Clockwise from top left: Sugar, cucumber & onion slivers, hoisin sauce, duck meat, plum sauce, duck skin, garlic puree in sesame oil, canteloupe

Cuisine: Peking Duck, homestyle dishes, palace snacks

Area: Xiaoxitian

Price per person: 40-80 RMB

Beijing’s restaurants are of wildly varying quality. But there’s one thing you can say for this city, and that is that the duck is always done right. Take Jing Wei Zhai for example. It’s a lesser-known chain restaurant (there are 11 branches in Beijing). But here, a seriously delicious duck can be yours for under 40 RMB a person.

First, you’ll be greeted by cheerful ladies dressed in red.

Then, you’ll have to choose what to eat from a menu with a mix of traditional Beijing dishes and popular Sichuan ones. We opted for stir-fried cabbage (see a great recipe on Beijing Haochi!), the restaurant’s famous zhajiang noodles (炸酱面) and “rolling donkeys” (驴打滚).

The “donkeys” are really glutinous rice rolled around red bean paste and coated in toasted soybean flour. I love a bite of sticky, chewy, glutinous rice, and these have the added fun of coming from the menu’s “palace snack” section. At this restaurant you are literally eating like a king.

Then you get to season your noodles liberally from the noodle-sauce bar. I may have gone a little overboard.

Toppings, clockwise from top: Green pickled garlic, eggplant sauce, zhajiang (literally "fried sauce" but really salty soybeans), yellow soybeans, tomato-egg sauce, chili oil, and cilantro in the middle.

And then the duck arrives. You may already have caught a glimpse of a serious young man slicing it at a distance.

I love that the duck comes with canteloupe, as well as plum sauce. I like one strip of canteloupe and one of cucumber in my duck roll. I also like piling on the garlic until my dining companion chokes a little bit. There’s no fussing with sea cucumber-duck dishes or duck-related paraphernalia coming to your table here. Just damn good duck. And you can enjoy it with a cheap bottle of Yanjing. You can come on a weekday in a hoodie. Duck minus a dress code. I love it.

Jing Wei Zhai/京味斋

Xiaoxitian branch/小西天店

8 Wenhuiyuan Beilu (Qingya Tower Building B)
海淀区文慧园北路8号庆亚大厦B座(今典花园东门斜对面)
Dianping page
Open 10:00 a.m. – 10 p.m., according to the sign, but after lunchtime they tend to take a break until 5:30.

There are, as I mentioned above, a bunch of other branches in Beijing. Just type or copy “京味斋” into your nearest Google or Baidu Map to find the one near you.

Plus: if you’re in this neighbourhood in the afternoon, check out the Xiaoxitian market.

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