Any of five fresh-water fish (usually various kinds of catfish) at Riverside, then choose an appropriate sauce and vegetable garnish.
As a Westerner with no knowledge of Mandarin, eating in Beijing this summer was a challenge. I had no idea what was considered “safe” and usually just pointed to pictures of what I wanted, hoping my choice was really pork and not street rat. Therefore, I was always extremely excited when I happened to stumble upon especially delicious food. 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 worried that the owners tacked on “Corp.” for added legitimacy, which many Westerners perceive Chinese restaurants lack. This desperate need for legitimacy merely reinforced my hesitation.
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 my paranoid, prejudiced brain 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!