Steak au Poivre >
Donghua Men Lu 95
We arrived in China straight from Singapore, forsaking endless sun and
80 degree weather for highs in the mid-20s and the dryness of the
desert. Airplanes are like steam rooms compared to the humidity in
Beijing. We went to buy coats and hats, and with amazing luck, the
cheery merchants gave us a special price available for only that day,
and designed only for us. For some reason, the bright red star on the
front of our furry hats brought mirth to citizenry and red guards alike.
The ones who weren’t laughing practiced their English with us, with
limited results. As far as we could tell, the vocabulary of the men was
confined to: money? That of the women to: sex? Assuming these to be
the two basic motivators of human activity, they definitely had the
foundations of the language down.
After six days of visiting factories, haggling, touring, and saying:
“not interested,” we realized it was clearly time for a steak, not the
easiest thing to come by in China. On the advice of the concierge of the
Grand Hyatt, we hit The Courtyard (Siheyuan), located in the shadow of the
Forbidden City and claiming to be one of the top 50 restaurants in the
world. The Courtyard should be easy to find, given its location and
with the directions printed in Chinese on the back of their card, but
nothing in China is easy. All written directions must be discussed by
the driver, the bellboy, and a passing stranger. A consensus is
reached, and off you go, having no idea where it is you might end up.
Worse, the only two words you share with your driver are not likely to
get you to your destination any faster, but may result in a permanent
detour. But things always work out eventually, and soon we were
stepping through a door and warped back to Europe.
Relying on The Courtyard’s reputation for wine, I began with a delicious
Riesling and duck spring roll which perfectly whetted my appetite.
Shortly thereafter arrived the main course along with a nice bottle of
2001 Chateau Vieux Cardinal Lafaurie. Having been at a Chinese wine
tasting the evening before, it was a welcomed change from yelling Gan
Bei! and being overwhelmed by a noxious, sticky liquid. The steak was
delicious. It was missing au poivre sauce, but given the situation I
didn’t even notice. It was perfectly cooked, and had a nice spinach
sauce with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. The meat was so tender
it almost melted in my mouth. I became an instant convert to Australian
beef. A chocolate dessert and a Muscat gave us the energy to step back
through the portal and haggle our way back to the hotel.
If local color is what you’re looking for, take a pass. But for steak
it’s the only place in town. Top 50 in the world? Top 1 if you exclude
barbarians and only count the Middle Kingdom.
Submitted by DO Jr. & ISR