For those in the know, The Southern Fish has been the unsung hero of Dashilan’s labyrinthine hutongs for a couple of years now. The small but stylish arbiter of authentic cuisine from China’s Hunan province, there’s always a wait for a table at this restaurant.
But now the owners have opened a second branch in that other up-and-coming hipster neighborhood: Baitasi. And here there’s room for everyone!
Taking over an entire building in a hutong behind the temple, its ultra modern design and clean white walls form a stark contrast to the scruffy surrounding alleyway.
At first glance you might think it consists of just the one main room, but the more you explore, the bigger you realize this place is. A multifaceted space with dozens of nooks and crannies – even a roof terrace – means there’s plenty of spots to enjoy a conspiratorial dinner with friends.
And the food – oh the food! – so, so fresh and so, so spicy. Sichuan cuisine is one thing, with its dried chilies and numbing peppercorns – but when you’re cooking with this much fresh chili things escalate very quickly. You have been warned.
Whether you try a classic like the air dried Hunan beef or steamed taro with pickled chilies, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget to throw in some white rice and stir fried greens (or the delicious fried egg soup) for balance.
Oh, and our top tip? Get the sweet egg custard buns for dessert. The perfect way to end a meal.
The Southern Fish No.49 Gongmenkou Toutiao (same alley as the Lu Xun Museum), Xicheng District. Tel: (10) 8306 3022.