Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. Not only was it once believed to be the largest city in the world, it was also home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties and let me tell you, they definitely knew what to do with China’s abundant resources. The multi ethnic country prides itself on regional cuisines which have originated spectacular cooking techniques that have evolved the importance of cooking in China’s culture. The most populated place in the world has some really fantastic cuisine, which has become so popular that it spread to the Americas and other continents like Europe and Australia. I ventured out to Chinatown this past weekend to find comfort in one of the most adored cuisines in the world.
Restaurant Beijing is in the heart of Chinatown, and has been serving a packed house since 1985. It was time to see what all the hype was about. We arrived around 8:00 pm on a Saturday evening and the place was full. There was a thirty minute wait. My rule of thumb is that if you wait over 10 minutes to eat at a restaurant, the food has to be good or else I’m going to be really annoyed. I glanced around at the people eating and everyone seemed to be having a good time and the room smelled pretty good so we put our names down. We went to get some Dragon’s Beard Candy and walked around for a bit and then returned punctually. We were led to our table by a friendly middle aged man, who handed us the menus and shortly after, we proceeded to order.
Whenever I visit a Chinese restaurant, I immediately get excited because I think about the hot & sour soup that I’m going to order. The hot & sour at Beijing was a big disappointment to me because not only was the temperature too hot, it hardly had a taste to it; the combination of the two together made a pretty poor introduction. Another thing that was a little off putting was that there was raw porc inside and even though the soup was extremely hot the strips of porc were still raw as I was eating it. The last thing that I found unusual was how the small soup costs 6 dollars and it’s the size of what a large should be. If you’re not splitting the soup with someone it’s costing you 6 dollars for a really poor quality appetizer that really emphasizes the sour in hot & sour soup.
The wonton soup had a generous amount of bok choy, wontons and noodles, and oddly enough, the actual wontons had all the flavor, as there was no taste in the broth. After a healthy amount of soy sauce, the soup was resurrected.
If the spring rolls were human, they would probably look like they had leprosy. Aside from their lack of presentation the rolls were decent. They were fried in oil that was used for stir-fry and what not so there was some decent flavor coming from the crumbly shell but the interior was a bit weak, I kept trying to get as much of the dipping sauce onto the roll to compensate for this, and the dipping sauce didn’t last the whole roll.
I had a funny experience with the salt and pepper squid; I didn’t like the first bite, I loved the second bite, and I didn’t enjoy the rest after that. One thing that was appreciated was that they used extra large cuts of squid, but the overpowering thick batter prevented it from being enjoyable.
Because Beijing is also known as Peking, and the Peking Duck is Beijing’s most famous dish, I thought that they would make a killer one here, but boy was this one awful. I don’t think you can really imagine how overcooked it was, I mean the whole time I was ripping off the skin and eating that instead of the meat. There was also a big puddle of fat from the duck that was obtained from the roasting and left on the plate, and even sinking the meat into the sauce didn’t do it justice, I feel bad for the wasted duck. I am glad that I only got a half portion, maybe someone else finished the other half.
I felt bad for the Shanghai noodles, because they tasted like they were burned really badly, those poor things! They held a really sharp burnt taste throughout the dish and it seemed like they were overcooked in an abundance of soy sauce, I really felt nauseous after my third bite.
Just when I thought this failure of a meal couldn’t get any worse, they went ahead and outdid themselves, the beef in a highly seasoned XO sauce was quite good! The sauce stems from Cantonese cuisine, and was developed only 30 years ago in Hong Kong. The tender cuts of beef mixed with green peppers and onions were a hit because the sauce didn’t have an overpowering taste of seafood, and the meat was not overcooked. I thought perhaps the next couple of dishes could be better.
I was wrong. The chow mein was missing two things; crispy noodles, and flavor. The noodles only had a partial crisp, so if they paid attention to the frying a little bit more, the noodles could have improved, and the flavor, well that needed some serious help.
General Tso probably wouldn’t be thrilled about how his Chinese restaurant staple tastes at Beijing, but at the same time I think that he wouldn’t have hated on it. It wasn’t as tasty as the beef with the XO sauce, but it was better than the other dishes. It could have been a bit sweeter, and spicier but oh well.
I hope this restaurant isn’t an indication of what the food is actually like in Beijing, if it is, I’m heading to Shanghai instead!
92, rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, Montreal, QC H2Z 1C1 T:(514) 861-2003
JarredReviews is my personal weblog. The opinions and experiences represent my own. If you read that I didn’t particularly enjoy a meal or restaurant, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it and see for yourself. Restaurants can have an off day, people make mistakes, we’re all human. My writing is mainly so that you can find out about great restaurants that you may have not heard about, and also to give you an idea of what I enjoyed that you can experience for yourself. Food reviewing is very subjective and you must take this into account and use your discretion when reading any review; If I have had a bad experience somewhere, do not let that stop you to try the restaurant for yourself.