Old-style feel-good eatery

Updated: 2014-03-09 07:51

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

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Xiaodiao Litang Chinese restaurant has a unique old-Beijing style, both in the food and in the decor.

Xiaodiao refers to a small measuring jug, and litang means pear soup. According to the menu at Xiaodiao Litang, the hot pear soup was a traditional drink in old Beijing as popular as douzhi'er, traditional green bean juice.

The pear drink was often served to Peking Opera audiences in early 20th century Beijing, after performances.

Almost every table orders a pot of the sweet pear soup in the restaurant. Boiled with pear, white fungus and rock sugar, it has a nice taste, and it is not so sweet, so you can drink it throughout the meal. The bronze kettle, and good-looking glass cup used to serve the drink, immediately give one an old-Beijing feel.

That classic Beijing style is consistent in the decoration and food at the restaurant's Hepingli branch. Nowhere else could you see wooden tables and chairs as heavy as the ones at the eatery. Patterned wooden panels, pictures of ancient beauties on porcelain, and gray bricks that are typical of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Beijing - it is a comfortable and delightful atmosphere, although the seating space is a bit compact.

Food is presented beautifully. Dishes look and taste better than most home-style restaurants. The amount of food on a plate is enough for a small group.

The restaurant makes very good desserts. Cheese "fish" is a light-tasting jelly-like dessert in the shape of a fish. Red bean and yellow pea cake tastes natural and smooth. Red-wine poached pears are very well made and reasonably priced.

Old-style feel-good eatery

For hot dishes, try dry-braised yellow croaker, crisp-skin prawns with flour-wrapped pear balls, and "want to eat" roast potato cubes. The Xiaodiao signature rice in soup has two versions - one in a tasty yellow chicken broth, another with light-tasting mushroom soup.

It is a medium-sized restaurant. The space is divided into many different rooms. But one does not feel so constricted, thanks to good design and decor. Instead it has a classic style that seems to take one back to old Beijing. One room even has two trees growing out of a glass roof, creating the perfect ambience on a sunny day.

The owner of the restaurant, a local Beijinger of Manchu ethnicity, had previously opened Najia Xiaoguan, a private imperial-style restaurant. Diners might find Xiaodi Litang a more reasonably priced version of Najia Xiaoguan. The dishes are a fine version of popular home-style Chinese and Beijing foods.

It is a feel-good eatery that would be good for a happy get-together with friends or family.

yejun@chinadaily.com.cn

 Old-style feel-good eatery

Pear drink is served in a bronze kettle and glass cup, presenting an old-Beijing feel. Photos by Ye Jun / China Daily

 Old-style feel-good eatery

Crisp-skin prawns with flour-wrapped pear balls.

(China Daily 03/09/2014 page8)