Friday, October 19, 2007

Feast in Old Beijing

Last night we went to Qianmen, just south of Tiananmen Square in search of Peking Duck.

In between Qianmen and Chongwenmen subway stations there's what looks like a deserted road lined with old hutongs. Some have roofs that are badly in need of repair, while others look empty. This is the real and old Beijing.

A block or two into the street, is "Li Qun Roast Duck" hand written on a brick wall on the right. Turn right and then on your right is a bright naked bulb leading to warm smells from an open oven where ducks lined up and roasted over an open fire with wood from fruit trees.

At first appearance the packed eatery looks small. And with many diners standing around the crowded room waiting for the next table, it seems like you'll never get to eat the delicious-looking food. But in fact there are a few rooms hidden off to the sides. Even if you make a reservation you can't be late. Even if you're 10 minutes late your table is gone.

This is what happened to us. They called us to say the table would be given to someone else. It was frustrating not having them keep the table for us another few minutes. We had to wait an agonizing 15 minutes before my friend came up with the brilliant idea of sharing a table with an American couple and their guide and driver.

It was their first trip to China, and the New Yorkers had already visited Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tibet, Xian and now Beijing was their last stop. They had just gone to the Great Wall at Badaling and were looking forward to Simatai, where there are more original parts of the wall in tact.

And they found this restaurant in a travel magazine. This was their first Peking duck experience and loved it.

After Da Dong, nothing compares to their duck. But I must say the pancakes at Li Qun were far superior -- they were paper thin and moist. We did really well, polishing off our two plates of a whole duck, bok choy with mushrooms, chili pork with peppers, and deep-fried rice cakes with shrimp.

Even though people were still standing around waiting for the next table, staff didn't shoo us from ours as we sat chatting. Outside a large group from Hong Kong complained to staff they had waited for an hour and even called long distance to make a reservation. And outside, there are pictures of many diplomats, and even former US Vice President and now Nobel Prize winner Al Gore has come here. So it seems this place is well known far and wide.

Li Qun
No. 11, Xiangfeng Hutong
Qianmen Jie (East), Chongwen District


ks said...

from the picture i can see this is the traditional way to cook a real peking duck. it should taste good. other components are the sauce and pancake. condiments with green onion or cucumber are more or less standard. it is usually the case when the food is good and authentic the place and service are not always desirable. da tung is good all round.

IheartNY said...

b, do you have the ph no?

lisasj said...

yum - I went there!
it wasn't too busy, we crammed a dozen people around a table.
One of the show-off guys ordered fried scorpion.
The other food was lovely.
It's actually the only time I've had roast duck.
I'm glad to see that it's still open -- with the hutongs getting torn down, it looked in jeopardy.

from the third floor,
concrete bunker,