RM168,000 dinner sparks controversy


BY WONG SAI WAN

HONG KONG: An Imperial Court banquet at a restaurant in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, costing 366,000 yuan (RM168,000) for a group of people from China and here on Jan 6 has sparked controversy with some questioning the authenticity of the dinner and others criticising the extravagance. 

The provincial government has ordered various departments to investigate the dinner which was given wide publicity here and in China. 

According to Huashang Daily, the banquet for 12 people was styled after that usually served in the Ming Imperial Court with each diner attended to by a personal waitress. 

The dishes, although styled with recipes from the imperial kitchen, did not have any exotic meat usually associated with such meals. 

However, a week after the newspaper first ran the story, a public debate was still raging in China about the rights and wrongs of such extravagance. 

Some thought the bill might have been inflated by the restaurant or the host to show off. 

After reading the report, Xian Communist Party chief Li Zhanshu told city taxation and price inspection authorities to investigate the restaurant’s operation. 

Li also asked them to find out who were the diners and whether any local cadre was invited. 

Last Tuesday, the taxation authority reported the restaurant had not recorded the income of the dinner, though it had asked for some large value-added invoices.  

According to The Standard here, restaurant board chairman Wu Ji dismissed speculations that the dinner was a figment of the imagination, saying it was hosted by a friend who booked it a month earlier.  

The bill of 366,000 yuan carried a special meaning, he added, saying the “3” stood for the year 2003 and the double “6” in Chinese numerology symbolised everything going smoothly.  

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