Wushi Kongjian (吾十空间)

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Yunnan
50 Dongsi Wutiao

Little if anything distinguishes Wushi Kongjian from the private homes that surround it. The grey brick arch that frames the clean red door sports a small iron plaque engraved with just wu, 吾. It’s more like calling on a neighbour than dinner out. The familiar character continues past the threshold as a friendly, if painfully shy, cook ushers you towards the inner confines. 

The space is small for a courtyard restaurant, but laid out cleverly to allow natural light in. The whitewashed walls are decorated with post-modern works from the owner and manager’s own collection. An artist herself, the space will eventually double as a gallery. Like many of the other Yunnan restaurants that have opened recently, the menu at Wushi Kongjian is set, so all you need do is pay in advance via its WeChat store and show up with an appetite (dinner for two 500RMB, includes a bottle of wine). We were asked in advance about allergies and things we’d rather not eat, but otherwise don’t expect much consultation over the finer points. As we reclined under the slanting willow in the centre, we weren’t sure what to expect. 

The meal begins with a platter of chilled rice noodles with chilli sauce, crushed peanuts and sautéed garlic scapes. The cool noodles have a silken texture and yield instantly, spreading the warm tingly heat of the chillies, punctuated with crunches of peanut. Mid-slurp, a deep bowl of stewed long beans and summer squash arrives, but the muted flavours and mealy texture disappoint. 

Before the dull veggies have time to impact our mood, another bowl arrives, this time filled to the brim with cubes of tender boiled beef. A dish of ground chillies topped with bright emerald mint is provided for dipping. The sauce permeates the sinuous layers of the slow-cooked morsels, lightening the flavours with a punch of spice. We realise our error in assuming the beef is the main course as soon as a bowl the size of a child’s head arrives heaped with slices of hot and sour carp. The thick slices are perfectly cooked and beautifully flakey. 

Finally, a plate of steamed goats’ cheese with ham arrives – alabaster slices of dairy layered delicately in a chilled, fragrant broth. The chewy ham adds some texture and a nutty finish. We leave reluctantly; the stillness of the afternoon and the special meal, prepared just for us, make everything outside the quiet stone walls seem brutish. 

Wushi Kongjian is a special treat. A beautiful alcove of serenity, available for rent.

Venue name: Wushi Kongjian (吾十空间)
Opening hours: Hours flexible, reservation only
English address: 50 Dongsi Wutiao, Dongcheng district
Chinese address: 东城区东四五条50号
  • 4 out of 5 stars