Fine Dining

Another visit to 花家怡园 Hua’s Restaurant

The Sihe Courtyard Main Branch of Hua’s Restaurant was one of the earliest restaurant to be opened on Gui Street. It is housed in a classical Four-sided Courtyard 四合院 that was refurbished by the late architect Wang JinKai.

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Typical Chinese courtyard mansion design

四合院店是花家怡园的总店,是京城著名的美食商街簋街上开店最早的餐厅之一。 四合院店共由五个院落组成。院子的建筑设计师是已故的北京古建学校教师王金凯。院内曲径相通,游廊环绕,雕梁画栋,精致典雅,用地道而优美的北京四合院向光顾这里的外国人、外地人、年轻人述说着北京的历史文化和建筑文化。

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Front gate of the restaurant (2014)

The Main Branch is a classical Beijing courtyard mansion design, any visitor would always spend a little more time walking around the beautiful architecture. There’s a talking mynah at the gate as you walk through the long corridors to enter into a world where time has stood still.  This place is perfect for various get-togethers, and there are many rooms for private tete-a-tate.

四合院总店是标准的老北京四合院建筑,很多到这里的游客都会在里面逛上一圈。门口的八哥,回旋的长廊,传统的宅门陈设,处处冒着老北京的古香古色。这里适合多种人群就餐,每一处环境都相对私密。

花家怡园事迹 History of Hua’s

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A whole pot of spicy seafood

Hua’s opened in 1998 by Hua Lei. Because he is the eighth and youngest child, he was nicknamed 八爺 Eighth Master.  At Hua’s there is a very famous dish called BaYe’s Roast Duck, this was thought to be named after his secret formula for the sauce. So, Eighth Master started this small eatery at the Northwest corner of Dongzhimen Street. It served food from all over China, anything the clients want, he cooked. It was here that Hua built his culinary empire.

花家怡园开业于1998年。创始人姓花,叫花雷。花家有八个兄妹,花雷行八,所以,江湖上又称“八爷”。花家怡园有一道著名的菜品,叫八爷鸭方,名称就是因此而来。当年,无事闲游的花少爷就在东直门桥西北角的一个破旧院子里支开了营生。那年月北京街头的小门小餐馆,也不讲究什么门派,各式小炒小菜,杂七杂八,工薪阶层,家常味道,一派江湖。就是在这样的门脸中,花雷开启了自己“小老板”的幸福生活。

They really started with crayfish. Strictly speaking, they brought these tiny crustaceans to Dongzhimen. They cooked them in Sichuan spicy sauce and started selling them in Gui Street, at RMB 1 each, RMB 20 for a whole platter. These days, it goes for RMB 5 for a small one, and up to RMB15 for a larger crayfish.

花家怡园的真正起家起始于小龙虾。应该说,花家怡园是第一家真正把小龙虾引入东直门的。那年月的小龙虾不像现在这么贵,在簋街最先开买的时候,经过麻辣炒制,也就卖五毛、一块钱一只。20块钱,能吃满满一大盘。

Hua’s Courtyard served “Beijing-style cuisine” that include Hebei cuisine 魯菜, Royal Court banquet and North China cuisine. Besides the crayfish, one should try their signature roast duck, pork knuckle pancakes, sesame pancakes among others. They also employed a descendant of the palace cooks Mr Wang XiFu to impart them the delicate art of palatial desserts and pastries. He learnt it from his elders, and Hua’s learnt it from him.

如今的花家怡园四合院店定位于“京味餐饮”,鲁菜、宫廷菜、北方菜成为花家菜的主流菜式,除了小龙虾要尝一尝,熏鱼儿、八爷烤鸭、老北京大炒肉、熏肘子卷烙饼、芝麻酱糖饼等成为其代表菜。花家怡园还有一些复古的宫廷菜,为此花雷请来清代宫廷御厨后人王希富老先生。王老先生从祖辈那里传承下来了手艺,花家怡园又从王老先生手里学了一部分。

海胆拌西芹 Celery and sea urchin salad

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海胆拌西芹 Celery and sea urchin salad

A very simple yet awesome appetiser, the umami of the sea urchin is complimented by the crisp, clean taste of the shredded celery.

