Xian Heng Tavern is a historic Chinese cuisine restaurant located in Shaoxing made famous by a fictional character. A must-visit restaurant if you are in the area.
History of Xian Heng
The original restaurant was founded in 1884, during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing dynasty, by the paternal uncle of Chinese literary giant Lu Xun 鲁迅. “咸” means “都” or everything in Chinese, and “亨” is “顺利” or plain sailing. It wasn’t so plain sailing as it was closed after a few years.
That’s how we get to know Xian Heng from the literature of Lu Xun. It was mentioned by writer Lu Xun in his work 【孔乙己】 “Kong Yiji”, with the restaurant situated in a fictionalised version of Shaoxing. The main character of the short story is also immortalised by the bronze statue in front of the tavern.
Lu Xun’s childhood home is just down the street. So is the school he went for his primary education. The whole area has been earmarked to become a tourist attraction for Lu Xun as he is considered one of the revolutionary figures for the CCP (don’t ask me what it stands for, I don’t want to be censored in China 🙂 The modern restaurant opened to the public on September 18, 1981, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lu Xun’s birthday. And in 2007, it has been expanded to include a 206-rooms hotel.
The restaurant is known for maintaining the classic Shaoxing wine tradition that has been around since the dynastic times.
Remembering they had a bad start (the original closed only after a couple of years), it may not necessary be second time lucky if the food is not up to scratch.
No kidding, it’s just a plate of 冰草 ice plant with a vinegar-soy sauce dip on the side.
When you are in Shaoxing, you need to have the signature dish from the region – 绍兴醉鸡 drunken chicken. The yellow wine has totally permeated through out the bird and it was very tasty. Not fo you if you don’t like cold chicken.
Here’s what made the tavern famous, their 茴香豆 broad beans. I don’t really like the strong cloves taste, it could be a good alternative to peanuts when you are drinking I guess.
I could not work out if the sauce for 红烧东坡豆腐 stewed tofu was supposed to be gelatinised. Salty and cold, didn’t like it.
如意香蒿卷 mugwort wrapped in tofu skin was my favourite starter for the evening. The bean curd skin has been lightly blanched in salt water to remove the musky bean tastes. It is then used to wrap mugwort , blanched and seasoned with sesame oil and salt. Lovely.
As the hometown for Shaoxing wine, there are many forms of wine marinated cuisine like this one – 糟鸡脚 drunken chicken feet. Nothing is left to waste and can be wine marinated.
笋干焖杏鲍菇 mushroom with dried bamboo shoots was OK, it was supposed to be cooked with bamboo shoots but it was not in season.
I always like stinky tofu, and their 油炸臭豆腐 deep fried stinky tofu was quite good. The sauces were a letdown though.
A typical home cooked dish, 农家煮蛤蜊 clams with loofah was just as simple as it sounded.
Their signature dish, 黄鱼脆卷 yellow croakers in spring roll has a whole yellow croaker deboned, wrapped with spring roll skin and then dipped fried.
I liked the 腊八珍 cured meats. Several kinds of cured meat were cooked with snake beans, chilli and peppers. The hear and waxy tastes were quite harmonious surprisingly.
鸡汁豆腐羹 tofu in chicken soup was a simple soup consisting of tofu, chicken stock thickened with cornstarch. Nothing outstanding.
砂锅焗鱼头 fish heads casserole was spicy and quite boney. If you like fish heads, then this is a very good dish.
A must buy if you are there, their 醉蟹 drunken crabs. Whole mitten crabs are soaked in yellow wine and other aromatics like garlics. The wine acts as a marinade and preservative at the same time.
Xian Heng Tavern 咸亨酒店
Tel : (0575) 8512 7179
Date Visited : Oct 2017