Xiang E Qing Restaurant is a reputed chain diner in Beijing offering regional cuisine. "Xiang" is the abbreviation of Hunan, and "E" stands for Hubei. But don't be misled - the restaurant's cuisine is a mixture of Cantonese, Shandong, besides complementary Hunan and Hubei specialties.
According to executive chef Chen Junfeng, the menu is constantly updated, so customers feel they have a lot to choose from.
"One situation we do fear is that our customers may look at the menu and not find many appealing dishes," Chen says.
Having looked at the menu one is tempted to believe that this fear is unfounded - there is indeed no dearth of choice.
Interestingly, many expensive ingredients are cooked with cheap, but healthy elements. For example, sea cucumber is prepared in broth with corn and wheat grain. Shandong abalone is stewed with oats, red kidney beans, peas, and millet.
Braised tortoise is served in an iron cooker, and soft-shelled turtle in a clay pot. Both are specialties from Hubei, considered especially nutritious by local people. As for the more regular dishes, there is organic fish head from Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, and steamed pork and sticky rice ball. For vegetables, try braised cabbage in casserole, and sauted assorted vegetables.
Food quality is generally very high. Presentation and service are both good.
The restaurant has 13 outlets in Beijing, and a total of 24 throughout China. Its fame grew last November when it was listed on the Shenzhen stock market. Founder Meng Kai became the richest man in the Chinese restaurant business, with 3.58 billion yuan ($524 million) to his name.
According to Xia Tong, deputy general manager, stock market listing has brought the restaurant a bigger reputation. Last year it saw a 20 percent rise in profit, and has distributed 0.5 yuan in cash bonus per share to stockholders.
Xiang E Qing is, clearly, a high-end eatery. Very few dishes are priced below 40 yuan. The target clientele comprises business people, or high-income families. Public seating area is small, but there are huge and luxurious private rooms. Average spending is above 200 yuan per person, excluding drinks.
11 am-2:30 pm, 5-10 pm. 3/F Beijing Talent International Building, 80 Guangqumennei Dajie, Chongwen district, Beijing. 5169-6666