“Every item on our menu has a story behind it,” said James Kyle, a member of the management team at Danwei Canting. The new restaurant, located on the corner of SE Stark and Sandy, offers an array of authentic Chinese home-style dishes inspired by Kyle’s travels to Beijing.
The restaurant opened in mid-January and is a combination of recipes discovered during Kyle’s thirteen years living in Beijing. “As people came to visit me [in Beijing], coworkers, friends, and family, I would take them to visit my favorite restaurants for dinner,” said Kyle. “My favorite dishes became their favorite dishes as well.” Each item on the menu can be found in a different restaurant in Beijing. “Everything on the menu you can find. I can take you to the restaurant in Beijing where it was from,” said Kyle. “It’s a real Chinese dish and I remember the first time I tasted each thing.”
The original idea was for Danwei Canting to be a dumpling (Jiaozi) restaurant with other dishes offered in between. Although Danwei Canting does offer pork and lamb dumplings on their menu, Kyle said their signature dish right now is their spicy chicken (La Zi Ji). The dish consists of wok fried spicy chicken with whole chili peppers, scallions, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. “This dish [La Zi Ji] is one of the dishes that inspired me the most,” said Kyle. Another popular dish is their burgers, or “roujiamo” meaning “meat inside of bread.” They offer a Pork Roujiamo which contains pork shoulder braised with star anise, fennel seed, and ginger, a Lamb Roujiamo which contains lamb braised with cumin, garlic, and chilies, and a Tofu Roujiamo which contains tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies. Kyle also recommended the cauliflower dish for visitors who are vegetarian. The wok seared cauliflower with sweet peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, and scallops is a signature dish for those who don’t eat meat. “In Beijing they eat a lot of broccoli,” said Kyle. “This particular dish [the cauliflower] is from a little restaurant in Beijing.” In addition to these signature items, Danwei Canting also serves noodle, vegetable, and meat dishes, as well as specialty items on the side.
One of the challenges that Danwei Canting has faced is that they do not serve any frozen food and don’t have a freezer. “All of our food is from fresh and locally sourced suppliers, especially our protein,” said Kyle. “Our goal was to portray great cuisine and great product.”
When I visited Danwei Canting, the space offered a very modern and rustic vibe. A large mural on the wall added a beautiful balance of color to the space. The moment I walked in, my mouth watered from the aroma of spices. I ordered the tofu burger (Roujiamo), the Beijing peanuts, and the crispy potatoes. The server was friendly and helpful when explaining what each item consisted of. When the tofu burger arrived at my table and I took my first bite, the flavors blended together perfectly. The subtle spiciness of the tofu matched perfectly with the warm bread. The Beijing peanuts, which are wok roasted, marinated in black vinegar, scallions, and cilantro, had an exquisite, indescribable flavor which was new to me. The satisfying crunch of the peanuts paired beautifully with the soft tofu. Finally, the crispy potatoes, which are shoestring potatoes wok seared with peppers, ginger, cumin, and scallions, were my favorite dish of the meal. The thin presentation of the potatoes offered not only incredible flavor, but a unique crisp texture that left me in awe. The fresh ingredients of each dish stood out in a fantastic way.
Danwei Canting is an extraordinary new place to get authentic Chinese dishes. Each item has meaning, and the flavors do not disappoint. With whatever you choose to order, Danwei Canting provides a glimpse of the amazing food and energy of Beijing. Danwei Canting is located at 803 SE Stark Street and is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.