With the next 2 places we visited here in Beijing, the result for the one was a surprised “WOW” and the other one a sound of disappointment. The classic restaurants of Beijing featured a taste of the Peking Duck and some other local foods, while the Hutongs are the traditional living areas of the people in Beijing before they started building skyscrapers and housing complexes.
Read more to find out which one gets a 5 star rating and which one gets scratched from our list of the 1000 places to see before you die.
The Peking Duck in a Classic Beijing Restaurant
In the Book 1000 Places To See before You Die the recommended choice of food is the traditional Peking Roast Duck, which is probably one of the most famous foods in the world. The recommended restaurant unfortunately had to be booked a few days in advance so we had to go to a different restaurant. Luckily our friend, who we visited in Beijing, knew a very traditional restaurant with extremely tasty food.
Of course we ordered the Peking Rosted Duck, along with some other dishes, since we wanted to try some more traditional Chinese food, which turned out to be a great decision.
Eating the Roasted Duck is more of an adventure than a culinary delight. After the duck has been roasted the cook shows you the entire duck before he starts to cut it into smaller pieces that are brought to your table. Along with the duck you typically order special seasonings and small pancakes.
First they bring you the duck skin, which is really just the fat of the duck and basically has almost no taste of its own. We were told that typically you take the duck skin, dunk it into the different sauces and seasoning, wrap it into one of the pancakes and eat it. After the duck skin, they brought us the meat, sliced into small pieces. Again, dip, wrap and eat.
Now, for the Peking Duck, I have to say that it was a real disappointment. It doesn’t taste that good, it is very little food – although they told us one duck would be enough for 3 people – and it is really expensive.
So is the classic restaurant one of the places that should get scratched? NO. Like I said, we also ordered some other traditional Chinese food and this food was AMAZING! There is no way to describe how delicious, tasty and diverse the different dishes were that we ordered. There was something with tea tree mushrooms and beef, something sour-sweet with green asparagus and some unknown crunchy ingredient and even a salad made of tiny cucumbers with still had the yellow calyx on it. Delicious!
Although the Peking Duck was a true letdown, the other food was seriously one of the best meals I have ever had. And believe me, I ate a lot of food in my life. Therefore I recommend everyone to try the traditional Chinese cuisine if you ever get to China. Forget the Chinese restaurants in Europe or North America. They don’t even have the ingredients to cook that amazing food with such a diversity of tastes.
As a special gift to us, we were able to also see a traditional Chinese fight in the restaurant. A Chinese women started making a scene and arguing with the restaurant manager because they had put something on the bill that she ordered, but didn’t get. Having an interpreter with us made this quite interesting. Especially when she pulled down the tablecloth ruining all the food and tableware in the process.
It was very interesting to see the manager responding to all this. He was calm, trying to get her to calm down, too. I guess I would have exploded once she stared wrecking stuff in the restaurant. The whole show was ended when the police arrived. She tried to argue that she didn’t do anything but the manager just did a move known from different comedy TV-shows “We have cameras there, there, there and here”. Somehow the people in the TVs react more relieved than she did.
The Hutongs of Beijing
We were really excited to see the Hutongs, which are the old courtyard neighborhoods in Beijing. A Hutong is a courtyard surrounded by building. The Hutongs used to be hundreds of those Hutong courtyards with each family living in on of those buildings. Supposedly they were quite neat.
Since living room became scare in China’s capital, the Hutongs were divided so more and more families could live there, ruining the old flair of these neighborhoods. Some Hutongs are now protected as a site of historic interest, but the protection came way too late. The old feel of the city is gone and won’t ever be back.
Are Classic Restaurants and Hutongs of Beijing worth seeing
I think from what you just read you already know which one I am scratching form the list and which one deserves to stay on it. The Beijing food is fantastic. The variety of tastes is something that everyone should experience in his life. The Peking Roasted Duck though is something that you might want to try some day, but don’t expect too much of it.
The Hutongs sure have been something great in the past, but modern development made these neighborhoods look more like something where I would be scared to walk at night rather than something everyone should see. When you are in Beijing, just go and see the Hutongs for yourself as it might give you a small glimpse into the old life in one of China’s most historic cities, but it is definitely nothing that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
More interesting stuff in Beijing