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.
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.
花家怡园事迹 History of Hua’s
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
鸿运当头 （熏肘子卷烙饼）Pork knuckle pancakes
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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）
Tel : 010-64058440
Date Visited : Nov 2016