Pick Your Fish, Any Fish At Beijing’s Riverside & Courtyard Corp

Any of five fresh-water fish (usually various kinds of catfish) at Riverside, then choose an appropriate sauce and vegetable garnish.

FACEBOOK Vanessa Lau

As a Westerner with no knowledge of Mandarin, eating in Beijing this summer was a challenge. I had no idea what I would like, and usually just pointed to pictures of what looked good, hoping my choice would satisfy me. Therefore, I was always extremely excited when I happened to stumble upon especially delicious food without having to guess at the contents of my selections. Riverside & Courtyard Corp. 江边城外 is one of those Chinese restaurants with a name that has been translated poorly into English. The characters should actually translate into “Riverside Courtyard’s Whole-Baked Fish.” When I first heard the restaurant’s English name, I initially worried that the owners tacked on “Corp.” for added legitimacy, which many Westerners perceive Chinese restaurants lack, but my hesitation melted away as soon as I stepped inside.

Riverside opened up into clean, smart interiors, and the restaurant was packed with people. Each fresh table was set with tea and sunflower seeds. I sat down and perused the menu, and realized that the restaurant was a chain, which also settled any remaining uncertainty because it implied standardized quality control. I happily began munching on the sunflower seeds, appeased.

Soon enough, I began to understand how the restaurant operated. One picks any of five fresh-water fish (usually various kinds of catfish), then chooses an appropriate sauce and vegetable garnish. The menu was highly varied, and I was stuck deciding between “Szechuan Style” or “Village Fresh Flavor.” I ended up ordering neither option, settling on the “grass fish” with the “Black Pepper Soy” toppings.

The server brought out a large grill with my fish still smoking on it. Green and red peppers, green onion, wood ear mushrooms, and seaweed added appropriate highlights of red and green to the blackened fish.

I love how the fish broke off into fleshy flakes with my chopsticks, and cartilage wasn’t even an issue. I felt extra lucky when I got to savor a bite of the crunchy, flavorful skin at the bottom of the pan. I was so hungry, I even ate his face—and usually, I’m afraid of anything with eyes still in it. Fresh fish with fresh vegetables, a bowl of steamed rice, and seaweed salad. How’s that for healthy Chinese food!

Check out the restaurant here!

Drisana Misra

Originally from Mountain Brook, AL, Drisana can't travel without a compilation of short stories. Her secret travel tip is, "Write down every reflection, no matter how stupid and even if you think you’ll remember it later."

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