Accomplished Cantonese cuisine in Beijing

30 Tables

Cai Yi Xuan is the Chinese restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, serving Cantonese dim sum, barbecue and seafood alongside a more eclectic selection of locally inspired northern Chinese specialties.

Bearing the design stamp of Tokyo studio Spin, the restaurant welcomes you via a glowing amber corridor flanked by lit crystal sculptures and lattice screens of solid copper. It’s quite a transition; inside, heavily cushioned armchairs and tobacco-hued carpets make for a loungey ambience, but the food, courtesy of executive chef Li Qiang, is bright and accomplished. Chef Li is a master of the lightly steamed dumpling — his Shanghainese-style xiaolongbao filled with pork and delicate strands of crab are sensational.

Others are more unusual, like miniature buns stuffed with foie gras and scallions. A page of the menu is playfully titled “Northern Chinese dim sum,” featuring delicate plays on the no-nonsense snacks beloved of Beijingers that southern Chinese tend to scoff at.

One particular peculiarity is jianbing guozi, a crispy crêpe street snack filled with fried dough sticks, little known outside its native home of Tianjin, a city 90 miles south of the capital. Inventive desserts do Beijing’s sweet snack tradition proud: Try the pick ‘n mix style “Imperial candy” selection, candied haw berries, like those sold at the frozen lakes of Shichahai in winter, and a chocolate mousse made with Chinese sorghum liquor and date ice cream.

This being China, a proportion of the Beijing restaurant space is devoted to private dining rooms; the most impressive features its own chef’s table, an industrial-chic design scheme and enough place settings for a bling birthday bash.

DETAILS - Insider Information About This Restaurant

DETAILS - Insider Information About This Restaurant