If I were leaving Tianjin tomorrow and I wanted to enjoy dinner at the best restaurant in the city, then my choice would be YY Beer House (粤园泰餐厅). Set in an old colonial villa, YY's offers fantastic cuisine, great atmosphere and plenty more besides. The menu is very much defined by the restaurant's history. It was originally founded in the early 1990s by the owner Mr Li (not an uncommon name in China), who had moved north from Guangdong to Tianjin. Therefore, the cuisine was primarily Cantonese. However, the cuisine from the humid climes of Guangdong failed to take hold in the frozen north. Instead, Lee looked for other influences to add a twist to his menu. He found these on a trip to Thailand, and YY's began to develop a new identity.
That new identity was as Tianjin's only Thai restaurant. However, it maintained a deliciously Cantonese twist. The bulk of the menu is made up of standard Thai favorites - green/red curries, patthaya and satay are all there. However, there are also several slightly more Chinese options. For example, the chicken with cashews and sweet and sour pork blend several Thai ingredients with Cantonese flavors. Similarly, the spring rolls, which dominate the selection of starters certainly seem Chinese, but come with fantastic Thai dipping sauces. Similarly, the Musselman curry mixes all sorts of Asian ingredients and flavors. It is a favorite amongst expats as the chef uses a whole concoction of ingredients - not always the same ones everyday - to create an intriguing blend. Other Thai restaurants have appeared in Tianjin since YY's first set out, but none have come close to eclipsing it.
YY's is also a favorite haunt amongst local Chinese and expats alike for a few other reasons. First, it has one of the best selections on beers in northern China. This starts with local brews like Tsingtao and major international beer such as Becks or Tiger, but also includes a great variety of Russian and Belgian selections such as Baltika, Leffe and Chimay. Second, it organizes a fantastic monthly wine tasting, where diners enjoy a buffet service and unlimited wine for 100rmb. Third, is the fantastically colonial atmosphere. Not only is YY's housed in an old western style villa, but the decor also evokes images of turn of the century decadence. There is plenty of antique art on the walls, the tables are topped with old maps and there is even an antique - albeit disused radio - in one of the small dining rooms.
Despite the fantastic quality of food on offer and the unique ambiance it provides, the prices at YYs are remarkably reasonable. Most starters come in for less than 30rmb. Most main courses are 38rmb. Most beers are also very reasonable. Tsingtao and Tiger are 12rmb a bottle. Several others come in at between 15 and 20rmb. YY's is also very easy to find. It is situated on Aomen Dao, which is less than 100m from the Tianjin International Building, one of the biggest and best known office blocks in the city.
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