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Spicy summer

By Ye Jun | China Daily | Updated: 2012-05-21 13:52

Spicy summer
Spicy summer

Early summer is the best time for al fresco dining. Ye Jun finds one perfect location for it.

One of life's best pleasures during this time of the year is enjoying some good food in the lovely outdoors, while sipping tea under a parasol. Newly opened Hongtaiyang Music Restaurant is one of the restaurants with the perfect setting for that. The eatery specializing in Yunnan cuisine is located just outside East Fifth Ring Road. The location may be out of the way for many, but it's worth the journey for those who long to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Tucked within a 100-year-old residential zone, the area was said to be abuzz with theatergoers and musicians in the early 1900s. And if you patronize the restaurant at the right time, you could be treated to some jazz and rock 'n' roll performances or ethnic dances. Performance time is arbitrary.

The big outdoor space, paved with wooden planks and furnished with parasol sheltered dining sets, creates a perfect atmos-phere for a holiday-like, relaxing meal.

The interior of the restaurant is elegantly decorated and the furniture is well spread out in many open space. The furnishing is a mix of Oriental and Western, while the public area is neat and comfortable, with lovely lotus-shape lanterns.

A long bar sits on one side of the public area, joined by a boiling station where chefs can be seen preparing traditional boiled dishes in big earthen jars and bronze pots.

The restaurant flies in some of its unique ingredients and spices from Yunnan. Among the signature dishes include fried boletus with Yunnan thin-skin green chili, which tastes refreshing. The steamed Yunnan sausage with prickly ash tastes unique, and pairs well with a slightly bitter wild vegetable.

Its roast "little knife" duck from Yunnan looks rather small, but the meat is much leaner than the Beijing species. It is roasted with pine wood, to give it a special aroma.

Spicy summer

Lamb meat and giblet in spicy soup is one of the dishes cooked at the boiling station. The lamb is tender, and the spiciness well balanced with sourness from a particular Yunnan "tree tomato". But for those who cannot take spicy food, this dish might be too harsh for the palate.

Assorted BBQ platter has grass carp, pork hoof, bean curd, chicken and gourd slices. The best tasting is the pork hoof. The fish seems a bit dry, but it could be drenched with a mushroom soup served in clay teapot.

A surprise find was the dry-braised cockscomb in pottery pot. This dish is sure to bring fond memories to a lot of customers as a lot of Chinese families feed their children with cockscomb. Paired with onion, garlic, bell pepper and coriander, it full of flavor and a bit crisp.

A must order on the menu is the restaurant's posu baozi, a steamed bun with diced pork and mushroom stuffing. The pork and mushroom is cooked to perfection, flavorful and juicy. Another must try is their homemade yoghurt, combined excellently with rose candy and honey.

The restaurant serves characteristic foods from some Yunnan ethnic groups, such as Bai, Yi, Hani, Dai and Wa. They include roast pig tail, chicken giblet, fishes, soups and preserved vegetables. Early summer is also the time to savor dishes made with fresh flowers from Yunnan, and some fresh seaweed.

The restaurant has recently organized a Dali street food festival and plans to run its Torch Festival in July.

It can be a good chioce for a peaceful get-together, or a boisterous dinner party.

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