I’ve just returned from ten days in China, five in Shanghai and five in Beijing. Thanks to earlier posts and other advice, it was a fantastic food trip. Here are the highlights from Beijing, grouped by cuisine.
My related Shanghai post is at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/456996
Amazing duck at Dadong Kaoya Dian. Crispy skin, meaty flesh, lots of condiments. I also really liked deep-fried chilies with peanuts. In contrast, Quanjude (the branch west of Wangfujing that’s open later) was a disappointment. The duck was too fatty, with soggy skin and a cloying sauce. The side of vegetables was inedible: cornstarch-slicked rounds of zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms.
I had the noodles of my dreams at a small order-at-the-counter place called Huanghe Shui Shaanxi Mianguan. Floppy, wide fresh noodles, with bean sprouts and bok choy, all tossed in vinegary chili oil with a big pile of flaked chilies on top. There’s no picture menu here, but they have an English-language magazine review that mentions this dish as “oil-spiced noodles,” and if you ask the cashier for something “la” (spicy) that’s what they’ll give you. I went twice. Amazing.
Noodle Loft offers many types of handmade noodles, including knife-shaved, cut, pulled, and made-with-one-chopstick – all prepared in full view from the first-floor dining room. The texture and taste of the noodles (I tried several) were great, especially the made-with-one-chopstick long noodles. The best preparation was noodles in beef brisket soup. Other sauces, like sliced pork or eggplant, were less exciting. Extensive bilingual menu with pictures.
Loved our meal at Baguobuyi, especially the “very spicy fish,” which is an enormous bowl of chili oil with gently cooked fish, bean sprouts, and green onions. I also liked the dan dan mien, wontons in chili oil, and mutton with peppers and garlic. They have a brief performance in the evenings, though we went at lunch. Nice setting in a traditional courtyard.
At South Beauty we had ma po dofu, which was fiery with the right balance of heat and numbing peppercorns. I also really liked the Sichuan cold noodles, in a vinegary-sesame sauce. I was less excited about their famous ribs, which come in a sauce that dominates the taste of the meat; also, the ribs were so tender that the meat partially disintegrated into the sauce. Our meal at a Shanghai branch of South Beauty was better.
We tried Xinjiang Crescent Moon, and it was disappointing. While I liked the flavoring of lamb skewers and a lamb-with-onions dish, the meat was unpleasantly gristly. The “walnut omelette” looked intriguing in the picture but turned out to be mostly raisins in a thin omelette wrapper, which was overly sweet.
Yunteng Binguan, the restaurant at the Yunnan provincial government office hotel, was fantastic. I loved the crossing-the-bridge noodles, fragrant with fresh herbs. A wild mushroom stir-fry was very good but somewhat overwhelmed by green peppers. Mung bean jelly noodles in chili oil and garlic were totally addictive. This was one of our favorite meals.
Breakfasts in the mall
We stayed part of our time at the Raffles Beijing Hotel, between the Forbidden City and Wangfujing. Rather than having hotel breakfast, we headed to the basement of the malls at Oriental Plaza and found two good places. At the western end, crowded with morning commuters, is Yong He (Field House). There, I liked the fried donut, xiao long bao, and pan-fried dumplings – not as good as at places specializing in dumplings but definitely good enough for a quick breakfast. A bit more toward the middle of the mall is Kyo-Nichi, a Singaporean chain serving Japanese ramen. My mackerel miso ramen was good: the noodles had nice firm texture and the fish was well-flavored, but the broth was nothing special. A Beard Papa cream-puff counter is nearby.
Dadong Kaoya Dian, 3 Tuanjiehu Beikou, Chaoyang
Quanjude, not sure of address, but not recommended
Huanghe Shui Shaanxi Mianguan, 24 Meishuguan Dongjie, Dongcheng
Noodle Loft, 20 Xidawang Lu, Chaoyang
Baguobuyi, 89-3 Dianmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng
South Beauty, eastern end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza, and other branches
Xinjiang Crescent Moon, 16 Dongsiliutiao, Dongcheng
Yunteng Binguan, Building 7, Huashi Beili, Dongqu, Chongwen
Yong He, western end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza
Kyo-Nichi, western end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza
This is a Beijing food report that's similar to David's, so I'll add it here as a reply:
Had Beijing duck at Made in China restaurant in the Hyatt. The duck was great and the restaurant has nice viewing areas of the chefs cooking.
