There were tears shed when the little restaurant in a narrow hutong near Dashilar called The Southern Fish 渔芙南 closed last month. This cozy, quaint little restaurant was a gem of a find back in March 2015 and although it was tricky to find, the fiery home-cooked Hunan fare made it worth the effort.
But Beijingers know far too well how quickly things change in this fickle capital, especially when it comes to the F&B scene. Lucky for us, The Southern Fish was ahead of the game. Turns out that they only closed their Dashilar branch a few weeks before they opened a bigger branch in Fuchengmen.
When fellow foodie Joel Shucat of The Orchid Hotel told me last week that Southern Fish had reopened near Fuchengmen, it was all I could think about. From their Dianping page, I could tell it was much bigger from the last one, but I still felt wholely unprepared for the grand size of the new branch.
The new branch kept a few design elements like the low hanging lights, minimalist feel with white walls and wood ceilings, but this is a whole other beast. Stepping in through their main entrance (which still looks like a work-in-progress), you enter a big dining space simply done with white walls, white marble table tops and hanging lights. From this room, you can step out from this building into a courtyard that lead you on a pebbled pathway to other dining rooms and metal staircases that lead up to either private dining rooms (one for up to 15 guests and one for up to 10 guests with a minimum spend requirement of RMB 2,000/1,500 respectively). There is also another upstairs dining room space with additional tables. Like a kid in a candy shop, we were amazed by the sheer scale of the restaurant and just how much its grown in two years time.
LDS Snapshots of the New & Mighty Southern Fish:
You will Find the New Southern Fish on YongMenKouTouTiao (just northeast of Fuchengmen, Exit B)
Their Main Entrance Is a Work-In-Progress
Different Dining Rooms Sprawled Throughout the Space
Outdoor Courtyard that Leads to Other Dining Spaces
2nd Floor Dining
2nd Floor Reception and Service Station
Two Private Rooms can seat up to 10 or 15 (RMB 1,500/2,000 Minimum Spend)
Despite the larger space, we still felt lucky to be seated within just 10 minutes with a party of 8. Aside from their two private rooms with minimum spend requirements, 90% of their other tables were full of guests hungry for Hunan. We ended up sitting in the first room where the main entrance is. Looking through their menu, it was clear that the selection of dishes has expanded too. Designed in the same minimalist fashion, each page has between 8-18 dishes for a total of about 50+ dishes. Most dishes have a small icon to symbolize the main ingredient of that dish along with the dish name in Chinese characters and pinyin and a price. Most dishes range between RMB 30-80 each, with the exception of a few dishes like their turtle dish 红烧沙鳖 for RMB 369.
While the menu’s clean lines and cute icons are pleasing to the eye, it would be difficult to order unless you (or someone at your table) was familiar with Hunan dishes and their names.
The last page lists two desserts (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin) and a handful of drink options. I highly recommend their house rice wine as it’s super tasty and helps cut the spice when your mouth is on fire.
Larger Restaurant = Larger Menu
Cryptic Menu with No English Makes Ordering a Challenge
The first dish to our table was the Chili and Honey Air Dried Beef which left a lasting impression. That first bite was like a punch in the face (in the best possible way), a total shock to both my taste buds and senses. So much flavor packed into one bite. As the level of spice can be a bit overwhelming, I recommend balancing out the chili dishes with some soup-based dishes.
LDS Snapshots of Hunan Dishes at Southern Fish:
Chili and Honey Air Dried Beef, 芙南风秘牛肉 (RMB 73)
Fish Soup with Rice Noodles 草鱼粉 (RMB 39)
Mashed Peppers and Preserved Egg, 擂辣椒皮蛋 (RMB 39)
Marinated Beef Cold Starter 卤牛肉 (RMB 39)
White Peppers and Clams, 白辣椒炒河蚌 (RMB 78)
Gourd & Egg Served in Broth, 丝瓜荷包蛋 (RMB 39)
Peppers and Puffed Tofu, 青椒焖油豆腐 (RMB 78)
Stir-Fried Cauliflower, 大盘花菜 (RMB 39)
Dried Cucumber and Minced Pork, 黄瓜皮肉沫 (RMB 59)
Baby Bok Choy, 油渣上海青 (RMB 37)
Pickled Chilis with Steamed Taro, 剁椒毛芋头 (RMB 43)
Fatty Pork with Liver, 小五花熘肝尖 (RMB 65)
Long Green Beans with Eggplant, 长豆角茄子 (RMB 39)
While that first beef dish was a clear winner right off the bat, we were delighted by the Pickled Chilis with Steamed Taro along with the Dried Cucumber with Minced Pork, which proves my point that cucumber is such an under-rated and under-utilized vegetable! The Gourd with Egg Served in Broth was my go-to dish every time my mouth went into spice-overload.
By the end of the meal, almost all the dishes tasted and looked the same – a whole lot of red, green and yellow chilis mixed with a range of chopped vegetables and sliced meats. And what a feast it was! Including a handful of beers and some of their homemade rice wine, our table’s bill came out to RMB 824 – just over RMB 100 per person!
A glorious Hunan meal, we’re delighted to see Southern Fish grow so much while staying true to Hunan’s unique flavors and dishes.
The Southern Fish 渔芙南 Contact Details:
Address: Just Northeast of Exit B of Fuchengmen Subway on Yongmenkou Toutiao #49
Chinese Address: 宫门口头条49号(鲁迅博物馆)
Opening Hours: Open Daily from 11:30-14:30, 17:00-21:00