Beijing: A Sophisticated, Stylish Dim Sum 'Palace'

Dim Sum i i

Crystal Jade Palace serves dim sum, as well as Cantonese barbecued meats and whole fish and lobsters. Crystal Jade Palace hide caption

itoggle caption Crystal Jade Palace
Dim Sum

Crystal Jade Palace serves dim sum, as well as Cantonese barbecued meats and whole fish and lobsters.

Crystal Jade Palace

Dim Sum Dishes in Mandarin

Shrimp dumplings: Xia jiao

Shrimps in rice noodle rolls: Xia chang fen

Pork dumplings with crab roe: Shao mai

Steamed dumplings: Xiao long tang bao

Crispy pork skin: Ru zhu

Barbecued pork: Cha shao rou

Roast goose: Shao e

Radish cakes: Luobu gao

Radish cakes with dried shrimp: XO jiang luobu gao

Singapore rice noodles: Xing zhou chao mi fen

Rice noodles with beef: Gan chao niu he

Duck i i

Chef Li is in charge of Crystal Jade Palace's barbecued meats, including the roast goose, suckling pig and crabs hanging in the window. Anthony Kuhn, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Anthony Kuhn, NPR
Duck

Chef Li is in charge of Crystal Jade Palace's barbecued meats, including the roast goose, suckling pig and crabs hanging in the window.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR
Crystal room i i

The restaurant's opulent main dining area. Crystal Jade Palace hide caption

itoggle caption Crystal Jade Palace
Crystal room

The restaurant's opulent main dining area.

Crystal Jade Palace

After decades of neglected culinary traditions, indifferent chefs and waiters at state-owned restaurants, great food is finally reappearing all around China.

Crystal Jade Palace is one of my favorite restaurants that illustrates the rebirth of fine cuisine in Beijing. It is notable that this is a Singapore-owned chain, with branches from Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City, and that the Cantonese cuisine it serves commands a premium price beyond the reach of most working-class Beijingers.

The setting is stylish and sophisticated — like a scene from The Matrix. After you enter, fashionably attired young women lead you past a fountain full of goldfish, through a softly lit, wood-paneled bar and lounge area, down a long, stone corridor and into the bright, main dining room, decorated with mirrors and crystal chandeliers. There are also quite a few opulent private rooms for those who prefer a quieter setting and are willing to pay an extra $25.

A proper dim sum lunch is a leisurely experience, and on weekends at Crystal Jade Palace, families lounge over pots of chrysanthemum-scented tea, dim sum and newspapers from mid-morning to early afternoon.

Join them in ordering up a base of dim sum mainstays. The translucent skins of the shrimp dumplings quickly give way to big mouthfuls of shrimp, free of water chestnuts and other fillers. Alternatively, go for whole large shrimp wrapped in rice noodle rolls. Besides traditional pork dumplings with crab roe, you can try the restaurant's version of Shanghai steamed dumplings. Radish cakes with bits of sausage or stir fried with dried shrimp and hot peppers are smoky and flavorful.

You can also put together a combo plate of the Cantonese barbecued meats that Crystal Jade Palace excels at: Roast pork, barbecued pork, roast goose and chicken are all crispy and succulent, each with its appropriate dipping sauce. Finish off with Cantonese noodle favorites including Singapore rice noodles stir fried with plenty of shrimp, cha shao pork, and dry curry paste. The rice noodles with beef have just the right carbonized flavor from stir-frying in a dry wok.

The restaurant also has an extensive menu of dishes that go far beyond dim sum and are suitable for formal dinners. The menu offers a variety of whole fish and lobster, spare ribs and Peking duck, just to name a few dishes. A standard dim sum lunch typically costs $25 per person or less, but can be much more if you go for delicacies such as shark's fin and abalone, or sample the extensive wine list.

In addition to its Beijing location, Crystal Jade Palace also has branches in Singapore; Hangzhou and Shanghai, China; Hong Kong; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Seoul, South Korea.

Crystal Jade Palace — BB78-82, Basement level, Oriental Plaza, 1 Changan Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Telephone: 86-10-8515-0238. Fax: 86-10-8518-5664. E-mail: feicui010@sina.com.

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