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The Courtyard 23/30

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Meat quality
Meat preparation
Spinach Sauce


Donghua Men Lu 95
Beijing, China

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
February, 2005


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