BEIJING - A no-frills restaurant that sits on a busy street in Beijing's Xicheng district has become the capital's latest - and perhaps most unlikely - tourist attraction in the past week.
People pose for photos in front of the shop, a branch of the Qingfeng steamed bun chain, before entering to snap more pictures. Inside, a long line of customers are waiting to place their order of six steamed buns with pork and onions, stir-fried pig's liver and a plate of vegetables.
The restaurant owes its sudden fame not to its food but to a VIP - President Xi Jinping - who went to the shop on Dec 28. The Chinese leader joined the queue at the self-service counter, where he ordered six pork and onion buns, stir-fried pig's liver and vegetables. The simple meal cost 21 yuan (S$4.40), which he paid himself.
Many Chinese, long used to having top leaders who rule from a distance, were pleasantly surprised, if not excited, at the sight of Mr Xi carrying his own tray and eating at a table, just like them.
Sceptics saw it as a public relations stunt to portray Mr Xi as a man of the people and to boost his austerity campaign.
Stunt or not, it helped turn the nondescript eatery, with its cream-coloured walls and movable wooden tables, into a must-see place overnight. Local media reported that as many as 400 people turned up last Sunday, the day after Mr Xi's visit, all jostling to order the same food Mr Xi ate.
When The Sunday Times visited the restaurant last Tuesday, there were still at least 50 people waiting in line at about 2pm. Despite not being on the menu, the xi zong tao can - or President Xi's combo - was the most popular order of the day. The customers not only wanted to eat what Mr Xi ate but also wanted to know where he sat, snapping pictures even as they tucked into the food.
Some even asked to sit at the same table that Mr Xi had occupied but media reports said the restaurant had removed the actual table over fears that customers would fight over the spot.