Chinaful Insider Guide: EAT in Beijing
Chinaful’s favorite restaurants in Beijing is the perfect first installment for our Insider Guides. These restaurants were selected based on over three years of dining all across the capital city. Our recommendations are Beijing institutions that consistently deliver clean and delicious food in interesting and authentic settings. For each restaurant we have provided a link to its listing on the Beijing magazine, “City Weekend,” which we have found to be the most reliable place to find Chinese addresses and maps to help you locate these establishments.
Lost Heaven $$$ – Lost Heaven melds Chinese, Burmese, Thai, and Lao ethnic minority cooking into fusion cuisine unlike anything you have ever tasted. Located in the beautiful and historic legation quarter (also referred to as the Geisha Quarter), Lost Heaven is just a short walk from the Southeast corner of Tiananmen Square. An evening at Lost Heaven can be surprisingly affordable considering the elegant ambiance and location. Chinaful recommends trying one of the mushroom dishes as they are a Yunnanese specialty. Chinaful also really enjoyed the lamb samosas and baked eggplant. Lost Heaven also has branches in Shanghai if you can’t make it to eat in Beijing.
Duck de Chine $$$ – This duck restaurant is sure to impress you and your guests but it isn’t particularly easy to find and it is certainly on the more expensive side (probably a bit overpriced). For having such a Western feel, the fish dishes are presented and served in the traditional Chinese style where you choose the fish and then they charge you based on weight. While the fish is very fresh and cooked to perfection in a light broth, it can get pretty expensive and you may want to stick to the meat dishes if you are worried about cost. Duck de Chine also has a brand new location in Wangfujing for those staying near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Be sure to call ahead for a reservation and regardless of which location you choose, we recommend you have your hotel write the address out in Chinese and draw you a map.
Duck de Chine’s famous Peking duck
Middle 8th $$ – Like Lost Heaven, Middle 8th serves food from China’s Yunnan Province, but in a more casual setting. While you really cannot go wrong choosing from their beautiful (and translated) menu, be sure to try the termite mushroom birchleaf pear flower salad, the jasmine flower omelet, and the lemongrass chicken (takes about 30+ minutes to prepare). Chinaful recommends you also try a bit of the traditional Yunnanesse rice wine that Middle 8th serves out of bamboo shoots. The rice wine is quite sweet and not highly alcoholic so you will probably want to drink it sparingly and as a compliment to some of their spicier dishes. Middle 8th has two locations only about a block away from each other. The one Chinaful has linked to is the original and the more casual of the two restaurants. The other is slightly easier to find as it is on the top floor of Tai Koo Li shopping mall, but it is also more upscale and lacks the character of the original location.
Spicy Yunnanese cuisine at Middle 8th
Hengshan Hui $ – This Dim Sum restaurant located in the North East nearby the new American Embassy is the best we have found in Beijing. At Hengshan Hui you order a la carte from a translated menu unlike a lot of the other buffet option Dim Sum restaurants in Beijing. Chinaful highly recommends the steamed pork BBQ buns, the shrimp dumplings, the pan-fried turnip cake, the garlic broccoli, and some fried rice to cure that Saturday or Sunday hangover.
Crescent Moon Muslim Restaurant $ – Chinese Muslim cuisine is a must during your trip. Most cities will have good options but if you find yourself in Beijing, Crescent Moon is a staple that most expats really enjoy. The Muslim spice mix that is rubbed on most of the grilled meats will keep you eating past the point of full. Chinaful highly recommends you have the fried bread cubes and lamb dish, the green beans, and that you dip the lamb pockets into some of their homemade yoghurt. Also the skewered meats are traditionally what attract people to Muslim Chinese restaurants so try some lamb, chicken wings, and anything else that piques your interest. Lastly, if you are feeling a bit nostalgic or home sick, order the “chao pian,” which is the Muslim version of homemade Chef Boyardee. A cold Xinjiang beer is the perfect accompaniement to this highly spiced (not spicy) meal. Note that the bathroom at Crescent Moon leaves a lot to be desired so avoid it if possible.
Jing Zun $ – For Peking duck on a budget and in a good location for night life, Jingzun delivers a lively atmosphere and a large translated menu with pictures to help you order. With duck in general, but particularly with this very popular restaurant, Chinaful recommends you have your hotel call ahead and reserve you however many ducks you think you’d like to order (general rule of thumb is one duck to three or four guests depending on how hungry you are and how many other dishes you order). Jingzun also has a great outdoor patio strewn with red lanterns if you visit when it’s nice outside. Some other dishes you should be sure to order include the spinach and peanuts and the kung pao shrimp. Jingzun also serves Qingdao’s darker beer (黑啤，pronounced “hey pea”) which is slightly sweet and has hints of coffee.
Bellagio $ – This chain restaurant serves what they call Taiwanese cuisine, but what Chinaful considers clean and delicious basic Chinese fare. Try the Dragon Beans with Gingko, the Kung Pao Tofu, the Dan Dan Mian (noodles), and for desert get the peanut ice mountain or be adventurous. Bellagio has many locations and is typically open very late or even 24 hours.
Traveling to China and want to know Chinaful’s recommendations? Leave a comment or email chinafulblog.com, and you might see answers to your questions on an upcoming post.
(Photos c/o Flickr Creative Commons)