When talking about Beijing Duck, most people will think about Quanjude, the restaurant with a history starting in the Qing dynasty. But for true Beijingers, only Bianyifang, which dates even further back to the Ming dynasty, will do. It is this style of Ming dynasty roast duck that is served at the newly opened Gui Men Beijing Restaurant.
Located in a hip workspace in the north of Hangzhou, Gui Men is opened by Joey Feng, a born and bred Beijinger who relocated to Hangzhou decades ago and whose businesses include being a partner of JZ Club on Nanshan Road, owner of Fengji, a Beijing snacks restaurant and also a King Pot, a Beijing hotpot restaurant that is just next to Gui Men. Joey explained that when his family goes out to eat roast duck, they would always go to Bianyifang.
The difference is that Bianyifang uses a cooking style called men lu (闷炉) which roughly means “closed oven” while Quanjude uses gua lu (挂炉) or “hanging oven” style which cooks the ducks over an open flame. With men lu, the oven is heated to a certain temperature, then the flame is extinguished and the ducks placed in the oven to cook for 50 minutes. The experienced chefs at Bianyifang can feel with their hands whether the oven has reached the right temperature, no thermometer required. This kind of roasting is gentler and produces crisp skin while retaining a thin layer of fat and also keeping the meat moist.
To reproduce the quality of Bianyifang, Joey has brought a chef who has 30 years of experience from Bianyifang to come roast ducks here. Each duck (178RMB) will yield 108 slices and each slice contains both skin and meat. Joey even taught us the proper way to eat Beijing duck. You first put 2 slices of duck on a pancake, then put 2 more slices that have been dipped in brown sauce over them. Then add cucumbers and leeks as you please and roll up the pancake, closing the bottom end.
The details have been carefully thought out, like the way the leeks are cut on the diagonal, arching in a curve like eyebrows, in fact, this type of cut is called mei mao cong (眉毛葱) or eye brow leek. Often, the leeks in Beijing duck restaurants are cut vertically, leading to the situation that when you take a bite of the rolled pancake, the leeks are not cleanly bitten through and gets pulled out of the pancake, hanging embarrassingly from your mouth. At discerning Beijing duck restaurants, like Bianyifang, and now Gui Men, cutting leeks on the diagonal allows them to break easily when you bite the pancake.
A lot of work also went into the pancakes, each one handmade. If you crumple a pancake in your hand, you will see it bounce back out, not tearing or breaking. There’s even a special name for this pancake, he ye bing (荷叶饼) or lotus leaf pancake, because of the lotus leaf pattern the pancake takes on after being crumpled and bouncing back.
There are 2 ovens and each oven roasts 10 ducks at a time, so it is recommended to call ahead and reserve a duck.
Besides Beijing duck, you can try some other traditional Beijing dishes here, like Gongbao Chicken (宫保鸡丁 28RMB), a bright combination of sweet and sour flavours with a light touch of ma la spiciness from the Sichuan peppercorns. It’s easily the best tasting gongbao jiding we’ve had in Hangzhou.
Gui Men Fish-head with Bread (簋门鱼头泡饼168RMB), a huge, meaty fish head cooked Shandong style in a savoury brown sauce. It’s served with a plate of flaky bread that you throw in the sauce to soak up the liquid.
Gui Men Supreme Beef (簋门精品牛中皇 78RMB), chunks of beef tendon so soft you’ll have no trouble biting through gelatinous parts.
Old Beijing Style Tripe (老北京爆肚儿58RMB), crunchy, blanched beef stomach with a sesame dipping sauce.
Manchurian Lamb (大清贝勒爷烤羊肉58RMB), slices of cumin spiced lamb over sautéed onions, a dish only royals could enjoy in the past.
Speaking of royal palace cuisine, there’s the Signature 9 Folds Large Intestine (招牌九转大肠78RMB) for the adventurous. This is pig’s large intestine sliced open, washed very clean then rolled up into a roll with almost 9 layers, hence the name. If you’ve never tried pig’s large intestine but always wanted to, this is a good opportunity since it really is a refined dish and the normally strong, earthy animal taste is not so pronounced here. This dish is still served to world leaders at state banquettes nowadays.
For drinks, we had a big jar of Osmanthus Flower Drink (桂花桃胶38 RMB) sweetened with brown sugar and if you are really daring, then try a bowl of Bean Juice (豆汁儿6RMB) it’s sour and stinky and very nutritious as it’s made from the leftover water of the tofu making process.
So next time you’re in the mood for Beijing Duck or real, authentic Beijing cuisine, head to Gui Men Beijing Restaurant for a meal that won’t disappoint.