Thanks to LC (my Beijing-dwelling WSJ pal) for picking Dali Courtyard—which we got to by taxi and then by foot down a dark alley (or hutong) where we found the entrance marked by a single red lantern—to end the long work week in China. It was the highlight of our food forays, hands down.
Writes Travel + Leisure, "Dali’s owners, a group of young Chinese art-world types, have stuffed an old courtyard home with contemporary Chinese art and put tables in the quirky little rooms and the lovely central garden. There’s no menu here; guests choose a price level and servers bring out plates of modern pan-Asian dishes, like mushrooms roasted in banana leaves and sweet-and-sour dried beef infused with lemon juice. The chefs age the beef by hanging strips of it on trees in the courtyard."
LC explains that this cuisine comes out of the southeast province of Yunnan close to Thailand, so mint and basil are in a fair number of the often-spicy dishes. To the left there are salty squares of fried cheese (cheese in China? who knew?!), super-fine tofu noodle strips above, and a tangle of mushrooms and mint sitting just below it.
I slurped down this lovely little pot of spicy veggy noodles tout suite.