I’m not usually a fan of windowless restaurants. Nevertheless, there’s something immensely cozy about this one that makes me feel like I’m being wrapped up in a healthy womb of vegetarian goodness. Tucked into the back second floor of the Lido hotel with exquisite interior décor, 素直 Suzhi Vegetarian Restaurant (formerly “Pure Lotus”) is a hidden delicacy.
Let’s talk about the restaurant’s name. In Chinese, 素质 (su4zhi4) is the word for “character” or “quality” and is generally used to express the absence of it in someone’s behaviour in the same way that we express that something is “not classy” or is “classless.” 太没有素质了 （tai4mei2you3su4zhi4le0) is a very powerfully insulting thing to say to someone, especially a stranger, in response to such acts as (adult) public urination or absurdly loud public arguing.
Yet, their name is 素直. The first character, 素 (su4) is the same as above. This also the word for vegetarian, extending from its base meaning of “element; basic; essential” just like vegetables are to the diet. The second character, while it has the same sound (different tone), is 直 zhi2, which means “continuously” as well as “simply; just”.
Thus, we have a delicious word play: Not only is the restaurant’s name literally translatable as: “Always Vegetarian” or “Simply Vegetarian”, but through the play on words we are given the double entendre that by being vegetarian, one is embodying high moral character or class.
Love it. In my 27th year of vegetarianism, I claim a strong bias!
You’ll be happy to learn that the food has been as mindfully considered as their name. Windows or not, this restaurant is definitely worthy of the investigative curiosity in your taste buds.
Photos: Courtesy of Ember Swift