Finding a good Sichuan restaurant with an elegant, calm atmosphere can be difficult. Sichuan food, like most other Chinese food, still thrives in simple, rènao (noisy and lively) environments.
But for the past decade or so, Beijing has been a hotspot for sophisticated cuisine from the provinces. It's only naturally that city-dwellers are demanding great food with the attractive atmosphere to match.
Yu Xin Sichuan Dish, one of five locations in Beijing, is on the first floor of the Chang'an Grand Theatre, a block away from Beijing Railway Station. We walked into a high-ceilinged lobby and past the theater shop, selling what seemed like every variety of Chinese opera recordings in the country. During our 20 minute wait, we flipped through the menu and watched as satisfied diners strolled out of the restaurant.
Yu Xin specializes in pricey seafood specialties for formal banquets, but also cooks up great homestyle dishes. Other couples, like us, were led to small roomettes with beaded curtains. Being only two people, we skipped the pricier options and stuck to good ol' delicious homestyle Sichuan. "Ants climbing on trees", a vermicelli and ground pork dish, had a delicious soy and hot bean sauce. The braised straw mushrooms were delectably big, the size of Ping Pong balls. The only dud of the night was the fried chicken dumplings, a bit too oily for my taste.
The stand-out was huí guō ròu, sometimes translated as twice-cooked pork, but is actually cooked three times (braised, stir-fried, stir-fried again.) The thin slices of fatty pork mixed with red and green peppers still make my mouth water, even two days afterward as I write this post.
Yu Xin Sichuan Dish
1/F Chang'an Grand Theatre
75 Jianguomennei Dajie
Dongcheng District, Beijing
More locations around Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu.