On one of my walks in Beijing last summer, I happened to stumble across this sign…

It was set at the corner of Andingmennei Dajie, right at the entrance to Jiaodaokou Beitoutiao, and I knew right then and there that I needed to bring my husband here. Several months later, when we went back to Beijing, I finally had the opportunity to do that. And, boy, this place did not disappoint.

First of all, any restaurant that is simply going to call itself “Roast Leg of Mutton” has got to mean business. No clever names, no fancy decor, no advertising gimmicks… Just the sweet aroma of gamey lamb meat roasting over charcoal, wafting down the alley out into the main thoroughfare.

You pick out your leg of mutton from the fridge at the back of the restaurant, then they weigh it, take it out to start roasting on a portable spit, and when it’s about ready they bring the spit in and set it into the hole in the middle of your table to let the meat finish roasting. Then you carve the meat off yourself and eat it with chili, cumin, and salt.

They do actually serve food other than roast leg of mutton here. And there are a few complimentary side dishes like pickled vegetables as well. We didn’t realize that the meat would continue roasting over charcoal at our table, otherwise we probably would’ve thought to wait until colder months to try this, though there is a vent above each table to help ventilate the place. But the nice thing about continuing to roast it yourself is that you can cook it to your desired level of doneness. You can shave off a piece and hold it down closer to the coals to finish cooking. And you can even turn the whole spit over yourself to roast the top side while you carve off meat from the bottom side.

When my husband talks about this — now ranked as one of his top five food experiences — he likes to describe how we were given long utensils to carve and spear the meat off the spit, and how the fat dripped from the meat and sizzled as it hit the burning coals, accompanying our meal with a gentle tss, tss sound. It was beautiful.

Roast Leg of Mutton (碳花烤羊腿)
1 Jiaodaokou Beitoutiao (right off of Andingmennei Dajie) [map]
交道口北头条 1号
(Note: The doorpost says the address is #1, but this does not correspond to Google Maps. Spot currently marked on map link is to physical restaurant space.]