Food & Drinkby Dino Zapataria
Lao He's Sweet Potato Cart.
The decor to this new eatery is both minimalist and modern. The chef/staff/receptionist roles are all taken on by Lao He himself. His mission statement: "...is to get as many customers as possible to buy sweet potato" from him "every day". We arrived in the early evening, so had no trouble getting service almost immediately. The service was both dedicated and attentive - no need for waving your arms around and calling "fuwuyuan" at this eatery.
Our food came promptly, and my fellow diner guessed that it had been cooked earlier and kept warm. The sweet potato baishu was particularly good, and you could tell that Lao He takes pride in his signature dish. Lao He explains what gives him the edge over the competition, "My secret is presentation. When you are given some crumbly sweet potato, wrapped carelessly in half torn tin foil, or old shabby paper, it doesn't matter how delicious it is, you can't enjoy it." He goes onto explain (whilst serving another customer) "My other secret is to actually change the location of my restaurant twice a day. Lao Wang, Lao Qing and Lao Han (head chefs at Lao Wang's Sweet Potato Cart, Lao Qing's Sweet Potato Cart and The Lao Han Family Ever Bright Richness Sweet Potato Cart respectively) stay in one place, but I feel that once everyone on one section of pavement has eaten, then the supply will swamp demand and sales will fall. My business consultant's answer was simple - exploit the cart's mobile function and move it every now and then."
The future? Lao He sees his biggest threat (and only source of irritation) coming from the PSB - who sometimes force mobile sweet potato carts to shut down, as they are unhygienic, unlicensed and sometimes just dangerous - "tamade ("accursed") cops!"
Lao He's Sweet Potato Cart is open every day in Dongcheng district.