Located opposite the Wangfujing Grand Hotel is the most expensive cheap
building known to mankind. Known as the Millennium Club, this gold plated
multi-level sprawling structure serves a need that is near and dear to the
hearts of cadres and executives alike: KTV.
If you enter this over-priced house of pleasure, it will cost you rmb 2000
an hour, but you may feel that it is worthwhile when you are greeted by two
single-file lines of cocktail hostesses on either side of the door. The Millennium will not serve you food, and is more than likely to result in a
hangover of bourgeois guilt the next morning (unless you are blessed with
no social conscience whatsoever). Take my advice and your money and simply
venture next door.
Just beyond the fake Greek columns and flashing neon of the club of fin-de-siecle sin, lies one of the quaintest and most peaceful eateries in
Triumphal Arch-unlike its Millenarian next-door neighbor-is plain and unpretentious in design as well as price. A whole side of the restaurant
consists of window seating overlooking a small hutong lined with courtyards
and shrubbery. On the walls are tasteful reproductions of the abstracts works of Jean Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh, outlined in
simple black on natural colored canvas. They are traced by a man who decades ago graduated from the Central Academy of Arts, who recently
relocated from his security guard job in the One World Shopping Plaza.
The menu, carved from solid wood, is about half the size of a two-person
table and just as heavy. The starters are light and include imported escargot marinated in brandy, red wine, and garlic, (rmb38) and cream of
turtle soup (rmb28). Main courses include New Zealand lamb chops with mustard sauce (rmb88) and local lamb chops similarly prepared (rmb48).
Smoked Norwegian salmon with herbs and white wine goes for rmb78, and pasta starts from rmb32.
One of my favorite things to do at Triumphal Arch is to venture to the ladies room. A long march across the main club's lobby, past all the
sleekly-attired karaoke girls and into a surprisingly uninviting WC. It was
a surprise to find that unlike the food, the bathrooms are decidedly local
fare. Somebody must have used the bathroom budget to complete the set of
revolving Hennessy bottles.
Nevertheless, Triumphal Arch is a triumph in many ways. The atmosphere is
good, prices are reasonable and the caramel pudding is unbeatable. If nothing else, the girls next door, who are definitely not the
girl-next-door, will provide you with visual entertainment on your way in
and out. And if you're rich and unimaginative, you might even get a
date. To sum it up, the restaurant is a good dine. The Chinese owners have found
a way to prepare and serve passable western dishes. Triumphal Arch has very reasonable prices that will not break your budget, and is especially
attractive if one more Chinese meal may cause you to commandeer a tank on
its way to Tiananmen and allay your angst with a turret gun. So take a leisurely ride down to Wangfujing (yes, they are done digging),
and escape to Paris for an evening at Triumphal Arch.