Food and Drink in Beijing
As a cosmopolitan city, Beijing is a real treat for foodies. From fine dining down to the dirtiest vendor selling delicious baked yams from a cart on the street, there is no shortage of eating options in the capital city.
Another name for Beijing is Peking, and another name for delicious is Peking duck. Think of a whole duck, roasted for an entire day and then carved before your eyes by the wait staff. The best part is the skin, which should be crisp and also succulent from the roasted fat that lies beneath. We highly recommend that you to sit down for a full-course menu of the city's namesake dish.
Beijingers like to mix it up a bit, too, and the city responds with a vast array of restaurants that showcase not only international cuisine, but regional delicacies from throughout China -- so you might encounter Mongolian barbecue, Shanghai-style soup dumplings or spicy Sichuan food. Each of China's 22 provinces has an official government office in the capital city, and adjacent to many of these offices are eateries representing the provincial cuisine.
One of the best things about dining in Beijing is the price. For the amount you'd normally spend on a dinner at Applebee's, you can eat like you're at Nobu. But the real fun comes with the opposite: finding an obscure hole-in-the-wall and treating yourself to obscene amounts of goodness for merely dollars per person. (While undoubtedly worth experiencing, many of the best local joints offer no English menus. Don't forget -- there is no shame in pointing to the happiest-looking guy in the dining room and gesturing that you'd like what he's having.)
For something completely different, remember, you don't have to stay at a five-star hotel to enjoy the decadent comforts that lie within. Many of the city's finer hotels offer all-you-can-eat-AND-drink brunches on Sundays. You'll surely gain a few pounds before you leave, but what a treat to have lobster, foie gras and Champagne brought to you on demand from waiters darting beneath countless crystal chandeliers. Excellent Sunday brunches can be found at the Westin Chaoyang, the Hilton Wangfujing and the Kempinski.
And, if you're craving a range of international fare, head to the bustling embassy district of Sanlitun. There you'll see not only plenty of foreigners but also just as many bars and restaurants catering to the masses with every sort of international dish you can imagine.
For drinks, if you really want to go local, try baijiu, which is a distilled grain spirit. You may never have heard of it, but thanks to China's huge population, it accounts for more than a third of global liquor consumption. Be careful, though, because baijiu comes in different alcohol percentages, some as high as 60 percent (you do want to make it to your ship, right?). There are all different types, both flavored and unflavored, so chat up a bartender who speaks some English to find the type you'd like to sample; Moutai is one, more upscale, brand to try.
Bianyifang: This old and reputable roast duck establishment claims to have been in business since 1416 -- though there are now a number of modern branches around the city. (Various locations; open daily, most 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
Duck de Chine: For Peking duck in a modern, swanky setting (with prices to match) that includes a Bollinger Champagne bar, head to one of this restaurant's two outlets. Other duck preparations are also a specialty here, including French-style duck confit and even duck tacos. Reservations are essential. (Duck de Chine @ 1949 The Hidden City; Gong Ti Bei Lu, Chao Yang District; +86 10 6501 8881; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; or Duck de Chine @ 1949 Jin Bao Jie; No.98, Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District; +86 10 6521 2221; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
Lost Plate Hutong Food Tour: Zip around by tuk-tuk to hidden, very local restaurants located in Beijing's old hutong neighborhoods. You'll get to visit five different dining spots, representing a range of Chinese regional cuisine, from noodles to Mongolian barbeque to savory pancakes. These places aren't fancy, but very authentic -- just don't accept a local's baijiu drinking challenge! (+86 1814 944 6747; Tuesday to Sunday, 6:30 p.m.)
Mei Mansion (Mei Fu Jia Yan): For a unique splurge, head to this restaurant celebrating a world-famous Chinese opera performer of the 1920s and '30s. D?cor includes his elaborate costumes and antiques from his era. Refined recipes are handed down from his chef, and dishes rotate with the seasons. There's no menu; rather, the chef cooks a set meal based on the price range you prefer. The restaurant is located in a historic hutong courtyard house and your visit includes a tour. (24 Daxiangfeng hutong, Xicheng district; +86 10 6612 6845; open daily 11.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5.30-10 p.m.; advance reservations essential)
Bao Yuan Dumpling Restaurant (Bao Yuan Jiaozi Wu): Dumplings, or jiaozi, come in countless varieties here, with colorful vegetable-dyed wrappers to make the experience even more fun. The northern-style dumplings are boiled, rather than steamed; with basic fillings, like pork with cabbage, or more exotic options, including lotus root, cucumber, cilantro and pork (zi bai pi ou xian jiaozi), There are also many vegetarian options. Prices are very reasonable, even if you have to wait, tables turn over quickly. (6 Maizidian Jie, Chaoyang District; 6586 4967; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Donghuamen Night Market: For a taste of the bizarre, head to this market at the north entrance of Wangfujing Street in the Dongcheng district. Here, you can satisfy your late-night munchies with goodies like deep-fried scorpions, lizards or crickets. Or you can just order some spring rolls and watch everyone else eat bugs.
Flamme: Tired of insect cuisine? If you're longing for a juicy steak or a cheeseburger so big you'll need two hands to eat it, then head to Flamme. They offer great deals every day of the week, but the lunch specials are when Flamme really gets hot.