If you are like me, you probably assume that the English name of a Chinese restaurant is exactly the same as its Chinese name. Well, SURPRISE, because it almost always is not the same. For example, all of these years, I figured if a restaurant is called Canton Gourmet, then the name on the sign in Chinese must translate to Canton Gourmet. WRONGOO!! I found this out in the most interesting way.
My friend Min, a native of China, knows the restaurants in Flushing like the back of her hand. We enjoy trading names of our favorite Chinese restaurants. I think Min gets a kick out of getting some really good new Chinese restaurants from her Jewish friend. I have explained to her the unique relationship between American Jews and their Chinese food. Many times, I would recommend a Flushing restaurant that I enjoyed on our Chinese Quest.
Often our conversations went something like this:
Me: The Chinese Quest went to Canton Gourmet in Flushing last night
Min: Never heard of it, where is it located?
Me: 38-06 Prince Street
Min: I know that block very well, are you sure it is on Prince Street?
Me: Of course, I was just there last night
Min: Do you mean Bee Fong Town?
Me: No, I mean Canton Gourmet
Min: You do realize that I only know the Chinese names of these places
Me: Isn’t it the same as the English name?
Min: (laughing) No, it is almost never is the same
So, with the help of Min’s husband Bo Tian, I present to you a list of Chinese restaurants complete with their Chinese names. I never realized how poetic and flowerly the Chinese language is. Chinese is almost always written in Chinese characters. They are symbols that have meaning, called logograms. A Chinese person with a good education today knows 6,000 – 7,000 characters. About 3,000 Chinese characters are needed to read a mainland newspaper. However, people who have learned only the 400 most frequently used characters can read a paper, but they will have to guess some less used words.
Much thanks to Min and Bo Tian for their help with this article!
You can click on the name of the Chinese restaurant to read our review!
1. Canton Gourmet – 避bee 风fong 塘town。
避(Avoid, Defend)风(Wind)塘 (Pond or harbor) Wind Shielding Harbor, a popular restaurant name found in many Chinese cities, normally focus on seafood, not franchised though.
2. Legend of Taste – 川 chew’an 经 jean 典 dee’an
川(Sichuan /Szechuan)经典(Classic), claims to be authentic Szechuan style.
3. Fu Run Dong Bei – 赋 foo 润 ren 东 dong 北 bay
赋(Poetry) 润(Enrichment)东北 (Northeast), specialized in cuisines from Northeast China which is known for high-production farming land and cold weather.
4. Grain House – 尚 shun 禾 heh 坊 fun
尚(Admire, Appreciate)禾 (Grain, Wheat)坊 (Workshop), derived from a famous poem that praises hard working farmers and warns children not to take food for granted. Good name.
5. Shanghai Cuisine 33 – 上 shun 海 hi 小 shall 馆 gwan
上海(Shanghai)小(little, small)馆(Restaurant, café). Why 33? It is located at 33 Main Street. They advertise their specialty in Hong Kong-style Shanghai cuisine. This reflects the history when many people from Shanghai fled to Hong Kong during WWII. A good mix of two sweet taste styles.
6. Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet – 北 bay 港 gun 台 tie 菜 tsy 馆 gwan
北(North)港(Port)台(Taiwanese)菜(Cuisine)馆(Restaurant)，Nothing about Imperial.
7. Szechuan Gourmet – 朵 dual 颐 yee 食 shee 府 foo
朵颐, the two characters here can only be used together this way to form the meaning of royal palace banquet. It’s derived from an idiom”大快朵颐” which means “glut oneself with delicacies”. 食(food)府 (palace or high class home that belongs to elites in ancient time). A professor teaching Chinese literature would probably nod at the sign.
8. Pine Court Chinese Bistro – 中 john 国 gool 城 chun 酒 joe 家 ja
中国(China)城(city, town)酒家(Restaurant that serves alcohol), interestingly the English name is better on this one.
9. Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant – 敦 doon 城 chun 海 hi 鲜 shan 酒 joe 家 ja
敦城(”Don” City. 敦here mainly is a pronunciation referring to some English place names such as London, Kingston or Hampton. It’s popular in Hong Kong originated business.) 海鲜(seafood)酒家 (Again, the restaurant serves alcohol. But don’t get fooled by the name, it doesn’t necessarily mean to be a bar but use that name to sound upscale. Another Hong Kong business tradition.)
10. Red Tiger Dumpling House – 红 hong 虎 who 饺 Giao 子 Dze 坊 Fong
红(red)虎(tiger)饺子(dumpling)坊(workshop). The most honest name so far.
11. Yao’s Diner – 粗 tsoo 茶 cha 淡 dan 饭 fan
粗(thick, rough, shabby)茶(tea)淡(light, tasteless)饭(rice, meal). It’s a Chinese idiom meaning simple, less sophisticatedly made drink and food, representing a humble or even poor life status. Instead of its literal meaning, the phrase is often used to introduce oneself in a modest manner to show respect to the recipients. For example, when treating some guests with a family dinner, the busy hostess who has worked in the kitchen for the whole afternoon coming out with 10 courses would say things like, “I’m sorry for the shabby food I prepared for you tonight. It’s just some 粗茶淡饭. Hope you don’t mind and enjoy.” Well in fact, she’s expecting some compliment. Same idea applied here for the restaurant. The closest pronunciation.
I hope you enjoyed!
Chow for now,
Mee Tsu Yan