Whenever my Beijing aunties (aka. my mom’s best friends) invite us out to eat, we know it’s going to be to somewhere special. They’re always in the know as to what’s trending, have GREAT taste in food, and are super generous. ;) (See the very pricey and very fancy Da Dong Roast Duck last year.)
This time, we went to a restaurant called Ju Qi (局气). But this isn’t just any Chinese restaurant, this is an old Beijing restaurant.
As my auntie Jie tells the story: the owner lived overseas for a long time, and upon his return to Beijing, he searched for a long time for a good restaurant that still makes old Beijing cuisine. He couldn’t find one so he opened up his own. He wanted a restaurant that evokes the atmosphere of old Beijing and serves traditional dishes. It was an instant success and there are now four locations.
We went to the location in Chaoyang District (address at the bottom). Upon walking in, a ba ge bird (八哥, literal translation: 8 songs) greeted us under a pomegranate tree – a familiar scene from many an old Beijing family courtyard. This bird is extremely popular to be kept as a pet, and it’s named so because it can be trained to talk. I’ve seen another one talk before, but this one doesn’t!
The restaurant is thoughtfully designed in the style of old Beijing hutongs – the maze of alleyways connecting communal family compounds and courtyards. Hutongs are the life and soul of old Beijing living communities.