Open Sesame!

2015-09-19 22.53.102015-09-19 23.41.462015-09-19 22.55.332015-09-20 00.16.202015-09-19 23.25.492015-09-20 00.42.522015-09-19 23.19.172015-09-20 00.25.572015-09-19 23.40.002015-09-19 23.51.112015-09-20 01.09.582015-09-20 01.09.01

I’ve only ever had two amazing degustations in Wellington; Citron and Jano Bistro. Black Sesame Kitchen in Beijing was no exception. It was so en point. Thank you to my dear friend Tania who recommended this place. Finding it was a bit of a mission. Even the taxi driver was a bit confused. He dropped us off at this street populated with restaurants but no Black Sesame. Surely not lost again? We got to the end of the street and just happened to turn right, asking a shopkeeper and some Australians, but to no avail. I then asked a hotel concierge who asked a policeman and boom. Straight ahead in this dark alleyway he said, just up from the public toilets. I remember my friend saying “Don’t be scared, you’ll find it”. There was no name, but we spotted number 28 on the black door with red background, with 2 white and red Chinese lanterns either side. Surely this was it? Bingo. I’m glad it’s not overtly obvious as that added to its mystique.

We entered an elegant courtyard and were greeted by the lovely Coco. All staff spoke fluent English. Seated in the dining room with an open kitchen, suddenly all these international tourists arrived from the USA, Spain, England, Germany and Norway. What a blast we had. We had so much fun chatting and it was nice to speak English! The amazing red wine flowed from 7pm to 930pm so you can just imagine how fantastic the night was. And as for the food? Wowser. It was exquisite and for serious foodies.

Reservations are obligatory and our tour company did this for us. We chose a communal dinner with matching wines on a Friday night. They also do a deluxe dinner which includes a dumpling cooking class or you can just do a lunch cooking class or a Chinese tea ceremony.

Cooked in front of us, beautiful plates just kept arriving in succession but done at a nice pace. We started with some panfried dumplings. Knowing we had 10 dishes we knew we had to pace ourselves. These were followed by a delicious 3 mushroom stirfry and a red braised pork belly. The latter was super rich but gorgeous. Hubby ate most of this as our US guest wasn’t a fan but I chose to restrain myself. We then had a divine beef with hangzhou peppers, followed by a 5 flavoured eggplant dish. We’re not eggplant fans but it was fabulous. The colours and presentation were sensational. Almost full, we knew there was still more to come. Wild rice stem with Chinese bacon was good but the Kung Pao spicy shrimp was amazing, as was the Chonquing spicy chicken. Divine.

Now personally the piece de resistance for me was the dessert.  Homemade black sesame icecream with sticky candied kumera chips. It was such an unusual combination but was heavenly. Hubby skipped it after indulging in the pork belly, so opted for more red wine as did our Ohio new friend. She and her tourguide later drove us back to our hotel gratis. So kind.  Zhong Lao Hu Tong, no 28, Dongcheng.  Sssh don’t tell too many people about it. Sensational. Now I know why it’s been rated one of the best Asian restaurants.

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