Top 5 Imperial Cuisine Restaurants in Beijing

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Jul. 1, 2021

Beijing cuisine is also known as Jing cuisine and Mandarin cuisine is the cuisine of Beijing. A tradition that influenced Beijing cuisine (as well as influenced by the latter itself) is the Chinese imperial cuisine that originated from the "Emperor's Kitchen” which referred to the cooking facilities inside the Forbidden City, where thousands of cooks from different parts of China showed their best culinary skills to please the imperial family and officials.

1. Beijing Fangshan Restaurant (仿膳饭庄)

It is located in Yilantang Hall on the north side of the Jade Isle, where Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 - 1908) used to take her meals after sightseeing in the park.

Fangshan Restaurant was opened in 1925 by former cooks of the Qing imperial kitchen (Qing Dynasty 1644-1911), Sun Shaoran, Wang Yushan, Wen Baotian, Niu Wenzhi, and Zhao Yongshou, who opened a tea – house in Beihai Park with help from Zhao Renzhai, former chief of the palace vegetable storehouse. Their teahouse was named Fangshan, which means “imitate the imperial court cuisine” in Chinese.

They specialized in making and selling the orthodox pastries of the Qing Palace. From making and selling tea, pastries, and refreshments, Fangshan gradually evolved into serving the traditional dishes of the Qing Palace. Many literati and tourists dined at the restaurant out of admiration for their imperial cooking. The restaurant soon became well-known throughout the city because of its fresh raw materials, excellent food preparation, and unique flavors.

Palace cuisine can be regarded as a collection of the best examples of Chinese food. The imperial cooks who started the Fangshan Restaurant in 1925 passed along their cooking skills so that today we can taste imitations of the palace dishes.

Taking Yilan room as the center, the Fangshan restaurant consists of three parts: the Yilan room, Diaoning studio, and the scene. The plate on the front door was written by Lao She in 1960 and is hung on the Bizhao building door.

Behind this building is the Yilan room which is the main construction. The writing "Hall Yilan" comes from the hand of Emperor Qianlong. A wonderful masterpiece of Mr. Wu Zuoren, a traditional Chinese painter can be admired.

The restaurant room is a place of an imperial luxury. All furnishings are made of hardwood such as Padauk Ambila and red sandalwood. Chairs, tables, and shelves are delicately sculptured. Tablewares come from Jingdezhen (or the Town of Jingde), Jiangxi province, known as the "Porcelain Capital" and is a replica of the imperial dinner service. Plates, bowls, and glasses are light yellow, with characters symbolizing longevity. Chopsticks, spoons, wine cups, and table napkins outline a complete set. The waiters and the waitresses are all clothed in Qing court dresses.

Fangshan restaurant offers more than 800 kinds of Imperial Dishes. Imperial cooking is particular in the choice of ingredients and meticulous attention is granted to color, flavor, taste, appearance, and name of dishes which are adopted in an alive way and correspond to the color and appearance of the dish.

The pastries included steamed corn-flour cake, rolls of kidney bean flour, and mashed pea cake, which were all favorites of Empress Dowager Cixi.

2. Li Jia Cai Restaurant (厉家菜)

Li Jia Cai Restaurant or Li Family Restaurant is located in a courtyard of Yangfang hutong in Beijing and is dedicated to Imperial Court food.

The Li family is the owner and employee of the restaurant, and dinner is by set menu. That means that guests cannot order the dishes but must wait for whatever is served; Family Li only serves dinner to ten people every day. If you want to try, you need to make a reservation a few days in advance.

Family Li serves imperial cuisine made with recipes and processing techniques handed down from ancestors; there are no chemical materials in the dishes, all flavorings are natural.
What about a meal suited for an emperor?

3. Bai Family Courtyard Restaurant (白家大宅门食府)

Located in the famed Roca Garden on Suzhou Street in the Haidian District, diners enjoy a garden restaurant offering royal cuisine immersed in a strong cultural atmosphere of the Qing Dynasty: rituals, costumes, garden, architecture, music, and food are true to the past.

4. Yushan Restaurant (御膳饭店)

The design of the restaurant follows the imperial palace with luxurious decoration; diners are served by waitresses in traditional imperial costumes.

5. Mei Mansion Family Feast (梅府家宴)

‘Mei Mansion Family Feast' (Mei Fu Jia Xi) is located in the Dafengxiang Hutong of Houhai. It offers the family dishes that Mei Lanfang (a master of Beijing Opera) had during his lifetime. Mei Lanfang was one of the most famous Peking opera artists in modern history, exclusively known for his qingyi roles, a type of dan role.
The restaurant extent to 1100 square meters. It has 3 courtyards and used to be the residence of a prince's wife in the Qing Dynasty.

The furniture is styled out of the 20s and 30s in the 20th century, and each piece of tableware has a delicate orchid pattern on it. When enjoying the Mei cuisine, the classic and original opera from the gramophone gives you a chance to appreciate the charisma of the opera master for whom the restaurant is named.

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