August 18, 2007. HANGZHOU, China – In keeping with its mandate to support the Caribbean community in China and across the region, the Caribbean Association in China (CAC) today took a group of 20 to the newly-opened Jamaican restaurant in Hangzhou.
The Jamaicans on hand had a hard time choosing from the menu of Cho Cho’s familiar dishes which, in addition to the expected rice and peas with coconut milk and Jamaican jerk, included banana fritters, stamp ’n go, Solomon Gundy with yam chips, escovitch fish with festival, oxtail with white beans, stew peas, and more.
The dining experience was accompanied by music videos that gave customers unfamiliar with Jamaica a taste of its music and a visual idea of what the island looks like. The prominently displayed screen is also used, at times, to show educational videos about the island, according to manager Bing Yan Zhang.
Management has tried its best to make the restaurant reflect Jamaican culture with waitresses’ skirts reminiscent of the popular bandana material. Pieces of Afro-centric art are displayed on the walls of the stairway that leads to the private Mandeville, Montego Bay and Kingston rooms above. Pictures on the walls of the second floor passage also reflect slices of Jamaican life.
The little details, such as small Jamaican flags at strategic spots, showed that a good deal of thought had gone into the restaurant. For example, Hangzhou customers who usually come in for the Chinese-style dishes that are also available are given a free sample of a Jamaican dish. Bing explained that management is fully aware that it needs to slowly introduce the tastes of the island to its customers. It appears to be having some effect. During the CAC visit, Chinese customers were seen tucking into escovitch fish with festival, as well as stamp ’n go.
It wasn’t just the Hangzhou residents who got an education about Jamaican food and culture that day as the CAC group consisted of people from a wide variety of countries: The Bahamas, South Africa, Canada, Tanzania, Australia, France, Germany, Singapore and of course Jamaica.
After lunch, most of the group members took a boat tour of three islands on Hangzhou’s famous West Lake, and then it was back to the restaurant to take up managements’ dinner invitation.
The meal, distinctly Chinese this time around, showed the versatility of the restaurant’s menu. The evening was capped off with spontaneous dancing to familiar tunes like Oh Carolina, and One Love accompanied by the sounds of the drum played by CAC members. The revelry attracted quite a crowd, bringing out even the chefs from nearby restaurants.
Cho Cho is the first attempt to offer the Chinese such a wide variety of authentic Jamaican food under one roof. Its Fengtan Road location is a short drive from Hangzhou’s premier tourist spot, the West Lake, which city officials estimate helps pull in about 1.82 million visitors to the city each year. The Cho Cho Restaurant, therefore, has the potential to introduce Jamaican food and culture to millions of people.
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