they have actually done quite a good job of duplicating the authentic atmosphere of the original Flo Brasserie in Paris.
The real stand-out for Flo Maison is in terms of service and attention to detail. It's the best place to go for a weekday business lunch, with three courses starting from CNY 148 ($22 USD), and that's about as good as it gets for this kind of quality in China, or maybe even anywhere. Go for dinner, and you'll pay a lot more.
What you get out of Renaissance depends a lot on your expectations. This is a bit tricky, as even the way the restaurant is promoted may influence your expectations in the wrong direction.
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