If you can’t get out of Beijing for the holidays, head to Nanjing Impressions. The soft light of the dangling lanterns and the recurring wood-grain motif will make you feel like you’re in an ancient incarnation of the eponymous port city, not in a Shimao Department Store restaurant.
Nanjing Impressions’ Jiangsu dishes are equally soft and comforting, with many dishes stewed to such a degree that the meat practically melts in your mouth after a few bites. It’s these soft textures that make Jiangsu (or “Su”) cuisine famous. Chefs employ a meticulous selection of seasonal ingredients, favoring stewing and braising techniques. Those elements make the dishes delightfully tender, but not to the point of mushiness.
Nanjing in particular, with its prime location in the lower basin of the Yangtze River Delta, makes ample use of the region’s shrimp and fish. While the latter dishes might be too bony for young children, parents and older kids will enjoy the tenderness and savory flavors. Nanjing is also beloved for its delectable duck dishes, giving Beijing duck some healthy competition.
Major ingredients and condiments: Seafood and poultry (especially mandarin fish, duck, and chicken), ginger, bamboo shoots, wine sauce for pickling, sugar for condiments
Main preparation methods: Stewing, braising, quick frying
- Stewed meatball (清炖狮子头, qingdun shizitou): A savory, tender hunk of pork with a mild and slightly smoky flavor. Great for kids who still have their baby teeth. RMB 26.
- Bean curd with shrimp egg (虾黄豆腐, xiahuang doufu): This soft tofu easily gives collapses and gives way, revealing flecks of shrimp egg and a salty, “ocean-fresh” kick that is wholly unique. RMB 28.
- Chicken with sweet and sour sauce (王府泡椒鸡, wangfu paojiao ji): This delectable chicken is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Be sure to exercise caution with younger kids; the dish has lots of bones. RMB 32.
Family facilities: Customers must use the mall bathroom down the hall from Nanjing Impressions. It has western toilets with soap, toilet paper, and paper towels. Both chopsticks and cutlery are available. There are only four highchairs, so you may not get one during peak hours. The menu is in English and Chinese with pictures. The restaurant is non-smoking.
Nanjing Impressions 南京大牌档
Mon-Fri 11am-2pm and 5-10pm, Sat-Sun 11am-10pm. 4/F, Shimao Department Store, 13 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District (8405 9777) 朝阳区工体北路13号世茂百货4层
Photos: Kyle Mullin and Ken