Lao Pu is just what I imagine a traditional style Chinese restaurant to be. The layout is simple and elegant with tall ceilings and plain grey brick walls, and the decor is all fitting with imperial motifs. Tall wooden chairs, and stone lions perched nearby, observing the banquet. Most importantly, there is food that forms a part of a fascinating history and culture that is unmistakably Chinese, even to me.
The menu is extensive, drawing inspiration primarily from northern Chinese cuisines. Shanxi and Beijing dishes are predominant. Signature dishes, as the name implies, are Beijing Duck, which can be seen in brilliant shades of gold as the flesh and crispy skin are carved and sliced on a bar by the front entrance as you enter the restaurant.
There are so many options for all kinds of punters. There is an array of more and less typical Chinese dishes like Sweet and Sour Short Ribs 糖醋小排 (48RMB), Beef Fishing Skinned 面皮捞牛肉 (38RMB) this is actually Spicy Sliced Beef with Broad Rice Noodle, Beijing Style Sauced Pork 北京酱香肉 (36RMB) that comes with Lotus Leaf Cake 荷叶饼 (12RMB), Fried Sheep Burrito 薄饼羊肉 (38RMB) and yes this dish is stir-fried spicy mutton served with burrito sheet, you can make your wrap when you eat, and a similar dish is Fried Chicken Peppers 小米椒爱上小公鸡 (38RMB) instead of mutton, this is chicken served with wotou (a type of Chinese mantou), Boiled Sliced Meat in Chili Sauce 水煮牛肉 (38RMB). If you prefer shrimp and fish, there are Stewed Prawns with Vermicelli 银粉焗虾球 (38RMB), Mandarin Fish桂鱼 (Steamed or Sour & Sweet sauce) (168RMB/jin), and Fish Cakes 酥鱼 (28RMB) among others. There is also plenty for vegetarians, including Buckwheat Noodles with Mustard 芥末饸饹 (18RMB), Wild Mushroom with Pine Nuts 松仁野山菌 (32RMB) and Mixed Spinach Sprout with Sesame Sauce 芝麻小菠菜 (28RMB). The snacks dim sum part is also very tempting, we wanted to try them all, we should have brought the whole office, dishes like Old Beijing Beef Pie Pastry 老北京酥饼 (4RMB/one, minimum orders: 2), Local Style Pan-fried Look Dumplings 韭菜盒子(6RMB/one, minimum orders: 2), Fried Noodles with Shredded Duck 鸭丝炒面 (28RMB), Old Beijing Noodles 老北京炸酱面 (12RMB) really represent the local flavor of Beijing and Shanxi.
We ordered the Tofu Soup, cutely named Braised Tofu with Eight Delicacies 小王府八宝豆花 (38RMB) along with Spicy Prawn Balls with Peanuts 宫保大虾球 (88RMB), and of course, a Half-Set of Roasted Duck 半套烤鸭 (98RMB).
The duck is also available in larger portion sizes (168RMB/set and 198RMB/set). The 168RMB/set serves the duck in three ways: carved duck skin, carved meat, and salt and peppered duck bones or duck soup with or without rice. The 198RMB/set serves it in four ways, the three are the same as 168RMB set, but add on an extra Stir Fried Shredded Duck with Sesame Cake. So with one duck dish, you get to try different way taste.
Service was excellent. All dishes arrived promptly and simultaneously with the exception of the duck. While all dishes are listed in both English and Chinese, unfortunately, in many cases the English translation is bad, and in some cases it is totally inaccurate. The prawns were accompanied by spring onions, whole chilies and cashew nuts. Not peanuts. These were cooked in a sweet and sour sauce that was just perfectly complimented by the light acid (mala) flavour of fresh green flower peppers (huajiao), just as the soft prawns were by small crunchy bites of deep-fried dough. Delicious. The Tofu Soup contained prawn and mushroom, and was thick and sweet, with a lovely soft texture, contrasting beautifully with the firm but brittle crackers that were served alongside for dipping.
Beijing Duck undergoes a considerable amount of preparation, with carcasses washed, cleaned, and boiled, before being hung to dry in the open air. Without adequate drying time, the crispy skin will not materialise during cooking. Finally, the meat is roasted for around 45 minutes in a brick wood-fired oven, which in this case is lined with apple-wood in order to infuse the meat with added subtle flavour. The skin is glazed before drying, and again before cooking so as to result in a crisp golden skin.
Although it is not always the case with Beijing Duck, at Lao Pu, the skin and meat are served together. A traditional condiment set of thinly sliced cucumber, spring onion, and sesame and yellow bean sauces appear on a separate dish. All ingredients are wrapped in a small thin pancake which is eaten with hands and gusto. The meat was tender, and the skin was as hoped for. A Half-Set was not enough. Bones are served as a side dish in either a broth soup with or without rice. We had our bones served in a rice soup that was suitably thick and aromatic.
Lao Pu have restaurants in Shenzhen, Shanghai, and other cities round the country, and they have been quietly doing their thing on the corner of Xintang Road and Guangchang Sanhao Zhi Road for nearly three years now. Smoking not permitted. Parking available.