Sure, there are Western hotel buffet-brunches in Beijing that beckon the need for elastic waistbands, but plopping yourself down at a Chinese-run buffet boasting the same kind of indulgences is as much anthropological as it is decadent. Golden Jaguar, known among Chinese as jin qian bao, is a household name synonymous with “upscale buffet”.
Golden Jaguar offers up a self-proclaimed “international” assortment of food, with a dizzying array of cooking stations covering nearly all Asian territories—Japan, Korea, Singapore—and expanding ambitiously to America, Italy, India and even France.
To fully appreciate Golden Jaguar, one must understand and appreciate the comical, kitschy amusement park elements. (You need tickets for certain food stands; those standing under 120cm get in for half price!) Expect to enter a huge labyrinth filled with ornate, crystal chandeliers, helpful fuwuyuan (service staff) and eager Chinese patrons expertly balancing plates of lightly salted, steamed grouper and fried tempura.
It’s fine if you don’t make it through all the options of dim sum, seafood and assorted potatoes, sautéed and battered fifteen ways the first plate around. By the time you meander around this place – and it will basically take you about ten minutes to stroll through; this buffet is China’s most gastronomically
gigantic gala– your food will have digested, making room for the next few plates. Not all the stations are worth checking out: skip the Western stuff and head straight to the Japanese, Taiwanese and Cantonese stations.The tip to do this properly is to make good use of the numbered clips placed on your table. (Approximately four to a table.) Hand it over to the friendly chefs at the various cooking stations to place your order; these tapas-sized plates come delivered to your table. Recommended is the seafood at the Cantonese station: clams sautéed lightly with garlic pair well with delicately steamed scallops sprinkled with ginger. Over in the seafood section, slabs of generously sliced sashimi are quickly embezzled by excited patrons; aunties start walking faster at the sight of a new pan of steaming crab claws making its way on to the assembly line. While the Golden Jaguar branding team hints at upscale buffet dining, the amount of food and clientele suggest more of a frenzied, apocalyptic last feast.
The selection of loose-leaf teas, brewed in personal tea kettles are a cute, custom touch, and the fresh, colorful array of fruit act as a needed palate cleanser, ranging from dragon fruit (succulent, sweet flesh dotted with edible black seeds) to fragrant Chinese pears. There’s also ice cream and an assortment of western sweets, but Asian tapioca concoctions and Chinese puff pastries stuffed with durian are far more interesting.
Not everything translates well. For example, a glass of sunken maraschino cherries marinated in suspicious neon green liquor has no redeeming qualities, despite the supposed alcoholic content. And yes, there is free flowing wine and beer here; albeit, the wine is the local type— with boxes of it standing around as decoration—perhaps the best thing the wine is used for. The beer on draft however, is refreshing and cooling, and hey, free flowing alcoholic beverages always make for a merrier time! After a few glasses, the ambience at Golden Jaguar starts looking classy, instead of the blinged-out Ikea cafeteria vibe it initially presents.
Despite the fact that much of the country’s diet subsists on the crop of the month, for those venturing into Golden Jaguar, the abundance of choice and simultaneously, waste, is staggering. Golden Jaguar reflects the status quo and mantra of the growing class of western embracing, well-to-do Chinese: quantity over quality. This said, while Chinese buffets in the Americas and elsewhere have come to be equated with cheap, soggy fried food, Golden Jaguar does exceedingly well in surpassing expectations.
This is a venue best suited for an informal business lunch (RMB 198 per head) or a festive dinner (RMB 238). There’s a live band playing Chinese contemporary pop music, a good prelude to drunken KTV fun. Three locations of Golden Jaguar exist in Beijing, but try the one at The Place, a setting as flashy as the buffet itself
4/F, North Bldg, The Place, 9 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District
Mon-Fri 11am-2.30pm, 5-10.30pm, Sat-Sun 10.30am-4pm, 5-10.30pm
+ (86 10) 6553 8888 for reservations