I'm up in Beijing again for a quick trip, and this time around I actually get to have a couple of decent meals. I was chatting with Mr. QLI about the potential candidates, and in the end he suggested that we hit Family Li Imperial Cuisine (厲家菜). While there are several branches of the restaurant in the city, curiously, one of them is a long way from the city center. In fact, it's not far from Beijing Capital International Airport. Mr. QLI told me that this particular branch, named 蘭庭厲家菜, is where Chef Li Xiao Lin (厲曉麟) - the second generation owner - cooks. Apparently the location is close to his home.
Since I was flying in this afternoon, it seemed to make sense for us to dine here - as I wouldn't have far to travel from the airport and therefore not subject to the frustrating traffic jams that Beijing is known for. But poor Mr. QLI did have to travel for about an hour just to have dinner with me...
I arrived to discover an empty restaurant in a quiet shopping mall, and Mr. Li chatting with Mr. QLI in one of the five private rooms. We seemed to be the only diners tonight, which wasn't too surprising giving the restaurant's location. I dropped my luggage, apologized for arriving a little late, and was introduced to Mr. Li. I had had my first taste of their cuisine at their branch in Taipei last year, and had been curious about what it would be like at to eat in Beijing. Well, I did better than just eating here... I got to meet and chat with him.
Everything seemed to have been arranged, so I just sat back and waited to see what came our way.
Bird's nest in clear soup (燕窝野意银丝) - a little pile of bird's nest sits on top of a bunch of deep-fried mung bean vermicelli (粉丝).
Here it's braised with preserved leafy mustard (梅干菜), and the flavors from the preserved vegetable was clearly evident - and reminds me of mom's braised pork belly cooked the same way. Chef Li explained that underneath the skin, part of the tail consists of a type of gland which, when cooked, gives a texture and taste similar to that of liver. And it certainly tasted like it to me. In fact, this whole dish was very delicious, and perfect over a bowl of rice. I felt like I was home eating mom's cooking, except there was a more exotic ingredient on the plate.
Anyway, it was kinda interesting. This particular type of algae was pretty small, and really was about the size of a grain of rice or smaller. And it definitely tasted a little like algae.
We asked for the bill, but no one came back with it. Chef Li looked happy to just send us on our way home - probably so he could go home and call it a night - and it seemed a little rude to insist on paying. So I ended up having a 霸王餐... and felt a little bad about it. I did remember to thank Chef Li again via email, and extended an invitation to him for dinner on his next trip to Hong Kong.