Shanghai Restaurant Review: Peking Inn

By Sophie Steiner, July 29, 2019

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The Place

Nestled in Jiashan Market, up a concrete staircase above Cafe Sambal, sits Peking Inn, the newest foreigner-friendly Chinese cocktail bar and restaurant. Greeted by red neon lights, velour lounge chairs straight out of a racy movie from the 1970s and a bar stocked with over 100 bottles of rare liqueurs, spirits and tinctures, one would assume cocktails to be the main focus. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's 

However, while acclaimed mixologist Chris Xi (of EPIC) is the man behind the whimsical beverage menu, homestyle Northern fare is the central focus of this spot that stirs up nostalgic feelings for the hutongs of Old Peking with a modern sensibility.

The Food

While many diners associate roast duck with the Capital’s cuisine, the bird is notably absent from the offerings. Out to show that there’s more to Beijing food, the bedrock of this menu is chunbing, or spring pancakes. 

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Most of us are familiar with this flour-based, lotus leaf-flavored wrap from visits to Da Dong, where it is served along with julienned scallions, cucumbers, radish and sweet bean sauce. Here, guests can choose from a selection of family recipes, all of which can be combined multiple ways inside of a chunbing.

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Stimulate your appetite with cold dishes such as Chinese Black Fungus Mushrooms (RMB28) or ‘Qian Long’ cabbage (RMB28). The latter is a large bowl of crisp leafy greens smothered in sesame paste, peanut sauce and aged vinegar. Although light and refreshing, a sprinkle of sugar would easily balance out the acid and add more depth to the dish.

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Despite an uninviting presentation, the Sauteed Shredded Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (RMB40) packs a punch of flavor. While verging on too sweet, it plays well with the other dishes like a textbook version of Mapo Tofu (RMB38). Creamy, soft tofu, savory ground pork and scallions mingle with an oily slick of spicy chili that lingers on the tongue – interspersed with a restrained shot of numbing peppercorn.

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With a strong influence from the Hui Muslim minority, cumin-heavy barbecued meats make their way into many Beijing kitchens. Their Grilled Beef with Cumin, Onions, Shallots and Shilies (RMB78) represents that well, except for the lack of smoky char that comes from smoldering charcoal.

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Raised on Chinese-American food, your correspondent expected to love Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapples (RMB58), but the bland meatballs smothered in a gelatinous, one-note sweet sauce come off as more microwavable TV dinner than Chinatown favorite. The excessively mushy Braised Pork Meatballs in Gravy (RMB35) are another miss in terms of texture, flavor and presentation.

While not top of our list when it comes to Beijing food cravings, the Deep-Fried Crispy Prawns (RMB98) are delicious nonetheless. Seasoned well and presented simply with that signature shrimp snap, this number hits the mark.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's 

The expansive cocktail list has classics like Whiskey Sours and Martinis (RMB60-80), but things get interesting when they play with Chinese spirits and ingredients. While Lost in Xiamen (RMB80) made from Xiamen Guben herb liqueur, ginger juice, gin and longan honey is too medicinal for us, the Tibetan highland barley wine-based Desert Storm (RMB 100) is refreshing and fun. With a dehydrated pineapple wheel and Pop Rocks garnish, we can see ourselves ordering it again.

Food Verdict: 1.5/3

The Vibe

Peking Inn’s greatest advantage is their patio, which makes up about a third of their floorplan. On one of Shanghai’s rare good weather afternoons, sitting beneath the shade of their London plane trees with a cocktail is ideal. 

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Inside, their eclectic ‘70s funk playlist and dim lighting says bar more than an eatery. Being people who enjoy chatting with the bartender when ordering drinks, the lack of one stationed behind the bar for most of our visit was a bit of a bummer... that and the absence of other diners. 

Vibe Verdict: 1.5/2

Total Verdict: 3/5

Price: RMB150-300 per person, including drinks
Who’s going: mostly locals, curious expats, ex-Beijingers
Good for: Northern food fix, cheeky cocktails, patio catch-up sessions

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]


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