Sunday, March 22, 2009

Li's Family Dishes Restaurant 厲家菜

As soon as we stepped into the house from our nightly after-dinner walk, mum casually mentioned that the TVB foodie show "日日有食神V" (Gourmet Secret Agent Season5) was showing Li's Family Dishes Restaurant 厲家菜. While we were always wary of foodie recommending their local restaurants in their columns or TV shows, recommendations on foreign soil were usually safer; fewer chances of conflict of interests ensure a more unbiased view. After all, this was a restaurant that mum and dad tried in Beijing last November before seeing or reading any reviews or recommendations. And dad, ever so picky about famous restaurants, was truly impressed by the parade of different tastes on offer in that one meal.

Tucked inside one of Beijing's fast disappearing hutongs 胡同, the location isn't what you would associate with emperor's cuisine. But this is what Li's Family is famous for. Mum has reserved the table several days before going to Beijing and their driver appeared lost when trying to get there. But once they found the place, they got ushered into a small room with two small tables, one fit for 4 people and the other, which they were seated, fit for 2 people. The waitress went through the menu quickly. Mum and dad went through their usual ritual of agonising over which dishes to order. It's been made easier because the whole menu was based on one basic tasting menu and you get some extra dishes by ordering the more expensive courses. They ordered 2 different sets with one extra item different in each set.

The food came and they were in tiny portions which we can no doubt finish in one gulp. But everything has a unique taste and a unique texture. One wouldn't normally associate with simple Chinese dishes as refine, but the creations here were delicious as well as refine. It wasn't long before mum and dad finished all the dishes. As they were no big-eaters, the small portions were just perfect. They left with their stomachs satisfied and taste buds fully challenged, but without the usual urge to take a nap after a heavy Chinese meal.

As you can see the prices were not cheap, but they reckoned the food was worth every penny. Below is an excerpt from the on this restaurant.

宮廷風味宴 由厲氏後人主理的宮廷風味菜,可謂來頭不小。厲家菜菜館創辦人、現年八十多歲的厲善麟教授,為滿族白旗人後代, 爺爺於清朝同治、光緒年間,擔任內務府大臣,主管宮廷衣食。退休之後,將記憶中的宮廷菜寫成食譜,傳給厲氏後人。「厲家菜」的宮廷風味宴的特色在於菜式 多,單是前菜小碟已有十款,賣相精緻之餘,用料與做法都相當講究。鎮店名菜包括鼓板大蝦、北京熏肉、翡翠豆腐、鴨包翅等都大受食客歡迎,難怪世界首富蓋 茨、武俠小說宗師查良鏞先生,甚至末代皇帝溥儀胞弟溥傑都是座上客之一。

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