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A Taste of China’s New Cuisine: Private Dining at Beijing’s 食之陆柒 (Shi Zhi Liu Qi)

by Joseph Nicolai   - May 18, 2015
 
One of the traits of a Panda is that they are voracious eaters that have very stringent sense of what is tasty and what is not. We here at the Panda Guides offices are foodies. 
 
As a long term expat the question always arises: where do you go when you really want to try a bite of Beijing - a city as cosmopolitan as it has deep roots? Often - all too often - expats follow the tourist busses and go to local “roast duck” restaurants in order to get a taste of “old Beijing food”.  But where do you go if you want to try something truly local – not only a bite of its tradition but also of its creative newness? We are very happy say that there is a new restaurant on the scene that is just that, a local incarnation of capital C Cuisine in the country’s capital.  
 
We left our Panda lair and pounced at the opportunity to check out one of Beijing’s newest and boldest restaurants 食之陆柒. Pronounced “Shi Zhi Liu Qi”, this little gem – while a little hard to find - simply blew us away with its emphasis on high end, earnest, cuisine at very reasonable prices. 
 
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Making our way to the restaurant.
 
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A small crowd forming in front of the restaurant. 
 
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This is the front entrance of the hidden gem. 
 
The restaurant is gutsy and won’t compromise on the integrity of their vision:
Reservations are not suggested – they are required. Maybe it is this that gives the restaurant a very relaxed, laid back feeling. A place that you would feel comfortable to bring your family or a date and not have to worry about getting rushed out of your seat.  
 
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Beautiful minimalist feel. 
 
Innovation – but not at the price of using test tubes and flamboyant additives.
 
The name of the restaurant name itself translates to something like “Eating of six or seven” – a translation that only stays at the surface meaning. The restaurant has no English name and very little signage points customers to the inside of the beautiful modern restaurant. To get at the bottom of things though – as the Chef would tell us shortly – you must just try the food for yourself. 
 
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A major theme of this restaurant is pairing the right teas to the right meals. 
 
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All set for the tea tasting class they were organized when we arrived. 
 
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Tastefully decorated.  
 
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Depending on the tea they will give out a different teapot. 
 
Once we arrived we had a chance to sit down to talk with the restaurant manager.
 

Lady Long

 
We sat down and got a chance to chat with Lady Long, a native of Sichuan Province that has been in Beijing for several years. 
 
After working in the IT field for some time she founded a private culture club with some of her friends. Four years later, the club still going strong, she wanted to expand the reaches of her doors and open a private home cooking restaurant that inherits her idea of conveying Chinese traditional culture and original food. 
 
Against the current eating market that is in somewhat of a mess, Lady Long wants to give people the real healthy food in an equally calming ambiance. Her basic idea of the cuisine is keeping the original flavor of the food and no additives at all. 
 
We learned that the restaurant itself is loosely based on the Chinese 24 solar terms that inform its culinary regimen. As an old Chinese saying goes “不时不食” - which deeper meaning translates to something like eating should be seasonal. In short, people should eat right food at the right time. 
 
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The main area of the restaurant was on a quiet bustle 
 
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The open concept kitchen
 
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Preparing our deserts
 
The entire menu is re-written 24 times every year according to the different 24 Chinese solar items. This would be less impressive if the food was simply not this outrageously delicious. 
 
 

FOOD

 
Our conversation was punctuated with the arrival of food. 
 
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A beautiful assortment of food.
 
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Yes! Happy panda! 
 
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What we learned was a spinach cake. 
 
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A chocolate mousse with a pea seedling (豆苗) 
 
The food was daring. A cake made of spinach extract? Cake with homemade papaya jam and white fungus? A sweet potato cake? 
 
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One of the most delicious cakes I have ever tried in Beijing. 
 
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All together 
 
After talking with the manager and digesting our food in the laid back setting, we got a chance to speak with the Chef behind the restaurant: Chef Abin .   
 
 

Chef Abin 

 
As Chef Abin told us nowadays people are busy and have no time cook by himself or herself. 
 
He passionately explained that for him food can convey emotion. In particular, he wanted to make customers focus on eating and the food itself, to feel relaxed in this bubble in Beijing they have created.
 
To feel, in other words, just as like they would if they were back home. While I never had spinach-based deserts back home I did get a deep sense of what he meant. The restaurant is calm and the food is – you can feel it – made with a love for the craft. Something that is very rare to find in any major city due to the fast paced environment.  
 
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The beautiful hand-written menus pair well with the amazing food. 
 
This is also why the kitchen has a Western open-concept design, it not only shorten the distance between customers and the kitchen but also to give the customers the feel they are eating a five-star meal at home. 
 
The Chef said Chinese Cuisine is very complicated with so many different areas having different special cuisine but that - no matter which cuisine it is - he thinks the most important thing of Chinese cuisine is to bring out the food’s original flavors. He stressed there is no need for heavy seasoning or additives. 
 
All the produce that is bought in the day is selected by the chef himself to cook for the customers of that day. There is no waste here. 
 

Wine & Tea

 
The wine list is thoughtfully selected and designed to pair well with the food without breaking the bank. But if you want to talk serious wines – the owner has an off the menu private collection that can also be served.  
 
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The wine list is also written by the chef & the prices are very reasonable for a bottle. 
 
While I am far from being a tea expert – I was surprised to know that each meal is paired with a proper tea. 
 
In fact, some of the staff here are tea experts and offer tea classes to spread the word on how to enjoy it. They are, in other words, tea sommeliers. 
 
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The restaurant’s cool laid-back ambiance is paired with its boldness. 
 

Collecting our Thoughts

 
When it comes to Chinese food the city is bombarded with various high-end chains provided the prepackaged “high end dining experience” to go. 
 
They are, in other words, the Costco’s of taste: choreographed little plates and “haute cuisine ambiance” offered en mass. Food, in cases like this, can often take the backseat as the sheer logistics of serving so many people at so many locations – all while maximizing profit – can take a lot away from the actual real reason to go to a restaurant: the food experience. Then at restaurants like McCarron at the Park you pay – in large part - for the ambiance & the spectacle of the foodie experience, sometimes even at the expense of the actual food. 
 
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Action shot.
 
Maybe the difference is that 食之陆柒 felt more of a private dining experience – a welcomed touches of a private dining club. It is no wonder then that they have hosted so many small private events for execs of the likes of established brands like Siemens and others. 
 
At 食之陆柒 you get something different. Something unnamable – If this is the future of Beijing, we love it. 
 
While we were talking with the chef we asked how he would describe the food he prepares here – he simply said you have to taste it to get his feelings. 
 
Words, to paraphrase Ezra Pound, are not good at everything. 
 
Give this place a try and you can taste what I mean.  
 
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The Chef Abin & Lady Long 
  
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 1:30am-10:00pm. 
 
Closed on Mondays. 
 
Reservations required. 
 
食之陆柒(Shi Zhi Liu Qi)
 
3 Andingmen West St, Dongcheng District, Beijing 
东城区北京市东城区安定门西大街三号
150 1051 2689
 
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Right next to Andingmen (安定门) station along Line 2.
 
 

About Writer

joe

As well as working at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (Canada’s top think tank on Asia), Joe has been a regular at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations conferences and has received an award for his analysis work on China from the illustrious Fraser Institute. He’s currently wrapping up his two-year policy analysis project which looks at over 40 years of the UNESCO World Heritage Center and China tourism-related official documents.
 

 

 
 

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