Famous for a Reason!
Located on Solitary Island, LWL has a beautiful view of West Lake. Enjoy the scenery before your meal, as, if it's a busy night (plan on it), you are unlikely to get a table with a great view. You can plan a romantic boatride after your meal as well, as there will be several rowers waiting right in front of the restaurant to escort you around the lake for about 80 RMB (& up, depending on where you want to go).
The restaurant itself is striking, as it is lit up at night with neon and Christmas tree lights. Inside decor nice. However, when you get up to the main dining area (basically a huge ballroom) on the second floor, expect lots of noise and clamour, and a whole army of friendly, but busy waitstaff running around.
My experience here involved some confusion as to our table reservation. We had a party of about 12 people, which didn't quite fit at the nice table with the view (we tried, but it was so smoke congested there, that several people couldn't handle it). Then we waited for a larger table, which was being held down like a fort by a drunk businessman, who got quite rowdy. Finally, we ended up, despite protest from the staff, in a private room. This is the way to go. The private rooms are quite, complete with a private bathroom, and nicer furnishings.
I recommend going with a large party, reserving a private dining room, and ordering all the famous dishes to split amongst the group.
Fantastic. We tried to Dongpo pork, Beggar's chicken, West Lake fish, some crispy rice with sweet and sour sauce, West Lake Shrimp, and several vegetables. Fantastic all around.
It was my most expensive meal in Hangzhou, but we feasted like royalty, tried all the famous dishes, complete with an everlasting fountain of beer and wine. Still, I paid less than $20 US. The more people you bring, the more you can try and the lower the price will be when you split the bill. You could spend much more by trying exotic dishes, or could spend a bit less by being conservative. Beggar's chicken. Eating this dish at Louwailou, you come to feel why people say Hangzhou is paradise on Earth. Sure there's the rude drunk local who's taking up that 10 seat table an hour after all his friends left and wants to start a fight with you. Sure, a cloud of cigarette smoke covers the whole room. Sure you can't hear yourself think. But once this tender, savory, juicy chicken just melts away in your mouth, you'll be hooked too. Of course, you'll be "begging" for more. Teeheehee.
It is made by killing a fresh chicken, stuffing its stomach with spices and condiments, wrapping it up in West Lake lotus leaf, then packing it in Shaoxing wine, salt water, and mud. It is then baked for several hours. When opened, steam rises from the lotus leaves, and you can inhale the heavenly fragrance before the chicken reaches your plate.