Xiao Wang fu in the Ditan Park --- There's two locations for this homestyle restaurant. There's an extensive menu that they do a good job on everyday dishes. My favorite was the Fen Zhen Rou (Steamed Pork). This is the preferred location since its quieter atmosphere.
Technically Shaanxi style I suspect but for noodles we went here. Noodle Loft (near Shuang Jing Qiao or the two wells bridge and 3rd ring road, close to Carrefours). We tried three noodle preparations, all were good though I liked the pulled noodles the most and wouldn't go for maybe the knife shaved. You chose your noodles and sauces separately. Of the sauces Zhajiang was ok, the egg with tomato was good and I'd recommend the Da Ru as the best of the bunch.
Yunteng Binguan was a fantastic choice. Other than the same dishes David recommended above, I'd add the vinegared mint dish (under the cold dishes) and even though I like the Crossing Bridge Noodles, the Qi Guo Ji (Chicken soup) looked really good as well. That might be a good try.
These aren't worth travelling for but if you're walking around and looking for snacks. There's on across the street out of the Dong Si Shi Tiao subway station. If you see long lines, that's the shop.
Do Di Zhe (Bag of beans), a local street vendor snack that I liked. Can probably be found around the city where street vendors congregate
Corner of Di'anmen and Di'anmen Wi Dajie there's a chestnut vendor in the southwest corner that gets long lines. I like their roasted chestnuts.
Wow, David, you really did go to some of the best restaurants that only a local would know.
Noodle Loft I wouldn't recommend.
For Sichuan food, I'd go to Yuxiang Renjia rather than South Beauty, South Beauty's food is alright but they are just a bit too pretentious for me. My favourite Sichuan restaurant is Rong Yuan within the Grand Hotel Beijing (right next to Raffles).
The Grand Hotel is managed by Beijing Hotel, the oldest hotel in Beijing, who housed some of the most well-known chefs prior to the communists took over. So the restaurants in those two hotels all have some great traditional Beijing dishes. Be sure to taste Zao Ni He Tao Lu (a date and walnut puree drink), a delicacy not easily found nowadays.
Dadong is definitely better than Quan Ju De. Their 2nd site in Nan Xin Cang is larger (hence easier to get a reservation).
You'll be disappointed looking for Xiao Wang Fu in Ditan park - it's in Ritan park! The Guanghua Lu location (which is somewhat hard to find - but not far from the Kerry Center on the far side of the street, up an alley, with a red sign) is also good, and they have tasty duck.
David, awesome report. You stayed at Raffles, which makes me think you're a tourist - but you choose restaurants like a native. Next time look for Qing Tang Fu for Shaanxi/Shanxi food, and don't forget Guizhou cai. Three Guizhou Men is kind of an obvious choice, but there's a reason for that. Good food, convivial place.
I'm so happy you were able to try the Yunnan Provincial gov't restaurant -- one of my favorites!!! Next time, check out the Sichuan Provincial gov't restaurant (aka Chuan Ban) for great Sichuan food -- better than South Beauty and Baguo Buyi.
By the way the "very spicy fish" sounds like shui zhu yu.
Great report! Baguo buyi--LOVED the yellow eel with green beans, spiced with fresh (or pickled?) springs of green Sichuan peppercorns rather than the dried/toasted/fried ones. Hacked chicken was also amazing, actually, everything, one of my best meals ever.
It is hard to imagine that the Quanjude branches can vary so much, but we were quite thrilled with out meal at the branch off the 5th ring road near the new Olympic Stadium. The duck was superb, as were the condiments and the sides we tried. We ate with HongKongese foodie types and they loved it.