Sample a Taste of the Past at Beijing’s Oldest Restaurants

Sample a Taste of the Past at Beijing’s Oldest Restaurants
By Robynne Tindall , eChinacities.com

Beijing's restaurant scene has exploded in recent years, with any number of regional Chinese restaurants and Western restaurants from around the world often making if difficult to choose a place to eat. Why not look to the past for inspiration for your next meal instead? Without a doubt, Beijing has an incredible culinary heritage. As the seat of imperial power for several hundred years, Beijing attracted chefs and masters of taste from around China, to create a distinctive culinary scene that melded the best of regional cuisines with local tastes and ingredients. Luckily for us, many of these cuisines and the restaurants that serve them are still around today.

1): Bianyifang: 600-year-old roast duck
No catalogue of Beijing restaurants would be complete without Peking duck. Bianyifang is the oldest surviving restaurant serving traditional Peking duck in Beijing. It was founded in 1416 as a small workshop serving duck and chicken products and established as a more formal restaurant in the Qianmen area in the late Qing dynasty. Today, they have a number of branches around Beijing, but the original branch on Xianyukou Hutong remains the most atmospheric.

Bianyifang roast their ducks using the "men lu" (焖炉) method, in which the ducks are roasted inside the oven rather than above it. They claim this method gives juicier meat and crispier skin and we can vouch that their duck is as good as any other we have had in Beijing.

Bianyifang (Qianmen branch)View In Map
Add: 4-6 Xianyukou Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
地址:北京市东城区鲜鱼口大街4-6号, 便宜坊
Tel: 010 67132535
Opening hours:
Website: www.bianyifang.com
Details of other branches are available on the website

2) Guoyao Xiaoju: Experience a dying cuisine
Guoyao Xiaoju has been in the same hutong location for 78 years and Chef Guo's family has been cooking Tan Family Cuisine for four generations. The restaurant is one of the last remaining places serving Tan Family Cuisine, a branch of imperial cuisine invented by Tan Zongjun, an official serving imperial court in the mid-Qing dynasty. This type of cooking brings together influences from the Guangdong and Huaiyang cooking styles, and dishes focus on quality ingredients with a balance of salty and sweet. Some of Guoyao Xiaoju's more unusual signature dishes include duck and chive crepes and fish maw soup.

GuoyaoXiaojuView In Map
Add: 58 Jiaodaokou Beisantiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing
地址:北京市东城区交道口北三条58号, 国肴小居
Tel: 010 6403 1940

3) Yaoji Chaogan: Good enough for a Vice President
Yaoji Chaogan hit the headlines last year when US Vice President Joe Biden called in to try some noodles and baozi during his trip to Beijing. However, for many years before that Beijingers have been flocking to Yaoji Chaogan to feast on their hearty, traditional Beijing snacks. Their signature dish is their eponymous chaogan (炒肝), a thick stew made with pigs liver and intestines and seasoned with raw garlic. Much more delicious than it perhaps sounds, it is the perfect rib-sticking antidote to Beijing's chilly winters.

They also serve some of the best baozi we have ever had in Beijing, which is apparently down to the inclusion of pork skin in the juicy filling.

Yaoji ChaoganView In Map
Add: 331 GulouDongdajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
地址:北京市东城区鼓楼东大街331号, 姚记炒肝
Tel: 010 8401 0507
Opening hours: Daily 06:00-22:30

4) Moscow restaurant: Beijing's first Western restaurant
We thought it only fitting that we should include Beijing's first Western restaurant in a list of its oldest restaurants. Moscow Restaurant opened in the mid-1950s and has been up and running in various guises (depending on the current state of Sino-Russian relations…) ever since. It has since established a reputation for reliable, if not that exciting Russian food, and the restaurant space itself, with its soaring high ceilings and pillars, certainly gives you a sense of the grandeur of the past.

Moscow Restaurant may not warrant a special trip to Xizhimen, but if you are in the area then it's worth popping in to get a feel for what it might have been like for those intrepid laowai who came to Beijing before the days when there was a Starbucks or imported wine shop on every corner.

Moscow RestaurantView In Map
Add: 135 Xizhimen Waidajie, Xicheng District (next to the Beijing Exhibition Center)
地址:北京市西城区西直门外大街135号(北京展览中心旁)
Tel: 010 6835 4454
Opening hours: Daily 11:00-14:00, 17:00-21:00

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Keywords: Beijing’s oldest restaurants oldest peking duck restaurant Beijing oldest cuisines Beijing

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