Carlo Restaurant: Fixed For Food

1014_RestaurantFour years ago, arriving to China to make my abode in a small city of a quarter million, I was delighted to see “Western Restaurant” wrapped around the corner marquee in a handful of places around town. “This is great,” I thought. “I won’t have to eat at KFC to get my American fix.”

Many of us have discovered these Western restaurants are heavily Chinese-ized—odd translations, steak-egg-pasta combinations, corn on pizza—not what you’d ever get at home. While Carlo Restaurant retains much of that imitation-quality food and experience, it does offer a few gems worth checking out if you’re searching for a break from the usual.

Despite a handful of selections blotted out with stickers, the menu is expansive. You’ll find a bit of everything from Eastern and Western cuisines. However, the photos you see in the menu and what comes to your table might be distant relatives. A crisp, fresh salad topped with vegetables on the menu could better be described as salad dressing soup with a handful of lettuce thrown in. My request for a new salad with dressing on the side was bafflingly turned down, but the mei nv politely removed it from the bill.

The claypot rice was crisp and hot until the last spoonful, and what really hit the spot were the fruit drinks. Plenty of shops around town offer water with flavored syrup, but Carlo’s blueberry juice tastes like the real deal: chunks of fruit, not too sweet, and not too weak. However, our carnivorous readers should be cautious ordering steak. It’s not your dorky dad’s backyard grill.

The décor is inordinately magnificent for this mid-caliber restaurant. The high ceiling is tiled with reproductions of classical European art, and a broad, gently winding staircase leads to a second floor where patrons might host larger gatherings. The lighting is bright, but sparsely distributed so that it merely fills the capacious Carlo with a warm, mirthful glow.

Invite a business associate for afternoon tea and snacks. The couches are comfy, the bathrooms are clean, and the location, a few steps off the main road, insulates Carlo from the hustle of our bustling city.

Find Carlo Restaurant here.