If you’ve never heard of Caochangdi’s art district – but you’ve definitely been to 798 – rest assured that you’re not alone. Located beside a busy highway near Wangjing south, the area is full of eclectic galleries, vegetable markets and apartment buidings. And while Caochangdi is less known than its counterpart 798, it is infinitely cooler. (Not-so-fun fact: Chinese art provocateur Ai Weiwei lived there when he was under house arrest between 2011 and 2015.)
That’s all to say that Caochangdi restaurant Fatty Tunny (‘tunny’ is British slang for tuna) is the hippest new addition to the area. From the Japanese-focused cuisine to the quirky decor, which includes souvenirs and knickknacks restaurant proprietor May Queen has picked up during her travels, the space is essentially a love-letter to Japan.
The menu spans dishes like sushi rolls, poke bowls, sashimi and shabu shabu. We try the fatty salmon avocado (RMB30), and munchy tempura and fatty tuna sushi rolls (RMB38), which are freshly-made in front of us, thanks to the small restaurant’s open kitchen layout. Both are delicious, each served with a kick of garlic chili and Thai sauce. The tamagoyaki (RMB20), a simple rolled omelet, is also a charming snack. Drinks include sake, high balls and coffee.
Fatty Tunny also holds organic vegetable tastings, which may, if you’re lucky, coincide with an art exhibition opening at one of the restaurant’s neighboring galleries.
While Beijing’s growing mall culture and nonstop hutong brickings means that places like Fatty Tunny are getting increasingly harder to find, they are also increasingly worth the trip. (Note: Galleries tend to close on Mondays, so if you plan on gallery hopping during your trip to Fatty Tunny, time your visit well.)