Jin Ding Xuan

28 Mar

Many cuisines seem to have their version of small, bite-sized tapas-style meals…The Spanish, Italians, Greeks… The Cantonese version (I think) is dim sum. And what better way than to spend a Sunday morning among friends, eating delicious morsels of dim sum? There is a reason dim sum rhymes with yum.

Jin Ding Xuan is a chain in Beijing – I think there are four restaurants – but I’ve only been to one of them…the behemoth four storey building near Yonghegong. As much as I’d love to have been there at 2, 3 or 4am in the morning for a late night barbecue pork bun, I can’t say I’ve tried it yet. Hopefully I will before my time in Beijing is up. I cycle past this place to and from work, and have never seen it empty. There are always people enjoying the food here.

Anyway, we were here on a Sunday morning, as a friend from Melbourne, Sarah, had arrived the night before, and I wanted to ease her into China with food that wouldn’t be too scary, spicy or plain weird. A group of us got a private room on the fourth floor, with walls covered in old Chinese newspapers and a few bird cages hanging for ambience. I hear Beijing dim sum restaurants don’t do the trolley service like they do in Hong Kong or Guandong, which is a shame, but the extensive menu has lots of old favourites and many new tastes to try as well. They also have a massive Sichuan menu which we don’t even bother looking at. The one food menu and separate drinks menu are enough. Drinks here range from hot and cold milk teas to fresh fruit juices, to a refreshing miniature orange and honey drink.

We order many things to try, as well as old favourites, like the barbecue pork buns (which are light and fluffy dough filled with sweet meat), juicy shrimp dumplings and thick rice noodles, as well as some new tastes, like water chestnut cake (a delightful texture change with crunchy chestnuts and jelly-like cake), mushroom soup (which has mushrooms and tasty gnocchi-type noodles). And of course we get the flaky, light egg tarts, the first things to arrive. So the meal started backwards in a way. I’ve read some reviews online that don’t like Jin Ding Xuan at all, but for the prices, the chaotic atmosphere and fact it’s open whenever I’m craving yum cha, I can’t go past it. And I’ll definitely be back…maybe even at 4am.


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