Red lanterns, swollen and luminous, swinging from the rafters; a row of wooden snack stalls with vendors peddling bamboo steamer baskets of dumplings; lacquered tables packed with animated parties of diners – it’s the kind of romantic vision of dining in China you might have before ever stepping foot in the country. Where do you find it once you’re here? The fourth floor of a shopping mall, of course.
This is no Qianmen or Nanluoguo Xiang. Nanjing Impressions does kitsch well and, more than that, food that outstrips the environment. It’s a meal without misses. Portions are sized and priced to encourage trying a spectrum of dishes. The skin of the chicken with sweet and sour sauce (wangfu paojiaoji 王府泡椒鸡, RMB 32) is crisp and the meat moist and tender. The English translation of the name is too simplistic and invokes the memory of a cloying, viscous sauce drenching deep-fried chicken with pineapple, bell pepper and onion. Instead, this exceptional fowl has been plunged in a thin vinegary sauce, not only sweet and sour, but with a dimension of peppery spice that the Chinese name intimates.
Beijing may do a good roast duck, but if you want to see a city that loves the bird, unabashedly and completely, look no further than Nanjing. The Jinling salted duck (zhaopai yanshuiya 招牌盐水鸭, RMB 28) has a spartan presentation – thick strips of rosy meat and pale skin – but the classic dish needs nothing more. It stands on taste alone. Much like xiaolongbao, the steamed buns with roast duck (tianwang kaoyabao 天王烤鸭包, RMB 12 for 3) gush soup upon first bite. The uncommon interior of duck is heavy and rich.
Bellies bulging with bird might do well to have something lighter. The steamed Yangtze River white fish with chicken stock (jizhi changjiang baiyu 鸡汁长江白鱼, RMB 98) is both massive and delicate. We are told that the belly meat is the most tender, and it pulls away from the bones with the same graceful ease that has run throughout the evening.
Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, 5-9.30pm, Sat-Sun 11am-10pm. 4/F, Shimao Department Store, 13 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District (8405 9777)
1km west of Tuanjiehu station (Line 10)
Check out what we first thought of Nanjing Impressions back in August 2013.
Photos: Cat Nelson
Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog