Because Beijing’s restaurants have more to offer than meets the eye, this is the start of a monthly column whereby we visit one of the many provincial government restaurants scattered throughout the city. Provincial restaurants are officially backed by the government and are affiliated with each of China’s provinces and autonomous regions, providing a great way to sample some of China’s varied cuisine without leaving the comforts of the capital.

We began with Anhui, whose cuisine is supposedly one of the eight great cuisines of China, and fittingly the only province to start with an A in English. The restaurant is inside Anhui Dasha, located on the North Fourth Ring Road in a rather business-looking hotel that still hasn’t taken down its Christmas decorations.

The restaurant is also dressed up in the typical Chinese business hotel style, and wasn’t very busy. After consulting with the waitress, we discovered that the dishes we thought were Anhui-style were actually not available as they had apparently been deemed old Anhui style. Therefore, after discussion with the staff, we went for an assortment of traditional dishes: Jixi traditional dry pot stew (RMB 88), pickled cabbage edamame pork (RMB 38), Jixi fried vermicelli (RMB 38), “delicious” dried turnip (RMB 26), and Anhui gold pie (RMB 48).

We decided to go for these, as the main Anhui specialty, soft-shell turtle, not only seemed a little over the top and cruel (regardless of being named as ecological on the menu), but was also extremely expensive (RMB 280 per jin).

Basically, from the dishes above, the only thing that we would truly recommend is the Jixi traditional dry pot stew: delicious pieces of pork resting on a bed of grilled garlic, with a side of little buns to make your own pulled pork sandwich. Unfortunately, half of the pieces of meat were just jiggly bits of fat too big to handle.

The Anhui gold pie was basically a piece of bread with roast sesame seeds on top, the pickled cabbage with edamame beans and shredded pork was nothing to write home about, the noodles were boring, and the delicious dried turnip was crunchy but a bit too potent.

This marathon of Beijing’s provincial government restaurants hasn’t started off as spectacularly as we had hoped, but with 33 provinces remaining we won’t give up hope yet. There’s a reason there aren’t many Anhui restaurants. Stick around as we try some of the others in the coming months.

More stories by this author here.

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Photos: Margaux Schreurs

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