DA Great 大贵

By , 2010年 6月 7日

Located several hundred meters down daxing hutong/大兴胡同(just north of 地安门西街 on 交道口南大街), this restaurant would likely be described by many as a “hutong jewel” or some other oft-slung euphemism to exalt the charm of a siheyuan dining space. Indeed, this restaurant is situated in a beautifully renovated siheyuan with a large, shady yuanzi (unfortunately, al fresco dining is not permitted) separating the main dining room from a private room. The décor is moderate chic — mosaic walkways lead to the main dining room, beady-line illustrations of food and drink are hung on the walls, and dishes are served on pearly ceramic plates with sides curing upwards as though to proclaim their subtle vogue.

DA Great is ostensibly a Guizhou restaurant and, thusly, the dishes are primarily rooted in two concepts: gluten and sour. The sizeable menu features generally hearty and flavorsome fare, while some dishes satisfy (bacon with facon, for example, is a favorite dish of stir-fried bacon strips with bacon-infused black sticky rice cakes and crispy scallions and hot peppers), others mystify (比如说:savory rice cakes that ooze open with a mysteriously tangy sauce; sliced lotus root stuffed with rice and bathed in a sweet syrup), and still others merely pacify (an exceptionally tasty suan bai cai (garlic bok choy) is delightful until its nearly 20RMB price tag becomes apparent).

Despite boasting some interesting dishes and more refined ambiance than a pangbian/gong bao palace, the place is seemingly infected by a bug common among the higher echelons of Chinese gastronomic and artistic culture — an attempt to elevate and glamorize some downright commonplace elements of Chinese culture. From the elegantly revamped siheyuan space in an otherwise typically dark and dusty hutong to the restaurant’s prize dish (a sweetened black rice cake molded to look like a coal briquette atop a heavy oven-like platform that is neither particularly tasty (unless you’re wild about pure glutinous textures), nor particularly settling on a cultural level), the restaurant brings light to a kind of tension between “local” traditions and modern dining expectations. To say: this rice cake would be meaningless to a coal miner! Not to mention inaccessible! is both reductive and irrelevant, but shaping the cake as this recognizable element of Chinese industry and daily life is not quite art or culture — it’s a strange conceptual adaptation that leaves a taste in ones mouth neither bitter nor sweet, just sort of gluey.

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