怡园三色薯糕 Tricolour potato cake

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怡园三色薯糕 Tricolour potato cake

The yellow layer is salted egg, the middle layer is sweet potato and the bottom layer is pastry. A very elaborate dish but rather tasteless.

麻辣小龙虾 Sichuan spicy crayfish

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麻辣小龙虾 Mala yabbies

Their piece de resistance and my favourite. I have been coming here for their crayfish for over 10 years now. The taste is quite monotonous – Sichuan spicy sauce that can be quite numbing after a while – but highly satisfying, especially in the hot summer nights of Beijing when one’s appetite get a bad hit because of the heat. They only have one size for their crayfish, which is the large size, and you get order how many you want to eat. I can eat 20 at one sitting, but typically one would work through 3-5.

麻辣小龙虾是花家怡园的镇店名菜,已经有十几年的制作历史和经验,烧制龙虾时,用花家怡园秘制辣酱烧制而成,具有麻辣鲜香的特点。在这个院子里,年轻的花家怡园以麻辣小龙虾起家,并在 2002 年举办了第一届簋街“麻小”节,一时食客盈门,炒制麻小的师傅连续24 小时不下灶,掀起了簋街的“麻小”风潮。

风味羊排 Mutton ribs

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风味羊排 Mutton ribs

Their Manchurian roast mutton ribs maintain the traditional taste of cumin, chilli powder, peanut and other spices, yet have been improved upon with the process with brining and then roasting. The result is a very succulent rib that is tender inside and crisp outside.

花家怡园的八旗小羊排,在保持传统原料和口味的同时,进行了大胆的改良,为了使羊肉更加入味,鲜嫩松软,没有膻味,采用先卤后浸,再烤制的方法,加入辣椒、花生、孜然等调料增香提味,使羊排味道更浓郁,鲜香酥嫩。

鸿运当头 (熏肘子卷烙饼)Pork knuckle pancakes

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鸿运当头 (熏肘子卷烙饼)Pork knuckle pancake

It’s another of their signature dish, pork knuckles pancake. The crispy pancake can be opened like a pita and then you stuff it with sliced braised pork knuckle that has been brined and then stewed in five-spice braising liquid. You can elevate the taste with fermented tofu or preserved tofu, both bragging rights for you after you tried them.

花家菜熏肘子卷烙饼着实透着京味,肘子肥瘦相间,烙饼外酥内软,蘸着老北京臭豆腐一卷,滋味飘香。

宫廷老豆腐 Palace braised tofu

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宫廷老豆腐 Palace braised tofu

Tofu cooked with fermented black bean and red sauce, 宫廷老豆腐 Palace braised tofu can be bold tasting for those not acquainted with black bean paste.

花家白菜 Signature Beijing cabbage in vinegar sauce

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花家白菜 Signature Beijing cabbage in vinegar sauce

There’s a backstory for this dish, but it has been blogged else where. Beijing cabbage, quick stir-fry in vinegar, sugar and soy sauce – sweet, sour, savoury all in one.

花家白菜 , 甜甜地 , 雖然加入左紅椒 , 但不太辣 , 味道吾錯 , 好開胃

凉点拼盘 Pastry platter

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凉点拼盘 (豌豆黄、驴打滚、艾窝窝、芸豆卷、山楂糕)Pastry platter

The palatial dessert and pastry has been recreated here with a different selection of either sweet dessert, savoury dessert or pastry. Here there are 5 examples of the Empress Dowager’s favourite (bottom to top) – yellow bean cake, Ai Wo Wo (a Beijing street food made from corn flour), glutinous rice with peanut powder (aptly named “donkey rolled in dust”), mung bean cake and hawthorn cake.

花家怡园聘请原仿膳的面点高级技师,推出了京味点心系列京八件、八爷小吃、八爷饼、酥八件等,也颇受食客的喜欢。凉点拼盘 (豌豆黄、驴打滚、艾窝窝、芸豆卷、山楂糕)

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簋街 Gui Street

It was very rare that Gui Street was so quiet, but it was not Covid-19. There was a national meeting in Beijing and half the city was shutdown. This is how it should be.

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The bustling Gui Street (photo from 2014)

I would highly recommend a visit to this restaurant, you will not regret it.

Hua’s Restaurant 花家怡园(四合院总店)
东直门内大街235号簋街西边
Tel : 010-64058440

Date Visited : Nov 2016

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