My friend Christy was here for a visit from the US this past week. She used to teach here at our preschool in China and wanted to come back for a vacation. She was able to volunteer at the orphanage for a few days and share some of her special education expertise with the staff. Her visit provided an excuse to go to my favorite restaurant. Our staff had our Spring Festival celebration here and I fell in love with the food and the atmosphere.
Xibei is a small chain in Beijing and Shenzhen. It is full of rural ethnic flourish. I love the rustic concrete floors and interior designed to mimic the cave homes of the northern Hebei cuisine it features. Walls are lined with braids of red peppers and corn. Trees overhang wells, and pumpkins and other produce are scattered throughout. Patrons gather casually outside and in with baskets of roasted sunflower seeds to munch on as they make their food selections from a huge book of colorful photos. You can view these on their website. The staff is dressed in in cheerful clothing typical of the region and upon request will perform with dances and songs. Huge windows allow you to view the food prep and the kichen. Everything is spotless (including the squatty potties). The food is very earthy, fresh and natural. We had the fabulous house salad with vinigrette and roasted peanuts, dumplings, tomato and lamb boiling soup, some kind of wonderful roasted flatbread with herbs, and lots of veggies. It was scrumptious! Here's a review...
This place is worth the trip out to Yayun Cun in itself. Friendly staff and bright, faux-rural decor make this the best "family restaurant" in Beijing, and the cuisine (a hybrid of Mongolian and Shanxi fare) will have you looking through the picture menu to plan your next visit. The signature dish is youmian wowo (steamed oatmeal noodles) served with mushroom (sushijun retang) or lamb (yangrou retang) broth, with coriander and chile on the side. Familiar yangrou chuan'r (mutton skewers with cumin) and yogurt (suannai) with honey make excellent side dishes, while the house salad (Xibei da bancai) is a meal in itself, crammed with unusual ingredients such as wild greens, radish, and purple cabbage, and topped with a delicious sesame dressing. The one dish you must try is zhijicao kao niupai (lotus leaf-wrapped roast beef with mountain herbs). Roast beef will never be the same.
And another great review can be found here.
Here are little animals made out of dough. An older lady sits at a table and makes these using a pair of scissors and seeds for eyes. The children can gather around and sit on little tree stumps to watch as she expertly crafts them. Each child is allowed to choose one as they leave, Abbey has picked a bunny each time.