[Beijing] A good portion of my friends are hooked on the Chinese television dramas of Story of Yanxi Palace 延禧攻略, and some on Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace 如懿传.
Chinese palace drama, bring it on.
Perhaps you would have imagined how it would be like to be a Qing Dynasty royalty, then making a visit to Bai Jian Da Yuan 白家大院 can help relive those dreams.
(Click PLAY for highlights of Bai Jia Da Yuan 白家大院).
Bai Jian Da Yuan is a courtyard garden restaurant set around a large pond, rich in history and well-preserved architecture.
The mansion’s spectacular setting was once the garden of Prince Li, son of the first Qing emperor.
It is located in the famous Roca Garden on Suzhou Street in the Haidian District. (Some history: The area served as an “entertainment place” where Emperor Qian Long and his concubines visited when they felt like strolling on the streets of Suzhou. The commoners and stall keeps were acted by eunuchs and maids.)
Due to the completeness of the preservation of gardens and buildings, and the richness of cultural heritage, it has become a living specimen of the Qing Dynasty society and the life of the royal family in China.
The moment I stepped it, I got reminded of Huan Zhu Ge Ge 还珠格格 which I watched during growing up years.
It was those palace-like brightly-coloured costume and headdress that the service staff was wearing.
Walking down the red lantern lit entrance, you know it is likely going to be a bizarre experience, the grounds inside have traditional buildings and the staff are all in traditional dresses.
A really colourful place.
Within the gardens is a restaurant which serves cuisine inspired by imperial food and some typical Northern Chinese dishes.
Locals consider this THE PLACE for special occasions like birthday celebrations.
Guests looking to dine amid Chinese architecture and authentic decorations should make Bai Jia Da Yuan their first pick.
The entire restaurant staff were dressed in colourful traditional Qing-dynasty dresses and garments known.
They bow slightly and say “Nin Jixiang”, i.e. “May you have good fortune” and welcome you to this grand courtyard house, the Bai family mansion.
They even take you out for a walk in the garden while your food is prepared.
To describe my experience, I had a 贴身丫环, a “maid” sent to follow me around. Even as I made my way to the toilet, she was leading my route by a lantern.
Of course she stopped her tracks outside the gents, but I felt slightly embarrassed to have someone tagging along a grown-up man.
The table setting is glorious.
Ancient dishes are served in quick successions on stunning round tables. The decor is lovely with yellow tablecloth, pretty yellow and blue pattern China and embroidered yellow fabric covered chairs.
There is a main hall and many smaller private room all set in authentic “Qing” dynasty style
When it comes to food, they are known for its featured delicacies like Bird’s-nest soup, Braised Sea Cucumber, Abalone, and authentic Beijing snacks.
The Peking Duck, Lobster and Deer are some of the top menu picks. Other recommended dishes include the Kung Pao Shrimp, Beef/Carrot Dumplings, and Ya Fang.
Take note that there is NO English menu. Even if you have some basic knowledge of Mandarin, Chinese dishes are typically named to represent something such as prosperity and good luck. At least there is a photoelectronic menu.
Noting the high prices of some of the dishes, I went for the more ‘regular’ food such as the Crispy Pan-Fried Ru Yi Dumplings (RMB128 for 12 pieces, SGD25.70), Fried Organic Eggs with Tomatoes (RMB98, SGD19.70), Zha Jiang Noodles (RMB38, SGD7.60), Chrysanthemum Tofu (RMB68, SGD13.70), and Garlic Pork Ribs (RMB98, SGD19.70).
Other than the Fried Tomatoes with Egg, I thought that most of the dishes tasted rather average, similar to what you would get in a downtown Northern Chinese restaurant. Except that these had better presentation.
If you are new to Beijing, you can try their special local sweet snacks platter, named “Imperial Snacks” (RMB98, SGD19.70).
They have a tea menu, which is rather expensive. If you appreciate fine teas, go for it. If not, just ask for hot drinking water.
Do not leave straight after dinner.
There is typically an hour-long performance during dinner at 7pm, which includes a face-changing act (bian lian), tea ceremony, live Beijing opera and dance performances.
Be sure to ask for a table at the main dining area if you want to catch this. Otherwise, dining by the gardens can be quite an experience.
The outdoor garden adds to the relaxing atmosphere with its large fountain and rustic Chinese décor.
Unfortunately, you cannot hang around for too long. After dinner, I was escorted by the “maid-in-waiting” all the way to the main gate.
Best to make a reservation since the venue is highly sought after for wedding celebrations.
With a spectacular location, Bai Jia Da is a go-to if you are into dramas such as “Huan Zhu Gege” and “Zhen Huan Zhuan”, even while the food is relatively expensive and so-so. It could help you relive some of those drama scenes.
Modelled after the noble life and etiquette culture in the Qing Dynasty, it is one of the places to visit to understand some of China and Beijing culture.
Bai Jia Da Yuan白家大院 (Hai Dian)
Lejia Garden, No. 15 Suzhou Street, Haidian District, Beijing, China, 100080
Tel: +86 10 6265 4186
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm Daily
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