Since my last taste of Beggar’s Chicken, I have been trying to locate other establishments in town that offered this lovely fare so that i could have a basis for comparison and this has proven harder than i expected. My only frame of reference was the Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones in which she describes it as exquisit and delicate dish with subtle flavors. The first one I tasted at Wu Ming Ju did the description justice but I’m greedy and I wanted to taste more.
We finally found a suitable candidate thanks to my friend K: Feng Sao Zhe Ren 风骚浙人!(map)
Feng Sao Zhe Ren is basically an old courtyard reconverted into a restaurant. Just walking by, one can feel that this place is special: The street-side window give you a view of a slightly rustic country style but not the one you’d expect! It’s mostly done up with a discreet and decidedly cute…..get ready for this… French flair. I wasn’t quite sure what to think but having already seen pictures online, I was mentally prepared for the sight.
I finally went in to join K and the rest of the crew who were already inside the little private room we reserved for the 10+ party. Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the decorations and cleanliness of the establishment and so was i! The menu became another source of conversation as it was a beautifully illustrated hardcover book with spreads of Hangzhou style opera actors amongst other things. The menu was labelled in English and Chinese which is always a plus!
As we had a big crew, we proceeded to order 2 Beggar’s Chickens as well as a huge assortment of other goodies including spring rolls, fried lotus, drunk chicken, sweet ribblets, soups and just about everything else we could think of to suit 12 hungry mouths. Here are some samples:
The restaurant also boasted their own take on huangjiu, a sort of Chinese brandy that is baijiu’s non-evil cousin. In this particular case, it was served in a tea pot with flowers and other ingredients mixed with it. We decided to go with the non-egg version and it proved quite tasty… that’s a huge upside considering i have tasted some fairly foul huanjiu’s in my life. I’d heartily recommend this one to liquor fans.
Every dish arrived promptly win impeccable presentation and was delivered to our table with a smile. The riblets were on the sweet side with meat falling of the bone. The spring rolls tasted like they were freshly made with quality ingredients as opposed to store-bought. Another huge success was the sweet n sour soup with the table unanimously deciding that we needed a second serving.
Finally, at least for me, the highlight was the Fish! This baby was marvelous and that’s a compliment coming from me, “Mr I don’t eat fish in China”.. it tasted fresh with a beautiful balance of peppers and light sauce.. and more importantly, NO FREAKING BONES!! Just about everyone was happy with the meal and every dish was well done as long as it soothed the person’s pallet but that is not why i went there…We were there for the Beggar’s Chicken! How did it do?
As the waitress brought the plate into the room, we could see that it did indeed look the part: It was laying on top of a lotus leaf, with smoke coming out and had a bowl of broth on the side! But what would it taste like? The chicken was tender and juicy with a pronounced flavor that was quite different from the one we had previously. To quote my friend @moderntimes , there was nothing subtle about it! Don’t get me wrong, this was amazing chicken.. probably one of the best ones i’ve had so far in Beijing but I would venture to say that there was too much flavor in it to consider it a genuine Beggar’s Chicken. That said, I will definitely go back and order it again. Our meal for 12 people when we pigged out came out to about 700RMB which was great value in my opinion. I’m surprised this one is still off of the mainstream radar because they’re freaking amazing!
Overall, I loved the restaurant, the decor, the staff/service and so did my group of friends! This place is going on my list of Beijing gems that i will be taking visitors and friends to whenever the opportunity arises. It was my second trip to that side of town in a week and I must state how surprised I am at the abundance of restaurants in Chaoyangmen nei which means i’ll be spending some extra time over there soon!
Feng Sao Zhe Ren 风骚浙人
35-37 Jinbao St, East end of Jinbao St
Tel: +86(10)65277877, +86(10)86663236