This restaurant recommendation came from one of Mirna’s husband’s colleagues, a native of Beijing. Unfortunately, his list of recommendations (all serving very traditional food from Beijing) were entirely in Chinese, meaning that we just picked the first one on the list and asked our taxi driver to guide us there. It was quite difficult to find actually as the entrance was quite discreet but if you need help, there’s a photo of the restaurant entrance at the end of this post. We got there quite early and so got a table but I’d definitely recommend making a booking: it filled up very quickly with groups queuing not long after.
Inside looks much bigger than you’d expect – there are both large main dining areas downstairs and up and off the courtyard eating areas are private dining rooms too. We sat upstairs.
Once seated and presented with the huge pictorial menu, we had no idea what to order (the only thing Mirna’s husband recalled was the mashed potatoes) and so ordered whatever looked good, making sure though to get a good sampling of both the cold and hot dishes. It was only after I got back to London and did a bit of research did I find the official name of the restaurant and the fact that it serves Manchurian and Imperial cuisine, something I thought I’d missed when I was in Beijing. Whatever it was, it was delicious. Here’s what we ate:
A cold dish of fish and pickled garlic in aspic, served with a soy based dipping sauce.
Steamed aubergine with chili shrimp paste. Gorgeous!
Mashed potato with sweet bean paste. Hmm – very very challenging.
Smoked duck with fried peanuts.
Goose with lotus root.
Stir fried pea shoots (here begin the hot dishes).
Stewed venison with a vegetable in there that I think is a gourd of some kind.
Pork belly stewed (maybe steamed?) with dried red dates. The fat just melted on the tongue.
Stir fried long beans with pork. The whole garlic cloves were beautifully sweet.
Homemade silken tofu coated in cornstarch and deep fried.
Fried mutton, served with a dry dip of cumin, chili and sesame seeds. Oh yes.
Minced venison buns. They were presented all separately and the waitress took it away and came back with this. We couldn’t finish these; the rest were packed up and were our breakfast the next day!
A small fruit platter (for dessert).
My favourites? The aubergine, pork belly, fried mutton, tofu. I thought these were exceptional but everything on the table was excellent. However, the mashed potatoes, despite their popularity with the rest of the restaurant, were just too challenging for us – they were sweetened and served with a sweet red bean paste on top; I think it was just too difficult when they tasted more like a dessert than a cold appetiser.
As we were sitting there eating, we saw many platefuls of crispy fried prawns making their way to many tables – it turns out that this is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. If you do make it there, don’t forget to order those! The price? All of those dishes plus a few drinks (beers and Coke) came to about 600 RMB (or £60). Fabulous food and we definitely over-ordered for the three of us!