The Feast is Red - Beijing's Revolutionary Restaurants

Splittist faction - the Hongqi Piaopiao dance troupe.

With all this celebrating of 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic, we thought it was a good opportunity to check out dining options in the capital that offer a taste of China's revolutionary past.

While nobody wants a return to the period of turbulence that China endured during the 1960s and 1970s, a few restaurants – mainly in outlying districts of Beijing – keep the fervor of revolution alive with their communist-kitsch decor and socialist song-and-dance shows.

The East is Red
One of the most famous revolutionary restaurants in Beijing, The East is Red stands out with its over-the-top Maoist dining environment: red flags, slogans and large pictures of Mao. All the waiters and waitresses wear predictably “red” uniforms, and dishes are served in large portions that would put many a Dongbei restaurant to shame. Signature selections include shazhucai (杀猪菜; a stew dish made with pork, tofu and sour Chinese cabbage). The dining hall is huge and the atmosphere frequently lively. Don’t miss the revolutionary era song-and-dance performances; shows at 12.15-1pm and 7.15-8.30pm daily.
Daily 9.30am-10pm. 266 Baijialou (outside the East Fifth Ring Road), Chaoyang District. (6574 8289/90) 红色经典主题餐厅, 朝阳区东五环外白家楼266号

Genjudi Restaurant
Walls decorated with old newspapers from the “cultural revolution” period; wait staff kitted out as revolutionary heroes; and red flags and stars all around. It’s fair to say that the revolutionary-nostalgia restaurant genre holds little appeal for fans of subtle design. Genjudi mainly specializes in Hebei cuisine, but does offer dishes from many other parts of China. Prices are reasonable, although getting out to Daxing inevitably adds to the total expense. Try the baked donkey meat cake (驴肉火烧, RMB 4) and shoubai chang (手掰肠, RMB 16). Revolutionary “model operas” daily 12.30-1.30pm, 7.30-8.30pm.
Daily 9.30am-9.30pm. East of Jinxing Crossroad, Xihongmen Zhen, Daxing District. (6128 2066/5088) 根据地饭店, 大兴区西红门镇金星十字路口东

Down with the running dogs! The revolutionary interior of Hongqi Piaopiao Dafantang.

Hongqi Piaopiao Dafantang
If you had a romantic, intimate meal with your beloved in mind, the staff’s cry of “Hail to the chief!” as you step into this restaurant will bring you right back to earth. Instead, expect a noisy, fun night out – get a group together and hire a bus for the trip to Daxing. Most of the dish names allude to the revolutionary era – try the “Revolutionary Family” (革命大家庭, RMB 58) dish. After you’ve been a good cadre and finished up your dinner, ask the wait staff for a Chairman Mao badge as your reward. Daily performances 12.30-1.10pm, 7.30-9pm.
Daily 9.30am-9.30pm. 200m south of Shigongxiao School, Tonghua Lu, Xihongmen Zhen, Daxing District. (6029 0557/8) 红旗飘飘大饭堂 (毛泽东思想大食堂), 大兴区西红门镇同华路市供销学校南200米

Mao Jia Restaurant
The most central of the restaurants on this list, although the experience is heavily sanitized – the only singing or dancing you’re likely to witness will be that of baijiu’d customers. If you’re a lover of Hunan (Xiang, 湘) cuisine or an unflinching Maoist, Mao Jia ought to please. The “Mao-style” hongshao rou (毛式红烧肉, RMB 68), so named because the stewed pork dish was famously Chairman Mao’s favorite feed, is a must-try. Alternatively, order the jiangshan yipianhong (steamed fish head with salted chilli, RMB 88) – a Hunan classic, though not always palatable to laowai tastes. In sharp contrast to the other restaurants on this list, the dining environment at Mao Jia is quieter and more – dare we say – bourgeois. The Mao busts and other decorative touches do their bit to maintain the revolutionary theme, though. Expect to spend a minimum of around RMB 100 per person for a decent meal. Happily, an English menu is available.
1) Daily 9.30am-2pm, 5-10pm. 2/F, Blue Castle, 3 Xidawang Lu, Chaoyang District. (8599 9728/18); 2) Daily 11am-10.30pm. 216 Huizhong Beili (Beichen Donglukou), Chaoyang District. (6485 9678) 毛家饭店, 1) 朝阳区西大望路3号蓝堡国际中心2楼; 2) 朝阳区慧中北里216号(北辰东路口)

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