Overall Beijing seemed less western, less livable with more sky scrapers and larger highways, with less character than Shanghai. The signs of a strict, communist country are very obvious around the government buildings and historic landmarks where police and cameras are everywhere you look. That being said, Bruce took me to an area of single story buildings called Hutongs with a network of back alleys that were sprinkled with bars and restaurants. We stopped for a craft old fashioned and negroni at a small, dark bar playing jazz and pop tunes from America in the 50’s, called Mai Bar. This gem is absolutely worth seeking out. (Photo taken from internet because I wasn’t about to be that American tourist taking photos in a cool, dark bar)
Dinner was around the corner at Dali Courtyard. A Yunnan restaurant with a pre fix menu that was heavy on the vegetables. For reference, Yunnan region is highlighted in red below:
This meal was simple but absolutely delicious, with surprising flavors and unusual ingredients. The unique part about this dinner was that they never presented a menu of what was being served (definitely part of the fun but challenging to write a post about dishes and ingredients you’ve never seen before).
The first plate of greens legitimately tasted like Fruit Loops. The al dente loofah (luffa) leaf and sprout salad with mujiangzi leaves were lightly dressed with a garlicky dressing, but had the most pungent, fruity flavor like nothing I’ve ever tasted.
Next was a plate of steamed broccoli and carrots, a welcome respite from the grease laden glutenous carbs we’ve been living off of.
The tofu strips in this salad resembled noodles tossed in a light vinegar dressing with red onions and some kind of herb. Divine. I have never seen tofu in this form but I will be hunting it down in San Francisco.
The mushrooms (at least 3-4 different varieties) wrapped in banana leaf was shocking flavorful and probably our favorite dish.
Fried shrimp in their shells (!) with fried spicy leaves (maybe lemon leaves?). You actually eat the shells, which I didn’t know people did on purpose. But a little extra fiber can’t hurt.
The main dishes were a spice rubbed butterflied white fish that was deboned in front of us at the table, and crispy baked chicken with ground red pepper flakes (very reminiscent to the duck, actually).
The chicken was incredibly moist. Confusingly moist. And the fish was packed with flavor and a fun challenge to pick apart with chop sticks. I haven’t mentioned this but I adore eating with chop sticks. It slows you down and makes you (me) take way smaller bites than I do with a fork. My stomach feels noticeably better after a meal with chop sticks. I plan on incorporating chop sticks into my non-Chinese food life, at least in the privacy of my own home.