I’ve been hearing rumors of this Chairman Mao memorabilia/tribute restaurant for a while and while i might have considered going there in the past, all thoughts of it vanished rather quickly at some point… until now that is! I ended up at The East is Red 红色经典(map) a few days ago with a few artsy friends visiting Beijing that has wanted to see something different and boy was it ever different.
The restaurant itself is located on the outskirts of the 5th rings road (yes, the horror), hidden in little dirt road alleys in between factories. As you arrive, you’re greeted by the imposing red gate and the red stars. The inside is just as imposing and very much kitchy: There is an entre-room with a few rustic barrels and wooden/stone chairs to wait around and right behind it is the main dining hall. The staff is predictably dressed up in revolutionary garbs walking around in a area that can easily fit 300 diners on the main floor plus another 100 on the second on. As expected, the parking lot was lined up with Audis and the tables were lined up with jinglis and laobans
Get there early and call for a booking if you’re coming with a group. on the day we went, the show started at 6:00 p.m and was interupted around 7:30 for a little auction of various arts pieces that the audience/diners were quite fond of. Most of it was scrolls and calligraphies that went between 100 and 500 RMB which is not unreasonable. The show picked right up after that with a number of various dance numbers, opera, theater and other little performances all under the veil of the revolutionary theme.
Now this one came as a surprise: I would have expected dishes from the chairman’s home province of Hunan but it was not the case. I also expected something quite minimalistic in terms of choice to be just like during the cultural revolution and showcase maybe a chef’s skill at producing a variety of dishes based on just a few ingredients…. I was wrong!
Instead, the menu featured Dongbei style items in abundance. A second surprise was that the food actually tasted good which is not something i have come to expect out of themed-restaurants in China.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to pick the dishes myself as i was one of the guest for that party but most of what was delivered to the table turned out to be pretty tasty and served up in generous portions. Being that it was a business dinner, my memories are a bit on the hazy side of things but i do remember that the roast lamb was great, and the stew as well. We had a number of interesting donbei style stir frys as well that tend to escape my mind at this point.
Overall, I think i’ll definitely be heading back there for another go and hopefully one that enables me to further delve deeper in the finer points of their cuisine. I would not recommend anyone go there without having the phone number of a taxi driver handy or a friend that is actually doing the driving. the place is really out of the ways and it is extremely easy to get lost while heading over there!
I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the portions as they were quite substantial!
At the end of the day, this is not the kind of restaurant you go to for the culinary experience of a lifetime but for the show… the fact that the food was actually decent, dare i say good, is one hell of a gigantic plus.
The East Is Red 红色经典主题餐厅(map)
Dōng Wǔ Huán Bái Jiā Lóu 266 Hào
Tel: +86 10 6574 8289