I was excited to see an article on Provincial Eating in Beijing in the New York Times today. Especially because it covers a restaurant I visited just last week! Each region in China has a provincial office in Beijing – the highlight of these offices are of course, the attached government-run restaurant. From the article:
“Beijing provides a quirky, time-lapsed way to explore authentic provincial cuisines. Each region has an office in the capital, a system that grew out of an administrative need to govern a vast country with absolute central power. The offices’ administrative usefulness has withered in the telecommunications age, but the restaurants are among the few state-owned holdouts in a now fervently capitalist economy.”
Thanks to a suggestion from a local friend, my family and I stopped in for lunch at Chuanban Canting (川办餐厅) which is run by the Sichuan government. After a good two weeks of eating in Hong Kong and Southern China, we were craving heat, spice. This was a perfect fit. We started with our own bowls (a few bowls in my dad’s case!) of dan dan mein and proceeded to share the following dishes with sides of rice.
The whole lunch for four people came out to about $25USD. Good and cheap. The dishes were not numbingly spicy as I had anticipated…but I’m guessing that’s because we were outed as foreigners and spice level was thus tuned down. Here’s what the NYT article has to say about Chuanban Canting:
“Chuanban Canting, run by the Sichuan government (5 Gongyuan Xijie Toutiao, Jiangguomennei Dajie; 86-10-6512-2277, extension 6101; scheduled to reopen in July after renovations) is the most famous of these restaurants and has earned an almost cultish devotion among the city’s culinary cognoscenti. “Chuanban can be the best Sichuan restaurant in the city, depending on the mood of the chef,” Ms. Mooney said.
Almost everything served here (the menu is in English and Chinese) is strewn with Sichuan peppercorns. On a recent visit, I tried the mapo tofu, which has a custardy texture, explosive opening kick and a lingering tingle dancing on your tongue.
Fame, of course, begets large crowds, so expect to wait unless you can sweet-talk the management in Sichuan dialect.”