Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 13, June 18-24


by B. Varnnes
Restaurant in pleasant park environs dishes up authentic
Northern cuisine at reasonable prices

Despite what Western mothers tell children who refuse to finish their broccoli, China doesn't appear to be suffering from a catastrophic shortage of food. As the original house of pasta and the land of 10,000 recipes, the Middle Kingdom has never taken a back seat to anywhere as far as the art of cooking is concerned. Tan Gen Yuan Authentic Beijing Restaurant demonstrates that this is still true when old Beijing delicacies parade through its indoor courtyard in great abundance.

Tan Gen Yuan's platoon of man-pulled rickshaws receives guests from the car park outside the east gate of the Temple of Earth park (Ditan Gongyuan). Inside the first yard are two antique duck ovens, three Xinjiang meat-stick barbecue stands equipped with three Xinjiang men, two live peacocks (whose fate remains unknown), and a beer garden with plenty of beer and rolled-up trousers during summer.

Entering the restaurant itself, guests are greeted by the hoarse screaming toasts of a 72 year-old man who is deaf in one ear. Clasping a box of dinner mints, he happily wishes all comers —good fortune and long life.” Opposite him sits an in-house modelling clay sculptor who walks around the restaurant selling figurines of pigs and fishermen. The restaurant itself is decked-out in the form of a traditional courtyard decorated with old framed photographs and 1930s coca-cola girl and cigarette posters. The traditional courtyard design contrasts with the smoke alarms and black metallic theater lights hanging from a low ceiling.

Waiters in traditional full-length Northern Chinese robes eagerly wipe down our stools before flashing the foldable hand-written menu across the table: traditional Beijing fare at reasonable prices. As the waiter shouts our orders across the room to the kitchen, a spotlight beams onto the stage at the north end of the room, illuminating two actors and a pair of massive Peking Opera masks hanging on the wall. The actors launch into a Laurel and Hardy-style routine known as xiangsheng or cross-talking. They are followed by a Peking Opera act that consists of young girls in garish dresses and painted faces, mimicking with their voices the final stages of a cat neutering. Later acts include acrobatics and folk music played on a traditional three-string guitar. All goes well until an admirably attired bald man with a high pitched voice begins to counterpoint the revolutionary opera songs with anti-NATO chants. At this point we quickly discover that the restaurantês take-away service is both quick and efficient.

The food is good although there is nothing that you would not find in an ordinary Northern Chinese kitchen. But it's worth going to Tan Gen Yuan for the entertainment. And about our little misunderstanding anti-foreigner slogans shouted in the direction of our table the management sincerely apologized and the check was on the house.

Recommended Menu Grey tofu paste (ma doufu), Fried base of lotus flower with salt (zha ouhe), Mutton kebab (yangrou chuan), Steamed bun (baozi) Cold shredded radish (luobo si), Hot and sour soup (suanla tang), Stewed meat and potatoes (tudou dun niurou), Purple rice porridge (zimi zhou), Draught beer (zha pi).

Tangenyuan Authentic Beijing Restaurant
East Gate, Temple of Earth
A1 Ditan Dongmenwai Dongcheng District

Tel: 6427-3356 Hours: 11 am-2:30 pm, 5:30-10 pm; performances 6:45-8:45 pm
Food: ** Ambience: **** Service: ** Cost: Y

Yuck! = *
Good = **
Very Good = ***
Excellent = ****
Y = RMB 40 / person


Tofu Paste
ma doufu

Fried base of Lotus Flower
with Salt
zha ouhe

mutton kabob
yang rou quan

steamed bun

Cold shredded radish
luobu si

Hot and sour soup

Stewed meat and potatoes
tudou dun niurou

Purple rice porridge
zimi zhou

Draught beer


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