Yao Ji Da specializes in “big iron pot” cooking, a Dongbei specality that basically means what it sounds like - meat and vegetables of your choice, cooked in a huge pot built into your table.
The atmosphere is back-alley restaurant meets local cook-out. On a recent Sunday the crowd was families and groups of friends young and old, generally acting as if they were about one bottle of baijiu deep. The staff were brusque but friendly, and uniformly decked out in outfits modelled on the flowery patterns that you usually see on Dongbei restaurant tablecloths. This kind of kitcsch extends to the décor, from the sheaths of corn and chili strewn over wooden beams to the vintage metal mugs they use to serve water.
Here’s how it works. You choose your “stew” (really what’s going on here is more of a broil) based on the base, from options like goose to fish to pork to chicken and mushroom. They throw it into a huge smoking crater in the middle of your table to cook for a while. Then, you can optionally select extra veggies or tofu products to add in when you’re part way done with that, kind of like hot pot – the waiter will add some water to the remaining sauce and throw them in for you. The staff take care of the whole cooking process.
We went with goose, the priciest base at just under RMB 300 and also the place’s specialty. The wait is long – the staff told us that next time we should call ahead to get the ball rolling in advance, and other tables seemed to know this – but we were rewarded with some of the best goose I’ve ever eaten. From neck to feet to huge chunks of breast, it’s all in there and it’s often chopstick-tender. Very rich. So flavorsome. Way, way too much for two of us - each “stew” could probably feed 3-4 people.
Some won’t find much to love about this place. It’s unrepentantly raucous, they serve big bits of animal rather than pristine cuts of meat, and the food cooking at your table is going to smoke and steam and smell. But if you’re a carnivore that’s up for a bit of adventure, it might be the place for you.
Price: RMB 100 – RMB 200 per person
Summary: Rustic chain specializing in “big iron pots” of meat, a Dongbei favorite. Good for a loud atmosphere and stuffing yourself full of stewed meat and/or fish. Go with groups of four or more to make the most out of the huge portions.
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