*On how this lunch relates to the environment and Blog Action Day, scroll to the last 2 paragraphs.
I had never tried emu before and would never have expected to eat it in China, until my great-aunt invited us to a "Cantonese-style western" restaurant. Located in the old part of Zhongshan, it was curiously named Grace Conqueror Restaurant. There was a pretty courtyard with tables, a fountain, carambola trees, and aloe vera plants. From the courtyard you can hear the occasion bell of the biking recycling collector, who rides through once a week.
If the restaurant had served straight-up Cantonese food, or well-made food of any type, I would have been happy. Instead we ate a bad "fusion" meal. To be fair, my great-aunt and other family members had dined there many times before, and later said the poor food quality this time was very uncharacteristic.
Most people go to Grace for the steak, but there was also a separate menu just for Australian emu. There was spaghetti with emu bolognese, emu kebabs, curry emu, and grilled emu with duck liver, among other choices. According to Jacob, who has a friend with an emu farm in Oregon, the birds are raised primarily for oil to be used in place of chemicals in skin care and therapeutic products. The meat, which can be cooked in a number of ways, is tauted as a low fat and low cholesterol alternative to other red meats.
I had not had emu before and can only judge it from what I ate today. The meat looked and tasted like beef, except a bit blander and chewier. It also didn't go with the curry sauce, at least that particular curry, which was also bland and watery. I sensed that it would taste better just grilled and not dressed up with a rice sauce that would drown out the mellowness of the meat. As for the bolognese version, I am still trying to shut it out of my mind.
What I did like about the restaurant relates to the "Blog Action Day" part of this entry's title. Blog Action Day, which I just found out about, is a collaborative project among thousands of bloggers to incorporate one topic into your blog entry on a specific day. October 15th's topic is the environment. Even though Grace did not taut itself as organic or local (the emu was from Down Under, after all) I did notice its energy efficient cooling system. Whereas many restaurants here blast AC, Grace was cooled by recycled water continuously streaming over its glass ceiling. (I had a hard time photographing it with my Nikon Coolpix. But if you look closely you can see the faint lines of streaming water.)
I had first seen this type of cooling 3 years ago in Lisbon. It was effective enough to cool a 3-story shopping mall in a sun-baked city in the middle of summer. In the US one would probably see this "natural AC" in an upscale "green" building that was highly publicized in the media. In China, it is used at a restaurant in old Zhongshan that serves bad emu. No fanfare, just a good example of the countless ways in which China is environmentally conscious, defying its portrayal in Western mainstream media as the Big Bad Polluter.
Grace Conqueror Restaurant