Black Sesame Kitchen’s New Courtyard Flagship Location
One of my favorite hidden gem places to bring out of town guests, it was heartbreaking to say the least when Black Sesame Kitchen had to close down their Black Sesame Hutong location to all public cooking classes and events about two years ago. Though they had a short-lived stint hosting weekly dinners at The Orchid Boutique Hotel, they have now moved into their new flagship location at The Courtyard Institute.
A place where I always felt at home, where I met so many fellow foodies and Beijing friends, Black Sesame Kitchen (BSK) was all about quality home-cooked Chinese staples done exceptionally well with minimal use of oil and salt, no MSG and just the cutest chefs imaginable.
Though I haven’t hosted a dinner at Black Sesame since they closed their original location, I used to be a regular and I know their staple dishes quite well. Just last weekend, I was invited as a guest to a small dinner party for 7 at Black Sesame’s new location and was delighted to be seated among some of Black Sesame’s biggest fans including the dinner party hosts Michael and Joanna Crain (founders of the legendary Chi Fan for Charity annual charity event in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong), Benjamin Manthey (fellow foodie and CrossFit Slasher who used to work at Black Sesame as a host once upon a time), the lovely Sarah Keenlyside (founder of Bespoke Beijing Travel Co.) and Superwoman Sue Zhou of SueZhouDoesFood (go to her Summer BBQ this weekend!). Needless to say, I was sitting among some of Beijing’s most knowledgeable foodies!
Located near the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park, it’s actually quite close to Temple Restaurant Beijing as well (just turn left right after you turn right when you see the big ICBC bank) on Wusi Dajie (五四大街). Stepping inside, it’s even more magical than the original location. While the previous location was in a very local hutong courtyard with many families residing inside, this courtyard entrance is a long foyer lined on both sides with gorgeous black and white photographs of old Beijing, courtesy of the passionate historians behind BJ Postcards.
Black & White Photographs of Old Beijing Courtesy of BJ Postcards
Gently Illuminated Courtyard with 2 Private Dining Rooms
Our Private Dining Room, perfect for 8!
Though the location has moved, the dining deal for Black Sesame Kitchen that I have always known has remained the same. For RMB 300 per person, your party is served a 10 dish dinner and guests also receive free-flow red and white wine throughout the dinner as well.
Seeing the dinner menu upon arrival, we were delighted to see some of our favorites including the Five-Flavored Eggplant, Kungpao Shrimp and Red Braised Pork Belly. And as usual, the dinner began with those moreish pan-friend pumpkin and pork dumplings (one of my favorite ways to start a meal!).
LDS Snapshots of Black Sesame Kitchen Dinner:
10 Dish Set Dinner Menu
Pan-Fried Pumpkin and Pork Dumplings
Though these yummy morsels tasted as delightful as ever, they seem to have shrunk in size somewhat. Nevermind, it was the first of 10 courses and we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves too early in the eating game.
Three Mushroom Stir-Fry
Though there was nothing wrong with these mushrooms, there was also nothing exciting about them either. Overly simple compared to the crispy shiitake mushroom dish with sliced carrots and cilantro that is a staple that we looked forward to reminiscing over.
Plump and juicy, these shrimp disappeared a little too quickly. Again, taste was on point but the portions seems to have shrunk. Though we each got at least one, only a few lucky ducks were able to go for seconds.
Beef with Hangzhou Peppers
Perfect over rice, the beef was steaming hot as it was served to our table and the colorful red and green peppers really made this dish pop.
Five Flavored Eggplant
A usual favorite of ours, this time the Five Flavored Eggplant was on the bland side of the spectrum. Yes, even though there’s so much garlic, spring onion, cilantro and red peppers piled visibly in neat rows over the eggplant, the powerful burst of flavors just wasn’t there. Not sure what was missing, but my BSK expert diner Ben Manthey suggested that the missing ingredients were chicken stock and vinegar to make it more savory.
Wild Rice Stem with Chinese Bacon
A more unique dish of the 10 dishes we were served, the Chinese cured bacon really packs a punch. The Wild Rice Stem was slightly confusing as to what exactly it was, but this dish went down well overall. Just a little on the small portion side again though.
Generally on their menu, there’s the token simple veggie stir-fry and here we have Chinese kale. It was good to have a plate full of greens, but it was a bit bland (as expected) and was consumed just because we felt like we should.
Red Braised Pork Belly
Not as thick and rich as we remember this, the sauce of this pork belly dish is usually the main highlight of this dinner set. Though the dish is meant to be rich and thick and fatty and indulgent, the fatty bits were a bit overwhelming where the sauce was not as thick and rich as we’re used to. Again, Ben says it was just a matter of reducing the sauce a little bit longer.
Chongqing Spicy Chicken
Tender and moist, the chicken bits were excellent and the level of Sichuan spice was just right as well.
Dessert: Candied Bananas
My personal highlight of the meal, these candied bananas are worth a trip to this place alone. Though many Chinese restaurants do this dish, BSK gets the level of dough and fruit just right and as soon as it’s brought to the table, our hostess helped us to quickly divvy up the portions so that none were left stuck together past the point of no possible separation.
Up for Grabs! Chopstick Skills to the Test if you wanted Seconds
Black Sesame Ice Cream
After bringing out everyone individual bowls with a scoop of Black Sesame Ice Cream, Michael immediately voiced what was on all of our minds – “can we just get the entire ice cream vat?” Not to make us sound greedy, this was standard protocol for previous BSK dinners – to get the whole vat of ice cream alongside the candied bananas at the end of the meal. Though we did have to ask twice, the vat was soon brought forth and we delighted in seconds and third helpings of BSK’s signature Black Sesame Ice Cream!
Open Kitchen Dining Room Post-Dinner Party
After we finished our bottle of wine, we saw through the windows the other dinner party clearing out, which gave me the first chance all evening to take a few photos of their main dining kitchen and cooking class kitchen as well.
For anyone who might be interested, BSK is still running regular dumpling classes on a weekly basis – every Wednesday and Sunday from 11AM-2PM that includes an in-depth, hands-on cooking lesson with three dishes and non-alcoholic beverages alongside your lunch (RMB 300 per person).
Perfect for Private Parties
Black Sesame Contact Details:
Address: New Location at The Courtyard Institute: 28 Zhong Lao Hutong, Dongcheng District
Chinese Address:东城区中老胡同28号 （近五四大街西口）
Directions for Taxi: Tell the driver to take you to the intersection of Wusi Dajie (五四大街) and Shatan North Street (沙滩北街), which is just east of Jingshan Park (景山公园). Walk a few steps north on Shatan North Street and you will see a small hutong on your left. This is Zhonglao Hutong (中老胡同). Proceed down this lane until you reach Number 28, on your left.
Directions for Metro: Take Line 5 or Line Six to Dongsi Station (东四站). Take exit E. Walk west on Dongsi West Street (东四西大街). You will know you are walking west because the traffic will be on your left. You will pass the National Museum of China or your right. After about one kilometer the road will begin to curve left. At that point turn right onto Shatan North Street (沙滩北街). Almost immediately you will see a small hutong on your left. This is Zhonglao Hutong (中老胡同). Proceed down this lane until you reach Number 28, on your left.
Telephone: +86-1369-147-4408 (for inquiries only)
Advanced Reservations are Required for all Bookings, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org