With his spiky red hair and youthful grin, Zijin Mansion’s Head Chef Menex Cheung doesn’t conform to the traditional image of a Chinese restaurant chef. Then again, this isn’t just any Chinese restaurant. Set on the third floor of the ultra-luxurious Waldorf Astoria Beijing, Zijin Mansion blends elements of East and West, Cantonese and northern Chinese cuisine, to produce a dining experience that is in a class of its own.

The food at Zijin Mansion is ostensibly Cantonese, and indeed, canonical dishes like roast suckling pig (RMB 188) are rendered with aplomb. However, it is in the more creative dishes that the kitchen really shows its chops. Every hotel Cantonese restaurant in Beijing has a version of black pepper beef on the menu, but not every restaurant serves it in a whole braised eggplant garnished with a slew of fresh flowers, as with Zijin Mansion’s diced spicy wagyu beef (RMB 528). The beef is as delicious as you might expect (although we could have done with a few more cubes for the price tag), but it is the cubes of silken roast eggplant infused with peppery sauce that catch our attention. To cool the residual spice, we dig into a tureen of braised whole baby cabbage in a broth of prawn paste and organic millet (RMB 128), an experiment in northern Chinese ingredients combined with southern presentation.

Not all of the kitchen’s experiments are a success: we found the creatively presented fried king prawns and beef (RMB 138 per person) lacked verve, although the giant prawn was admittedly well cooked. However, as we sit back and take in the handsome dining room, with its painted silk walls and bespoke porcelain, we find that minor transgressions like these are very easily forgiven.

Photos: Uni

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