Tucked in a small side street behind the China World Center this restaurant boasts, “Chinese home cooking,” which is no small proclamation in a country that practically invented “home cooking.” The quickest way to find the restaurant is to get on Guanghua Lu and stand at the corner opposite of the Kerry Center but facing the China World Center (Get this part right!). You will see a street leading from Guanghua Lu to the China World Center, find the street parallel and immediately to the right. Please be warned that while Xiao Wang Fu’s sign can’t be missed, there is a second, equally garish sign that invites you to eat at an excellent Hot Pot. Sadly this restaurant must be connected to a different set of water pipes or just have bad food Feng Shui, because its downright terrible.
Entering the deceptively large restaurant, you will see the small shed they use to roast the ducks (they look tastier hanging then on your plate) and a little water fountain. Tables are always full, but the wait will not be longer than 5-10 minutes.
It is the food and not the ambiance where this restaurant excels. I’ve eaten here numerous times over my many trips to Beijing and I do not think I have EVER ordered anything bad. In fact, I would go as far as saying that everything I have ordered was good to borderline addictive. The dishes are a mix from different regions of China, though the majority are northern dishes. You can get the staple Peking duck and bitter melon to terrific Mapu tofu and minced lamb. Undoubtedly they use MSG in their cooking, but it’s worth it. Now the highlight of any of my Xiao Wang Fu dinners is the Sichuan Spicy Chicken (Xiang La Ji Li). The boneless pieces come in a basket full of Chili’s, steaming hot, and fried till golden brown. They are a lot less spicy than they look, but have a distinct coriander flavor. It’s always a battle with the other dinner guests to pick away at the small pieces of chicken hiding within the peppers—you literally use your chopsticks to sweep the chili’s aside. Pair this dish with a cold Yanjing Draft and you are in for a real culinary delight.
The restaurant has grown in the last few years. Since my first meal I have seen a toilet system installed, a third floor with an adjoining balcony, a menu with pictures, and my favorites—more tables, more employees (that are always friendly), and less space between guests. They have even started a delivery service to buildings around the CBD area. It’s nice to see a hardworking restaurant find the success they deserve.