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Jun 15, 2006 05:35 PM

Some Beijing Recommendations

  • j

Here I am yet again in Beijing, and I realize it has been ages since I have posted any restaurant recs for the Chinese capital. Here goes some ideas:

Sichuan cuisine:

Sichuan cuisine is very 'hot' in Beijing at the moment (has been for a while) so there are loads of places all over the place offering Sichuan cuisine, many claiming to be Beijing branches of Sichuan-based restaurants. One of these to open recently is called:

Baguo Buyi (means common people of the land of 'Ba', an ancient name for Sichuan), located on the 3rd Ring Road, just south of Jianguo Lu, on the second floor of an office bldg. The place is usually packed, often with large, loud parties. The food is pretty good, though their signature dish, 'shui zhu yu' (fish cooked in spicy oil) was a bit under-spiced, despite the thick layer of chili peppers on top. The menu has English and some photos for you non-Chinese speakers.

Far better is Feiteng Yuxiang, a small chain with a couple of locations dotted around the city. The one I like best is at 1 Gongren Tiyuchang Beilu (the north Workers' Stadium Road), in a very swanky building that seems to go on forever. Despite its size, you will probably have to wait for a table, but it's well worth it. The shui zhu yu here is reputed to be the best in Beijing, and I believe it. You pick what kind of fish they'll make it with, and can watch them whack the wriggling critter with a cleaver just as it's about to be cooked. Their 'kou shui ji' (spicy cold chicken dish) is about the best I have ever had.

Guizhou Cuisine:

What, you never heard of Guizhou cuisine? Ever since three Guizhou artists opened up "Three Guizhou Men" in an alley near the Friendship Store a couple of years ago this cuisine has become relatively popular in the city, and now they have moved into nicer digs and opened at least one additional branch. But the best one for visitors is still the one off of Dongdaqiao Lu just north of Jianguomenwai Dajie, in an alley on the left hand side of the street (as you go north) with a big sign (in Chinese) across the alley's gate. There are so many dishes here to recommend, but among the standouts are 'beef on fire' (pieces of beef in hot sauce served over chives on a grid that sits on a burning bed of coals so the burning chives give it a smoky taste), lamb with mint hotpot, and their ribs. All excellent, very spicy, and great with beer.


Ding Tai Feng (often spelled Din Tai Fung for some reason) is a Taiwan-based Shanghai dumpling phenomenon that opened in Beijing a few years ago in a remote street near the Yuxiang Hotel in Dongcheng. This place makes outstanding xiao long bao of several varieties, as well as other kinds of steamed dumplings (no boiled or pan-fried dumplings here) and small dishes, such as the excellent sweet and sour small ribs. Prices are very reasonable for such a fancy looking establishment, too.

"Gui Jie":

On Dongzhimen Nei Dajie there is a seemingly endless stream of restaurants, mostly marked by red paper lanterns, serving hotpot and crawfish. It's hard to say if one is better than another, or to recommend one over another, since they come and go, so if you see a place that is busy, go there. Ordering is a bit complicated if you don't read Chinese, since the 'menu' often consists of little more than a piece of paper with the names of various meats, vegetables and other hot-potable ingredients on it for you to tick off. Some can be kind of scary, like fish maw and pig intestine, but if you're adventurous (or not afraid to send something back that you latterly realized you cannot stomach, like sheep stomach) then go for it.

Also on this street is a lovely courtyard-style restaurant called Huajia's Restaurant at number 235 Dongzhimen Nei Dajie. Situated in an old courtyard house, with a retractable roof to keep out inclement weather, they serve very good Sichuan, Cantonese and Beijing dishes. Excellent for a special occasion.

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  1. Thanks James,

    I am homesick for Beijing, and you descriptions made my mouth water even at 7am here in Lux.

    Is the la mien place across form the Hong Qiao market still there? Their ma dou fu and ribs were excellent.


    1 Reply
    1. re: jill kibler

      I can attest to the surprising fact that the lamian place is still there! How are you doing? Drop me a line--I'm moving back to Beijing, it seems, in September!

