Bayi Laoye feels like the Gongti mega-club of eateries. Decked out in floor-to-ceiling marble, with Corinthian-style needless ornamentation at every corner and enough polished brass and hanging chandeliers to please Donald Trump, the citywide chain that specialises in the cuisine of China’s westernmost frontier is anything but understated.
But unlike the mega-clubs that sit with empty VIP booths, every Bayi is perennially full to the rafters, and it’s no mystery as to why: cheap, fast and damn good. Now it’s first location in central Chaoyang is poised to go head to head with some actual mega clubs. The digs on Gongti Bei Lu are no less grand and the grub is just as good.
Bayi does chuan’r better than anyone, with chunks of lamb paired in equal measure with cubes of charred fat coated in a blend of coriander seed, cumin, pepper, turmeric and fennel seeds. The choice skewers (16RMB) use rosewood branches to impart an extra woody aroma, but the classic (4RMB) is just as good, a fraction of the price and only a touch smaller. Dapanji (52RMB), stewed chicken with root veggies, chopped noodles and grilled nang flat bread (6RMB) is a platter fit for a king.
If you can get hold of one (they sell out with blistering speed) try the kaobaozi (4RMB), buns stuffed with lamb and roasted in the charcoal oven. Wash it all down with some house-made yoghurt (8RMB) sweetened with rock-sugar and as much free tea as you can manage for a fast, cheap and fabulous meal.
By Nick Gollner