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China trip recs

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I'm leaving next week for a two week trip and I am already dreaming about the chow possibilities. Here's the itinerary: Shanghai, Xian and Beijing. Any specific restaurants for any meal would be appreciated, but more so what foods are not to be missed. Are there specific cuisines to seek out? I know there has to be more than hunan, cantonese, and szechuan.

What can I eat on the street? Are vendors to be avoided, or are there some really tasty bites I can find?

Any ordering hints for restaurants? Is there anyway not to get the total tourist experience?

Here are some restaurants that we have heard of elsewhere. Any complete mistakes? Shanghai: Whampoa Club, Nanxiang Steamed Buns. Beijing: Red Capital Club, China Club, and Quan Ju De Duck.

Thanks for any help and pointers.

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  1. Hi there - Speaking and/or reading Chinese will help, but even if you don't, many restaurants with great food also have English menus. You can probably read up on China's regional cuisines in your guidebook. In Beijing (where I live now) look for strong flavors, garlic, cilantro, vinegar. Dumplings, noodles and flat breads are also really popular. Sadly, I can't speak for Shanghai. I would avoid the Red Capital Club unless you prize atmosphere (and it is gorgeous) over cuisine. I've never eaten at the China Club and Quan Ju De is famous for duck, though I vastly prefer Made in China at the Grand Hyatt. Even though it's a hotel restaurant, it really is filled with Chinese people. Their duck is exquisite.

    Here are a few other restaurants excerpted from one of my other posts on Beijing restaurants:

    I love hot pot, and I love Ding Ding Xiang's hot pot the most. Individual pots, addictive sesame dipping sauce, flaky sesame-crusted shao bing (a type of bun). Yum! As an added bonus: they've just added an English menu. Be prepared to wait for a table. 2/F Yuanjia Int'l Apartments, Dongzhimenwai, Dongzhong Jie 6417 9289
    Dishes to order: thinly sliced rib-eye beef or lamb, fish balls, fish dumplings, shao bing

    For the see-and-be-seen crowd, head over to Bellagio, late night. Actually, first go dancing next door at Babyface and THEN head to Bellagio where their Taiwanese fare will sate your 4am munchies. Don't miss dessert: tremendous mounds of shaved ice covered with red bean, tapioca, sago, condensed milk, you name it. 6 Gongti Xilu 6551 3533
    Dishes to order: Chongqing laziji (fried chicken nuggets flavored with sichuan peppercorn), Taiwan doufu bao (tofu claypot), niurou youtiao (beef with crullers), bao bing (shaved ice desserts)

    As for street food... When I first got here, I had a deep passion for it, but a few real and serious bouts of food poisening really put me off it. If you are determined, I would seek out "jianbing," a huge crepe, cooked with a fried egg, brushed with salty-sweet bean sauce, and hot sauce, and folded with a sheet of fried dough. Look for this at the Night Market on Wangfujing.

    Happy travels!

    1. m
      Michael Rodriguez

      for Shanghai:

      Lao Banzhai
      600 Fuzhou Lu

      This place is not nearly as spiffy as the three that follow, which could be good or bad. I couldn't resist the dofu and preserved egg dish.

      Lao Zhengxing
      556 Fuzhou Lu

      Not as good as the following two, but worth visiting for a look at some serious Shanghainese eaters and some good dumplings.

      Wang Baohe
      603 Fuzhou Lu

      Excellent crab dishes. The service was spotty--some nights excellent, other nights laughably inattentive. Go for the food, expecially the river shrimp and crab leg meat dish.

      Meiyuancun
      255 Dalian Xi Lu (Hongkou)
      4. No. 240 Lane, Beijing Xi Lu
      18 Xizang Zhong Lu (newest branch)

      Excellent food and excellent service. I visited the branch on Xizang Lu (second floor).

      All these places have either English or picture menus, but knowing a little Chinese can make the meal go much more smoothly.

      1. First, be aware that relatively few restaurants have English menus. And those that do often feature 'westernized' food. Pictures can be helpful, but aren't a guide to quality. Also, be aware that local tourism has taken off and you will find literally thousands of Asian tourists in each destination. Also the cultural differences mean a different dining experience (even in the top places, such as Whampoa Club, expect many diners to be accompanied by children - 1 per couple of course).
        Shanghai food we found relatively bland, often greasy, and usually slightly sweet. You'll get many references to the dumplings. Not worth an hour line-up, but quite good. Assuming you have limited time, the Whampoa Club in Shanghai is probably your best bet - very interesting ideas and some great dishes. Wine list expensive - but at least they have one! And as you MUST visit the Bund at night, why not take in the view from the Whampoa Club anyway. Jean-Georges is a pale imitation of the New York version and the staff really don't know English - they just parrot what they've been told to say about the dishes (I'm not criticising - their English is far better than my Mandarin).
        Also in Shanghai, although I didn't try it (ran out of time) my research suggested that, after the Bund places, the restaurant to try would be Fwu Luh Pavilion (in the Grand Gateway Mall) which serves Yangzhou food. And because of tourism, make reservations everywhere.

        1. Xian has great spicy hot pot, and wonderful dumplings. Have fun at the Tang Dynasty Show/Review, and order the multiple dumpling dinner, including duck shaped duck dumplings and great black walnut dumplings. In the mosque area near the Bell Tower are good muslim lanb dishes, including the aforementioned hot pot. Xianese people are very friendly: have a great time!

          1. Just got back from Beijing and Shanghai...if you can, you MUST try this place called Ye Olde Station in Shanghai (Shanghai Lao Zhan). The decor was beautiful, and the food was perfectly cooked Shanghainese cuisine. Just ask for the most typical Shanghainese dishes, such as braised pork in soysauce, lightly sauteed shrimp, and little dragon buns. The jellyfish heads was amazingly crispy too!

            For Peking duck, I went to Duck King (Ya Wang) because my local friends there all said that Quan Ju De is too greasy. Actually, the food court at the Oriental Shopping Mall (Dong Fang Guang Chang) is pretty amazing. They even have a special dish from Yunnan province called Guo Qiao Mian, or Crossing Bridge noodle, because it has a legendary story behind it about a wife who brings her husband his meals by crossing over a bridge.

            Get ready to eat!