    2. I have no idea what Din Tai Fung's pricing is in Beijing, but based on a recent experience with the Shanghai (Xintiandi) branch, there is no way I would characterize them as "reasonable" after paying RMB Y45 for 10 xiaolong bao with the standard pork filling. The neighborhood rate for good XLB in Shanghai is Y3 for 8 baozi, and Jia Jia Tang Bao, which makes the best xiaolong bao in Shanghai (and maybe the world) gets a handsome RMB Y6 for 12 pieces.



      3 Replies
      1. re: Gary Soup

        You are, of course, right. I had forgotten where I was and what the going price for such things are. I stand corrected!!

        1. re: James G

          Din Tai Feng (I believe "din" is the Wade-Giles spelling) is near the Yuyang Fandian, not the Yuxiang fandian.

          1. re: Petit Pois

            Oh, my! I must have yu xiang rou si on my mind!

      2. Thanks so much for these ideas. I concur with you on Feiteng Yuxiang. I like DinTaiFung and just accept its high prices for China. BTW, its "Fung" because it is a Taiwanese chain. The service and almond jello make it worth paying in my mind. I also like "SanGuiZhouRen" though I much prefer the old location near St Regis Hotel. And I am going to try some of the others you mentioned. My suggestions or additions to your great list:

        Sichuan - the ChangCheng Fandian (Great Wall Restaurant) which is right next to the Great Wall Sheraton is surprisingly decent and relatively cheap (esp given the proximity to Lao Wai hotel like Sheraton). But the best Sichuan restaurant in Beijing I have been to is in the Sichuan provincial office. South Beauty is not bad either though generally I avoid chain places. Someone reviewed it decently on foobai website so I won't bother going into details.

        Might I suggest a Xinjiang place as well? Xinjiang Wanyue Uyghor Muslim Restaurant has the best leg of lamb ever. It takes about 40 minutes (despite what they tell you) but it is absoutely delicious and tender and moist on inside (not dry like most places). Other unmentionable delicacies if you are adventurous enough. I found the address for this place on foobai and it is as good as the restaurant review suggests. In Liutiaohutong.

        5 Replies
        1. re: eltongore

          I disagree on the Din Tai Fung chain. The "service" at the Shanghai Xintiandi branch seemed to consist mostly of white-coated supernumeraries uttering gratuitous "hellos" and "thank yous" and a server who was at once servile and condescending trying to tell me (in perfect English, I'll grant) what I wanted to eat. It all seemed really "over the top" for a dumpling shop and didn't justify charging ten times the price of a local hole-in-the wall that made even better xiaolong bao.

          1. re: Gary Soup

            Well, the service at the Beijing branch is really superb, though they don't speak much English. And what I mean by good service is that they don't hover, they pace the food well, they bring you napkins if you ask for napkins. Yesterday I watched them patiently and kindly clean up a whole glass of spilled milk after a child dumped it on the floor. And they've never told me how to order. I live in Beijing and eat at DTF at least once a week because the food is delicious, it's clean and the service is excellent - cheerful, polite and efficient. Also, I don't think a restaurant should be condemned just because some people consider it overpriced - which is debatable, anyway. Besides, who am I to judge what other people pay for food? Is Per Se overpriced? El Bulli? How about the Cheesecake Factory? This is a discussion for another board, however. And in Beijing, unlike Shanghai, it's difficult to find good, cheap xiaolongbao. Anyway, I've noticed a lot of pointed comments from you about Din Tai Fung and felt I had to share my Beijing experiences - please don't judge the entire chain based on visits to only a few locations! :)

            1. re: Petitpois

              You may have noticed I had high praise for DTF's xiaolong bao. It certainly has beaten the Nanxiang Steamed Dumpling Shop at its own game, since NXSD seems to have lost interest in anything but raking in tourist dollars these days. I went to DTF wanting to NOT like its xiaolong bao since I consider it a pretender, or interloper, and went away ready to declare it the best I knew of until I followed a couple of bloggers leads and found my way to Jia Jia Tang bao.

              I don't know how much of DTF's preciosity and pricey-ness is attributable to its Xintiandi location, but it definitely put me off. It IS a dumpling shop after all, and charging 10X the going neighborhood price for a comparable product is a bit hard to accept. In fact, dumpling for dumpling, DTF's Xintiandi price was more than I pay for the best available xiaolong bao in the San Francisco Bay Area.

              1. re: Gary Soup

                I've never been to the Xintiandi location but did go to the other Shanghai branch (near the airport). That was my first exposure to DTF and I loved it. About 1 1/2 years later the branch in Beijing opened and it has greatly improved my quality of life here, ridiculous though that may sound. I am an adventurous eater, but I really appreciate the quality control at Din Tai Fung - they always, always deliver, which is (sadly) rare in these parts. As for the preciousness of DTF - I don't see where you're coming from - I find it clean and casually elegant and not a dining "experience." But perhaps we're comparing apples and oranges since I've never been to the Xintiandi - and I'm guessing you've never been to the Beijing branch? As for price, one basket of xiaolongbao is RMB68 here in Beijing. That's US $8.50, or $0.70 a dumpling - in my mind, not that expensive and oh-so-worth-it! As for the superiority/cheapness of Jia Jia Tang or NXSD - we don't have a multitude of xlb restaurants here in Beijing like they do in Shanghai so shopping around for the cheapest is not an option. Granted, if I lived in Shanghai I might feel differently about DTF, but in Beijing I think it deserves every ounce of its well-earned, excellent reputation.

          2. re: eltongore

            Thanks for the points. I used to adore South Beauty when I lived in Beijing in 2002, and have gone back regularly during my subsequent business trips, but ever since they took the ma la tu ding (麻辣兔丁--hot and numbing rabbit) off the menu, they lost a star in my book. I also like the Sichuan provincial office restaurant, though have not been there in ages.

            Funnily enough I was just taken to Wanyue on a recent trip (in April, when it suddenly snowed one day out of the blue) and loved it. The service was amazing, the food exquisite, etc, and the Europeans I was with all were wowed by the place.

          3. Enough of this, we've all made our points. Foodwise, I'm a bottom feeder at heart (and XLB are people's food IMHO). I can't eat good service and if I need a clean bathroom I'll go to McDonalds (or home).

            The RMB68 sounds like the price of crab XLB, not the standard pork ones, which were a mere RMB45 for 10 at Xintiandi (compared to Jia Jia's RMB8 for 12).

            2 Replies
            1. re: Gary Soup

              Oops, you're right. DTF's xlb are RMB 38 per steamer for 12 - even cheaper than I thought. By the way, I'm not a prissy eater - I eat everywhere and anything. But living in China has made me appreciate things like napkins on demand. And cleanliness. Who said anything about the bathroom? I'd rather have clean food and plates.

              1. re: Petitpois

                Well, you can always bring your own bowl, which my wife sometimes does when we go to the cheapo student hangout near our Hongkou apt.

            2. DTF is expensive for China. No debate there. The question is whether the quality is superb. I know some very picky eaters who have flown on SW Air fr SF to LA just to eat at DTF and then fly back. I lived in SF and haven't found any xiaolongbao of comparable quality at any price. And when Japan was booming, they were flying fr Tokyo to eat at the original DTF in Taipei, which still has lines around the block. OK, maybe that was a touristy or cult motivation and not purely abt the food.

              People I know who go to DTF in China generally accept that they can certainly find cheaper xiaolongbao, and maybe even once in a great while comparable quality. Did you notice the XLB at DTF is very juicy but not overly oily inside. Its because they freeze soup and mix it into the meat prior to wrapping it. I haven't tasted many other places that do that. DTF is consistently a higher class of restaurant than most in China. Higher class environment, better service (Beijing beats Xintiandi or LA's DTF), better food, and even better plates and cups. No, I dont care abt the quality of their china, but some people do care and its their money and their perogative to define dining value however they wish.

              I'm going to have to check out this Jia Jia Tang bao because if someone can deliver same DTF quality at a lower price, that is a no brainer for me. If not, when I am in the mood for the best, I'd rather pay for the better quality of everything at DTF than save what amounts to just a few bucks.