Xiao Wang Fu (小王府)
Cuisine: Regional Chinese classics
Location: GuangHua DongLi, CBD
English Menu: Yes
English Service: No
Beijing’s restaurant scene is dynamic. It’s not uncommon to go to one of your favorite restaurants and find that it’s suddenly…vanished. This was especially true when I first moved to the city, and it seemed like non-stop construction. In some ways, Beijing has slowed down a bit and more stable. But I think about some of those restaurants that I used to frequent that are no more and can’t help but feel nostalgic. So, when a restaurant has managed to survive after all these years you know it’s unique. Now I introduce you to Xiao Wang Fu.
I first ate here with my Chinese roommates back in 2008. I must’ve read about it in a guidebook and thought, “That sounds good.” It was! Back then, Xiao Wang Fu had multiple locations. One of the most celebrated was in Ritan Park. It was a gorgeous two-story location and felt so special (Ritan Park itself is so quaint, and I feel lucky to live right down the street!). The Ritan location was forced to close a couple of years ago. Not because of bad business but as part of President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign all private businesses located in public parks were put under scrutiny, and many had to close. I don’t think that Xiao Wang Fu had bribed there way into the park, but was merely caught up in the policy change.
Luckily, the one on Guanghua Lu is still going strong! When I worked at Disney, I would bring all my groups of onboarding employees here for their welcome lunch. Most first time visitors to China have never had “real” Chinese food and come with many, many stereotypes about it (I had them, too!). The reason I liked bringing my new employees to Xiao Wang Fu was that it had something for everyone. The best description of the cuisine is jia chang cai which means home cooking. Simple, classic Chinese food. My wary employees were often surprised by the variety and “how good” real Chinese food is.
Hundreds of different restaurants in Beijing offer Peking duck and truth be told there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. Each restaurant claims to have some different cooking method, but mostly the differences are subtle. Xiao Wang Fu’s duck is no different but just as quality as most of what’s out there. I like that outside the main restaurant they have a special kitchen where they roast the duck, and you can see the chef’s preparing it. Photo op!
The restaurant has a full menu with English and photos, making ordering extremely convenient. The staff is incredibly sweet as well! And they have both Yanjing and Qingdao beer available on tap. Yanjing for me!
Two years ago my friend Jennifer told me that she wanted to have her birthday dinner in a traditional Chinese restaurant. Xiao Wang Fu immediately sprang to mind given the convenient CBD location and then we could go out after. It turned out to be the right choice. There was one little issue with service that evening. The location at Guanghua Lu is also two levels and frankly, the second floor is nicer than the first floor. The main dining room on the first floor can feel a bit tight. I don’t mind it so much at lunch, but dinner? No thanks! They said the second floor was closed on weekend nights because business was slower. Finally, we negotiated and got a private room on the second floor.
In the spring and summer, Xiao Wang Fu also has an upstairs patio that is just fantastic on a beautiful day. It’s great to be eating this wonderful food and just enjoy the nice day.
I’m so glad that Xiao Wang Fu has managed to survive all these years. It’s definitely a Beijing institution!