Exclusive, Private Restaurants Like Beijing’s “Li Family Imperial Cuisine” Take Guests Back To China’s Qing Dynasty
Over the past 30 years, some of the world’s top restaurants have opened locations in Beijing and Shanghai, giving residents of those cities with an interest in world cuisine (and the ability to afford it) a chance to try nearly any type of food imaginable. In terms of local Chinese cuisine, however, the majority of expensive or unusual Chinese restaurants in big cities try to put new spins on old favorites or provide a lavish venue for impressing friends or colleagues. Few Chinese restaurants in Beijing or other large cities look at the country’s imperial past for inspiration, but in recent years a growing number of mostly small, independent family restaurants have specialized in “Imperial cuisine” — dishes that call back to those favored by the imperial court of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).
One of these restaurants, “Li Family Imperial Cuisine,” which is located deep in a small traditional courtyard house in an ancient Beijing hutong, is the smallest private restaurant in China, with room for only around a dozen diners. This week, CCTV features a short video introducing Imperial cuisine, and the Li family’s restaurant: