The Guide

Where to Eat Like a Local in Beijing

Tom O'Malley  •  Photos by Elizabeth Phung  •  July 25, 2017

Where to Eat Like a Local in Beijing

Tom O'Malley  •  Photos by Elizabeth Phung  •  July 25, 2017


Travel and culinary guru Mei Zhang shares her insider finds

A native of Yunnan, Mei Zhang was raised at a time when food was scarce and every little morsel had to be treasured. It’s a lesson she never forgot, even after moving to Beijing to found award-winning travel company WildChina. In her first book, Travels through Dali: With a Leg of Ham, Mei returns to her home province to reconnect with its food, customs, and people. Published by Penguin, it’s part journal, part recipe bible—an homage to the little-known culinary treasures of a distant corner of China. For Rosewood Conversations, she revealed her must-visit spots to eat out in Beijing, and what to order.

When I first arrived in Beijing, the restaurant scene consisted of places selling boiled jiaozi (dumplings), Chongqing-style spicy chicken and Quanjude Peking duck. Good, but predictable. Twenty years on, Beijing has become a truly international culinary capital showcasing every type of cuisine at its best. This list could be much longer.

 

Duck de Chine

Of course, Beijing-style duck is a must. Traditionally, Quanjude is the nationally recognized brand for the city’s signature dish, but I personally prefer newer and more creative interpretations. Duck de Chine was started by a Hong Kong entrepreneur, so the restaurant offers a blend of Eastern cuisine and Western dining etiquette.

What to order: The juicy, flavorful ducks are brined in molasses and slow-roasted in wood-burning ovens, and the duck sauce—imbued with medicinal spices and swirled with toasted garlic—is very innovative. The courtyard setting, with cozy, circular tables surrounded by lanterns, makes it an intimate place for entertaining guests.

Duck de Chine: 1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District; +86 10-6501-8881

Country Kitchen

It’s quite unusual for an upscale restaurant to focus on northern Chinese food—all that heavy wheat and meat from the Great Wall regions—but that’s why I love Country Kitchen at Rosewood Beijing. When I compare these dishes to the lighter, aromatically spicy fare from Yunnan, it’s a reminder of the incredible culinary diversity in China, and how our unifying love of food adapts to the different environments we have.

What to order: Chewy, hand-pulled noodles with chili oil; delicious, crisp-fried pot-stickers with pork and cabbage; roasted leg of Inner Mongolian lamb; fried wing beans with black beans.

Country Kitchen: Rosewood Beijing; Jing Guang Centre, Hujialou, Chaoyang District; +86 10 6536 0085

Yunnan Provincial Government Office Restaurant

The best Yunnan cuisine in all of Beijing. Every province in China has a representative office in the capital, where officials come to network or have meetings, and they usually dine in the attached restaurant. Therefore, the best, freshest ingredients and chefs are regularly flown in. Here you can find seasonal greens, mountain ferns—even wild Yunnan mushrooms like shiitakes and morels.

What to order: The noodle soup, a typical, deceptively simple dish of fine rice noodles in a clear pork bone broth flavored with an array of condiments like fresh chili, Chinese chives, mint and pickles—it always reminds me of home. And, of course, green peppers stir-fried with little amber jewels of Yunnan ham, an artisanal ingredient from the mountain regions of Dali Prefecture, upon which I based my book.

Yunnan Provincial Government Office Restaurant: Yun Teng Bingguan, Bldg. 7, Huashi Beili Dongqu, Dongcheng District; +86 10-6711-3322

Din Tai Fung

The fact that this Taiwanese soup dumpling chain has been able to maintain its superb food quality and service as it expands from Taipei to Beijing, Shanghai and Los Angeles is impressive. It’s a casual place, perfect for lunch or a pre-theater dinner. The dough and filling for each dumpling is precisely weighed to ensure consistency.

What to order: A steamer of delicate, Shanghai-style tangbao (soup dumplings with pork).

Din Tai Fung: 24 Xinyuan Xili Zhonglu, Chaoyang District; +86 10-6462-4502

Temple Restaurant Beijing Hutong

If you only plan on having one fine-dining Western meal in Beijing, it has to be at Temple Restaurant. The setting, inside an old temple complex, is incomparable. Hidden amid Beijing’s hutong alleyways, the building was almost derelict before renovation—it even served as a TV factory during the Cultural Revolution. Today, beautifully restored, it’s a lovely place to stroll around, glass of Champagne in hand, before dining. The only downside is walking through the alleyways in heels to get there! But once you arrive, the pain is soon forgotten.

What to order: Inventive modern European dishes like “burnt mackerel” with eggplant ravioli, and a foie gras terrine crafted to look like a crab apple, a popular fruit in Beijing.

TRB Hutong: 23 Shatan Beijie, Dongcheng District; +86 10-8400-2232

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