With branches already in Wangfujing, Sanlitun and Guomao, Goose Hut has been a long-time player in the world of chain Chinese restaurants, earning a well-deserved rep in the process for authentic Hunan cuisine set in stylish, contemporary digs. However, unlike its other iterations, this newest branch in Qianmen bills itself as Goose Hut Four Seasons (no relation to the luxe hotel chain), offering a menu that strays beyond Hunanese classics, including Shandong, Inner Mongolian cuisine and more.
Located in Beijing Fun – that new, stylish compound that's currently home to Muji Hotel
and Beijing's flagship Starbucks
– Goose Hut Qianmen is decked out in plenty of pale wood and modern furnishings. However, comparisons can't help but be drawn to its more established siblings, which boast cutting-edge interiors previously featured in architectural magazines (see: both the Guomao and Sanlitun branches). Lofty, unfair heights to be sure, but this iteration can't help but feel like more of an afterthought. However, that's neither here nor there, and we’re ultimately here for the food. (As a side note, the Qianmen branch currently doesn’t offer an English-language menu, or pictures, so be prepared to ask a waiter for help if your character-reading skills aren’t up to scratch).
The menu is divided into several sections including chef's recommendations, mains, appetisers, soups and traditional Hunan food. Besides the Hunan section, it’s basically a free-for-all in regards to the cuisine types found in each section, which can be a bit of a minefield for those looking for a cohesive meal.
Feeling slightly lost, we try the liaoshen routang paofan, or rice soaked in meat broth (138RMB) listed under chef’s recommendations. Served in a rice cooker pot, it’s an unexpected take on what’s traditionally a soupy broth with vegetables, rice and sea cucumber. (In fact it’s so different, one perplexed diner was initially convinced we were given the wrong dish). A home-style, one-pot dish, this version comes in the form of spicy stir-fried rice with red peppers and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cubes of sea cucumber. Nevertheless, it is tasty if slightly one-note.
If there's one thing to be learned, it’s that Goose Hut excels when staying within the realms of Hunan. Changsha-style tofu is both crispy on the outside and silken on the inside with just the right amount of kick, while ‘secret recipe chicken feet’ (other equally illuminating titles include ‘tasty duck’) are perfectly braised without falling into overly gelatinous territory. However, Hunan-style stewed melon (38RMB), though a welcome intermission from all the heat, isn’t really anything to write home about.
Goose Hut Qianmen is a solid option in an area that’s already saturated with Chinese eateries, and its prime fourth-floor spot – plus outdoor terrace – makes for a pleasant respite from the crowds. However, for those with a serious hankering for Hunan, it’s probably best to check out one of their other branches.
By Leanne Wong