Celebratory Dinner in Beijing
- James G Sep 24, 2006 12:38 PM
I'm looking for a place (or maybe a few) that would be suitable for a celebratory dinner in Beijing (birthday, anniversary, etc). Any cuisine is acceptable, but it should not just be a fancy place with prices to match--excellent food, nice atmosphere, good service are all important aspects. Thanks!
I have been to Din Tai Fung several times and though I like their dumplings well enough I just don't get what all the fuss is about. Can you share with me your ordering advice so maybe I'll realize what I've been missing?
Hmmmm, no special ordering advice. I have tried the pork-stuffed dumplings, the pork and crab-stuffed, and the pork-stuffed with a shrimp on the top.
What makes them special for me is the combination of the delicate wrappers, the tasty meat, and the hot juicy broth that you get when you put the dumpling in your mouth and bite. I just love the combination of tastes and textures! The wrapper on the pork-stuffed with a shrimp on top is not quite as delicate as the others, but the shrimp adds a nice flavor. I also enjoy being able to mix my own dipping sauce with the thin strands of ginger, vinegar, soy and chili oil.
For veggies, I like the spinach with fungus and bean curd (I think), and the water lily shoots with garlic. You must order it with garlic if you want garlic.
However, I will admit that I have not had a similar style of dumpling anywhere except for Din Tai Fung - Beijing. So I am very open to the possibility that better dumplings are available. Any suggestions?
Thanks and cheers, Ken
The first two dumplings sound like xiaolong bao, and it's unlikely that you will find better versions in Beijing, though you can in Shanghai. That's a pity, since DTF's prices are about 8 or 10 times what locals would charge.
The third dumpling sounds like shao mai, and you might have better luck there. Din Tai Fung makes a more northern style shao mai (larger, with a "foreskin") than the Cantonese style familiar to din sum eaters.
There are other kinds of notable dumplings that Beijing is better known for. These would include shui jiao (boiled dumplings), guo tie ("pot stickers") and gou bu li, which are sort of halfway betweet dumplings and baozi. Someone more familiar than I with Beijing can probably tell you about other dumplings, but at any rate should should be able to stuff youself with good dumplings at a tiny fraction of what you paid at Din Tai Fung.
re: Gary Soup
Thanks for your input, Gary. I agree with everything you say! I have tried some of Beijing's other dumplings and have loved virtually every one I have tasted, regardless of style. Had some pan dumplings in a neat little place near Hou Hai last Thursday that came out all loosely bound together by a crispy little skin (of egg perhaps) at the bottom of the pan. Also very yummy!
But I will continuing dining at Din Tai Fung because of the combination of the atmosphere, the outstanding service, and the xiaolong bao. The pork dumpling with shrimp was interesting because it is sort of a cross between xiaolong bao and shao mai. At least I have never had any other shao mai with broth in the lower portion. Also, frankly, I can afford to be pampered occasionally at DTF for about 100 RMB, since I eat most of my other meals at very affordable local places.
Thanks for the additional info!
While I was impressed by the quality of DTF's xiaolong bao, I found the excessively fawning service at Din Tai Fung's Shanghai Xintiandi branch almost as much as a turnoff as the outrageous (IMHO) prices. As a laowai that speaks a bit of Shanghainese (which appparently is as novel to the locals as a singing dog), I usually get a cheerful reception and friendly service, but the legion of bowing and scraping supernumeraries at DTF is a bit too much to take, and somehow un-Chinese.
re: Gary Soup
I know from previous posts that you had terrible service at the Shanghai DTF, but the one in Beijing is really excellent. Not all DTF's are owned by the same person, so they do vary. I think it's a little unfair to keep commenting on the SHANGHAI service when we're talking about the Beijing branch. Next time you're in Beijing, why not swing by DTF and give it a try? Post your comments - positive or negative - after you've been there.
Please note that I have absolutely no connection to DTF except that I eat there about twice a month and have NEVER had a bad meal there - extremely unusual in a city that is not known for quality control, or fine service.
I didn't say "terrible service." I said that it was more service than I like. Some diners like getting their butt kissed; I don't. Anyway, if they are going to charge 8-10 times what the locals do for a similar product of equal quality, I'm not inclined to cut them a lot of slack.
Try the Grand Hotel. It was suggested by the Chinese Government as the site for the reciprocal banquet that a delegation I was with gave for our Chinese hosts in 1994. We used the Zi Jin Room on the 10th Floor. The open terrace has a fabulous view of Tienanmen Square. The banquet was impeccable. No dumplings though. The Chinese suggested we wait until Shanghai and Xian. Xian's dumplings spoiled me forever.
My family was entertained at the Grand Hotel at a dinner given by Chinese hosts in 2001. The food was wonderful that time too. They knew that we were adventurous eaters so they planned very traditional Chinese specialties, not Westernized fare.
The hotel has restaurants as well as private rooms for groups as small as 10. If you can get something with access to that terrace, grab it! I think there may be a bar on the roof that overlooks the Forbidden City, so you can just pop by for drinks.
If you can do a group for a traditional Chinese banquet, this is the place to go! For that you do need to make arrangments ahead as the Chinese do to get the best experience.
We went to the imperial resturant in Bei Hai Park. Depending on the size of your group, you can get a private room The food comes as an ensemble, but there are choices.
The atmosphere was excellent, especially when the weather is cooperating. The food was unique, with stories to go along.
Can I remember the name..no, but Feng seems to lurk in my mind.
peace, jill (ah, I miss Beijing)
James, I see from your posting on another thread that you'll be living in China. What good fortune. I've been lucky enough to go several times as have members of my family.
The best dining experiences we've had have been those arranged by Chinese friends and business associates who were of course locals and native speakers. They knew the regional cuisines and the best restaurants. They often took us to places where we were the only Westerners and we ate things that we had never seen nor heard of. Of course, they knew we were adventurous eaters. Left to our own, we often let our US-learned preferences guide us and ended up with less-satisfying experiences. Only once did I have a problem when they wanted to take me to a restaurant that specialized in dishes using dog meat but I got out of that one gracefully. Ewww!
Make some good Chinese friends and let them help you. They may push your limits with some of the more "exotic" items that show up on menus - fungus, insects, slugs - but you'll have adventures off the tourist track.
Thanks, MS. As many on the board know already, I am an "old China hand", having lived in China on and off since 1988, speaking the language pretty well and being quite familiar with the cuisines of the country. I have no trouble with authentic local places for an everyday meal, but when it comes to something special for a celebration, I'm a bit shakier. And BTW last Friday a Chinese friend took me for one of the worst meals I have had in China, at Quanjude at Hepingmen, probably the pinnacle of what a Chinese person considers to be the city's fine dining establishment.
another possibility is the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
It used to be used only for housing and greeting foreign dignitaries. I arranged a formal chinese banquet there once and it was fabulous. Nothing like you would find in a restaurant. Very formal and elegant. Classic food.
Now it is a hotel and conference center.
Since you speak Chinese, you could work with the staff to arrange a perfect and unusual event.
I read your description of the fast food Peking Duck meal. We should start refering to that place as McDonald Duck.