Where to Eat in Beijing

Asia, China, Departments, Destinations, Dispatches from the Road, Expats Abroad, Food & Wine, Tours & Attractions — By on April 3, 2009 at 11:21 am

dali ChinaHCC: I’m hopping on a plane to China to celebrate the completion of the book on April 15th. My sister is coming with me, and I’m visiting my friend Jen who left New York to live and work in Beijing.

My favorite part about having a blog is all the amazing people we meet virtually (and sometimes in person, too!). Just as I started to research where to go and what to do, a reader who lives in Beijing emailed us with information on the very city I’ll be visiting.

Tak is a Beijing-based entrepreneur who loves checking out cool restaurants and adventure travel. His travels include diving in Sipadan, sailing at Phi Phi Island, kayaking in Halong Bay, climbing Mt. Baker in Washington State and snowboarding at Whistler. He is currently building up a new travel site, Fun Tourist Attractions.

Since food is a great way to experience the local culture, we asked Tak for his favorite places to dine in Beijing. Here’s his advice:

“Everyone who travels to Beijing is drawn by its numerous world famous attractions, such as the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium and the Water Cube Aquatics Center. However, most people don’t realize that Beijing is also a culinary wonderland – there are plenty of great restaurants, many specializing in cuisines (e.g. Hakka, Xinjiang, Dongbei, Yunnan) unheard of outside China. High-end restaurants are beautifully furnished – some even with indoor koi ponds, pavilions and gardens. If you are visiting Beijing, here are some “must try” and very unique restaurants where I’m sure you will have special and memorable dining experiences:

Pure Lotus
Possibly the most amazing vegetarian restaurant you’ll ever step into. Said to be run by Buddhist monks, the restaurant’s elegant oriental decor, sounds of running water and soft lights immediately puts you at ease. The delicious “fish” and “meat” dishes on their menu taste almost like the real thing, except that they are cleverly prepared with healthy vegetarian ingredients like tofu, gluten and mushroom. Every dish is creatively presented – the fruit platter floats on dry ice, faux pork ribs in a snail shaped ceramic bowl, vegetables served in jade vessels, etc.

Dali Yunnan CuisineQuanjude Peking Duck Restaurant
Established in 1864, Quanjude is a Beijing institution. Not only can you enjoy authentic Peking duck at their swanky new Houhai Lake location, they even have professionally choreographed, complimentary cultural performances every evening at 7pm. The restaurant’s location is another big plus – before or after dinner, you can explore the scenic Houhai Lake area which is packed with cafes, bars and souvenir shops.

Dali Courtyard
This gem of a restaurant is hidden in a dingy little alley in a historic neighborhood not far from the centuries-old Drum and Bell Towers. Once you step inside you will be wowed by its charming outdoor courtyard, where you can savor flavorful Yunnan cuisine under the stars and cool night breeze. Dali is one of the best ways to experience the more nostalgic side of Beijing.

Le Quai
For some reason, in Beijing good restaurants are often tucked away in obscure locations and Le Quai is no exception: it stands alone in a secluded corner next to the Worker’s Stadium. You will be awed the moment you arrive at Le Quai – the gorgeous and very unique traditional-style building was shipped piece by piece from its original location in Anhui province. Add to that some artistic touches plus their tasty Fusion-Chinese menu, and you have the recipe for an unforgettable dining experience.

Afunti Dinner-Show
Afunti is not a place to chill or engage in dinner conversation – more “show” than “dinner”, their captivating and noisy performance includes belly dancing, kungfu, big snakes and more. If you have children they will probably love this place! You also get to enjoy Xinjiang cuisine and have a taste of the rowdy culture and exotic sounds of western China.”

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