A bizarre, yet wonderful, hybrid of Hook’s ship and your standard high-end Japanese eatery, Diaoxi Haichan caught our eye the second we walked passed.
Located in Haizhu’s Zhongchuanhui Creative Park, a short walk from the district’s second coolest party area, Taigucang Wharf, the exterior of this new sushi Mecca is adorned with abstract art and beautiful wood paneling. There is also an outdoor bar, which comes in handy while waiting in the often outrageous queues that amass outside the establishment’s entrance. (A message to all Guangzhou F&B proprietors: more outdoor bars please).
The interior seating of Diaoxi Haichan is organized into three main areas: ground floor seating, upstairs seating and, the restaurant’s ‘ace in the hole,’ ship seating.
In the center of Diaoxi Haichan sits a junk- or perhaps pirate-inspired vessel, set in a shallow saltwater pool filled with all manner of fish. This is where things get gimmicky: if you so wish, you can actually fish from your table on the boat (or around the edge of the pool, if you can’t manage to wrangle yourself a coveted ‘on deck’ seat) for dinner. Fishing rods are provided and chefs will prepare your catch.
While definitely a creative – and apparently effective – ploy to get people through the door, we do have to question the ethics of people hunting creatures trapped in a shallow pool. The ethical dilemma of eating at Diaoxi Haichan doesn’t stop there though, we were particularly bothered by the ‘toy’ claw machine games in the restaurant’s entrance, which were stocked with live crabs and lobsters instead of your standard teddy bears and plush stuffed Pokémon.
But, if you can get past the line at the door, and can simmer the righteous ethical flame burning in your heart, the food at Diaoxi Haichan does not disappoint.
The food here is spectacular, albeit pricy. An order of salmon sashimi comes with three pieces and costs RMB46, which, although more than you will pay at a hole-in-the-wall sushi shop, seems fair considering the quality and thickness of the cuts.
The pork and kimchi ramen (RMB58) is Diaoxi Haichan’s choice noodle offering, with ample meat and pickled cabbage arranged atop a pile of noodles soaked in a savory broth. The BBQ pork ramen in pork bone soup (RMB58) was disappointing by comparison, although it still offered generous portions of meat.
The prawn and sweet potato tempera (RMB68 and RMB42) came with a light and soft crust, which was not too greasy.
For those looking for something truly special, we suggest ordering the chicken and spring onion skewers (RMB26). It was the cheapest dish we ordered, as well as the most pleasing to the palate. The meat and veggie sticks came grilled and well marinated, complemented by a tangy-sweet dipping sauce.
Those fond of rolls are encouraged to order the ‘micro grilled’ salmon sushi roll (RMB68), which we found more enjoyable than Diaoxi Haichan’s uninspiring California rolls (RMB55).
The Japan slash fish slash giant boat theme going on inside Diaoxi Haichan make it an unquestionably unique place to visit. This, coupled with prompt and friendly service, makes eating at this restaurant an all-round pleasant dining experience. Every table was full when we visited, and guests genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves – even if they were just there for a maritime-inspired selfie. And remember, aquatic-animal lovers: check your ethics at the door.
Price: RMB200 per person
Who’s going: sailors, fisherman and selfie aficionados
Good for: catching your dinner
Nearest Metro: Shayuan (Exit B), 10 minutes
Open daily, 5pm-2am; see listing for Diaoxi Haichan.
[Photos by Kelly Deng and Matthew Bossons]