The buzz: Founded by Li Shanlin, an offspring of the royal family in the Qing Dynasty, Family Li's Imperial Cuisine is the only place in town where you can sample the exclusive imperial cuisine from the Forbidden City. Its re-opening after almost one year of adjustment means you can literally eat like a queen or king yet again.
The look: Hidden in Huangpu Park, Family Li's gives the air of a private garden house. Its exquisite private rooms, with such elegant names like 'Purple Bamboo Room', come in different sizes, and there is a small intimate area to accommodate couples.
The food: The recipes here are said to have been smuggled out of the imperial kitchen by Li Shanlin's father, who used to be the chief of security guards in the Forbidden City during the reign of Empress Cixi. No microwave or high pressure cooker is allowed in the kitchen; all the dishes are prepared on oven fire in the exact same way as in Cixi's kitchen. And there is definitely no use of artificial flavorings like MSG or pigments.
There are three set menus available: 800rmb, 1,000rmb or 1,500rmb per person. Each menu consists of ten small-size courses. Stir-fried fresh green bean paste with fresh scallops is a surprising yet refreshing combination, while fried beef with chili sauce is crisp on the surface layer and tender inside - this is probably the most sophisticated fried beef we've ever tasted. Deep-fried duck with shrimp paste and sesame is a classic imperial dish full of fragrance.
In the end, don't miss Fried Egg Custard as dessert. This refined Beijing style dish is extremely difficult to make - its ingredients have to be beaten more than 600 times by hand to make for the soft and glutinous texture without being sticky.
The crowd: This is where rich businessmen entertain their important clients and well-off local diners celebrate special occasions. It also draws in a huge number of tourists and visiting celebrities, such as Bill Clinton and Yang Zhenning.
Why you'll be back: To many, there is no need to go back. One single visit is already something for you to remember and talk about. However, you'll never get tired of the food here if you've got enough cash to spend. - Stella Shu