For a people that, stereotypically, is in love with Chinese food, it’s always surprised me that, in Jerusalem at least, there are so few Chinese restaurants. All the more so given that other Asian food – sushi in particular – is all the rage.
A new kosher restaurant, the not very creatively named Beijing, opened up a few months ago on Gaza Street. The food is pretty good and very decently priced. But it was the staff that stood out.
To describe owner Avner’s welcome as warm would be to undervalue his enthusiasm like cottage cheese at a yard sale. He greeted us as if we were his only customers (admittedly there weren’t many, but the hour was early). He explained that his restaurant has been operating for some 10 years in Mevesseret Zion; this is his first foray into Jerusalem.
His second in command, Omri, was even more effusive, not to mention opinionated. Speaking fluent English and sporting a long ponytail, Omri was candid about the competition (Ryu – interesting but too much “fusion,” Yossi Peking – drek, Sheyan – fabulous but double the price of his current establishment).
He also warned us off the chocolate dessert (not authentic; it was added only recently due to “customer demand”) and recommended the fried bananas instead (it’s the banana peel that’s fried, making for an authentic if somewhat stomach churning option).
This was a graduation dinner for our daughter Merav, so we let the kids order freely. We’d also gotten a great deal on Groupon – half price coupons and we could use up to three at a single table (we did). Our entrees included the sliced duck “chef special” (tasty, if a bit chunky), a Yakitori chicken on a stick in peanut butter (more Thai than Chinese), sweet and sour chicken with veggies (my favorite), and a very presentable pad thai with rice noodles.
Avner boasted that all of the pasta is made on the premises – I couldn’t tell, but then I’m spoiled by the unbelievable Thukpa (a Tibetan noodle soup) we ate while on trek in Nepal earlier this year.
Can I recommend Beijing? Sure, why not. The prices (under NIS 40 for most entrees) are excellent, the food quite good, and the service delightful. I think we’ll be going back.