I was in Xi'an during the last few days, and for me personally one of the highlights of visiting a big city is the chance to eat real pizza. One would think eating at Pizza Hut would be a pretty cut and dry experience, but it's actually kind of interesting to see how it differs from going to an American Pizza Hut.
For one thing, it's "classy." The servers are well-dressed, the place looks really nice, and there are no groups of screaming children. Western restaurants are more of a fine-dining experience in China, even the ones that would never be considered as such at home. I'm reminded of a short story I once read by a Chinese author. A boy from a poor family was given some holiday money to spend on necessities, but decided to use it impress his girlfriend and take her out to an extravagant meal--at McDonald's. Awkwardness ensues when it turns out his mom is secretly working at the McDonald's to make some extra money for the family.
Pizza Hut also pretty expensive in comparison to Chinese food, so it caters to China's growing middle class, and a lot of the customers seemed to be working couples on a date. Despite the cost, Chinese spending habits were in full force around us. A nearby couple ordered fruit smoothies, salad, an appetizer, a desert, and a pizza, much more than they intended to eat. The other nearby table ordered drinks, chicken wings, meatballs, and three pizzas. With simply a large pizza to split, Nissa and I were the cheapskates of the place.
But my favorite image of pizza places in China, and unfortunately I don't have a picture (but try searching for "China salad bar" on flickr.com), is the salad bar. You are only allowed one trip, so there is usually one crafty young Chinese person making a salad skyscraper on their plate. By this I mean they load an enormous amount of vegetables on their plate in an attractive pattern that is painstakingly constructed over 10 minutes or more. The dedication and attention to detail is truly inspiring.
And finally, I leave you with this: