Most average restaurants in China are not heated, so in the cold months people keep their coats on. It's OK to lean right over the plate you're eating from. And it's OK to sketch in restaurants. People don't mind at all.
When I did this one, the chef came out of the kitchen and stood behind me for a while, smiling and giving me 'thumbs up.' And as the people finished their meal and left, they took a look and had a big laugh, too.
One of our favorite little breakfast spots served lamian, a kind of noodle soup made from hand-stretched wheat noodles. The cook stretches the noodles right in front of you for your individual bowl of soup, which only costs a dollar. Lamian is a fast food all over China.
This guy must have been a regular because he came in, tucked in, and never came up for air. The sound of slurping in this shop was amazing. The chef stood behind me, smiling, and we made friends by means of the sketchbook. We ordered and paid completely by hand signals.
At a Korean fast food place, I just started sketching the chef. When he saw I was drawing him, I smiled and waved, and he posed as much as he could.
Of course I showed him the results.
And he wanted to take a cellphone photo.
Wikipedia for Lamian
Shanghai Diary Series:
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: American School
Part 3: Old Town
Part 4: Jujiajiao
Part 5: Goat Man
Part 6: Sketching in Restaurants
Part 7: China Rising
Part 8: Chinese/Russian Drawing
Part 9: Sketching in Shanghai (Video)