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Feb 23, 2011 04:09 AM

Beijing for Two Checklist

My boyfriend (from LA) is visiting me here in Beijing and I've been trying to figure out where to go, especially since many Chinese meals are built for more than 2 people (ie, order a ridiculous amount of dishes and share at a huge table).

I want to take him to eat Peking Duck - is Da Dong ok for two people? I have not been to Da Dong - only LiQun, which seemed like a group dining kind of place. Which is a more authentic experience -Da Dong or Made in China? I've been to LiQun, which probably is the most "authentic" downhome type place, but I'm not necessarily looking for an old-Beijing hutong type place.

I really enjoy Dali Courtyard, even though people say the flavors are geared toward westerners. Dining for two seems to work fine at Dali.

I really enjoy this place for their ribs and other delicious dishes on their menu.

other than those listed above, I really have no clue where to go - I moved here 6 months ago so I'm still a bit clueless. Any help is appreciated. Thank you!

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  1. I can only comment from someone who'd been taken to places by local friends - are you planning to do local hotpot? Nan Men Shuan Rou ( South Gate Hotpot) at West gate of RiTan across from Indian Embassy is quite good. Hawkers at LongFuSi is OK (the area is quite rundown but the candied Haws vendor across Dongsi North has quite a following). There are bunch of places in Raffles at DongZhiMen Metro ( Dollar city? XiaoNanGuo - Shanghai etc) and near YongXinQiao metro station

    13 Replies
    1. re: Ting Ting

      maybe it is just me, but hotpot seems like a big group thing - so you can enjoy a large variety of dishes? i enjoy taiwanese style hotpot with a sauce bar - does nan men shuan rou have a sauce bar?

      long fu si is very rundown and not very lively. do you have a restaurant near nanluoguxiang you can recommend?

      i'd rather not dine inside a mall if i can avoid it.. have any recommendations for nice hutong restaurants?

      1. re: applecore

        Mmm, all the Beijing Hotpot place I've been to have individual pots - not sure about the sauces as my friends ordered for me. Went through NanLuoGuXiang but thought most of them were not very authentic.

        I was going to make a recommendation for a XinJiang place that I had found in a DongSi Hutong and then I realized it was the Crescent Moon on ModernLeifeng's list! Man, that place's serving is massive!

        Oh, on the same line of regional cuisine from representative office - The second floor restaurant at Nanjing Grand Hotel (Nanjing Rep office) near WangFuJing was quite good.

        1. re: applecore

          Oh, update on Crescent Moon - I took a stroll down the Alley and realized that the XinJiang one I went to was at east end of DongSi 5 Tiao - it's full of Chinese folks. Crescent Moon on the other hand is FULL of Westerners. I guess a lot follow the List! It's a bit discerning though.

          The LaoBeiJing a few doors down east on DongSi 6 Tiao is very atmospheric, especially the second floor loft - their library is very good and their Signage was from a famous caligrapher! It was originally a hawker from the drum tower area and moved here a decade ago. Highly Recommended.

          1. re: Ting Ting

            I highly doubt they follow this list, but its a popular expat place as they have an english menu, large servings, and prices aren't too bad. It's not the best Xinjiang food in the city, but it is good and its in an easy to get to location. Plus it would be boring to only eat at the rep offices.

            Not sure about the "lao beijing", but there is xian lao man in that area, which is very popular. There isn't a lot of good dining on Nanluoguxiang itself, its more a bar strip.

            Personally, I'd highly recommend Dianke Dianlai over Dali Courtyard as I'm not a big fan of the atmosphere at Dali (tables are too packed together) and the food (mediocre during past few visits). Dianke is also in a hutong, but the food is excellent.

            Haidilao has a sauce bar and the great thing about it is that you can order half portions, so if you are a smaller group, you can order more. The service is also amazing, there's a reason its arguably city's most popular hotpot place.

            I don't think you should be too concerned about eating for 2 people. While single dining can be hard, sometimes very hard, in China, a couple should rarely have a problem. Usually can order 1 cold dish, 1 meat dish, 1 vegetable, and rice/noodles/mantou/etc is okay for 2 diners.

            1. re: modernleifeng

              is Dianke Dianlai as nice and cozy as Dali Courtyard? Is the lighting nice? Also, where is it exactly? I agree, the food can be hit or miss but being from the States and having never have tasted or heard of Yunnan food - Dali Courtyard was quite a pleasant surprise for me.

              1. re: applecore

                This is hard for me to say because I don't find Dali "nice and cozy" because tables seem to be crammed really tightly and make it sort of uncomfortable to have a nice, private conversation.

                There are 2-4 outdoor tables (depending on number of big parties that night), 10 or so tables in one room, and 1 private room. Lighting depends if you are dining inside or outside.

                The location is in a hutong off of Chaoyang Nan Xiao Jie.

            2. re: Ting Ting

              I am far from an expert on Xinjiang food, but that hasn't stopped me before from giving my opinion!

              You really want to go to a hole-in-the-wall, the kind of place that will have the really tiny kabobs for 5 quai. I am far from an expert on this subject, but these are really special as opposed to the nicer places that have the larger kabobs, but the flavor is not spectacular. In general I am not opposed to places that attract Westerners, but in this case it is thoroughly justified to seek out the locals-only places.

              1. re: Steve

                I did get tiny cuts of kebabs (kidneys!) at the place at the east end of 5tiao - the wait lady was wearing a head scarf so I assumed that it was halal as well. It had a kebab stand outside. Their cumin nan is also quite delicious if a bit salty.

                I happened to overhear someone outside of Crescent Moon on his mobile - not sure if he's the owner but I didn't like what I heard so I headed to LaoBeijing instead.

                1. re: Steve

                  really tiny kabobs for 5 kuai or 5 mao?!? At most "hole-in-the-wall" spots kabobs will cost 1 kuai for regular lamb or beef ones. While these are okay, especially if you are ordering lots of different kabobs or want other dishes too, sometimes the more expensive, better quality, and meater kabobs are really worth it.

                  1. re: modernleifeng

                    What kind of meat do they use for 0.5-1 RMB a piece kebabs? The lowest price I saw on the menu of that Chinese frequented Xinjiang restaurant was RMB 2 and it goes higher. I would rather pay a bit for halal meat than eating some God-knows-what. Going to a proper halal place tend to increase that chance of authenticity (you can buy any certificate with money, of course).

                    My friend told me these scary cooking oil stories and there was a recent expose on CCTV about brand sausages made from "lean hogs", and face/tissue papers made from corrosive pulps...

                    1. re: Ting Ting

                      They claim it is beef or lamb, its just you get really small pieces of lamb, very different from RMB5 kabobs which have large chunks of meat.

                      I would be very wary of "halal" places. Just because there is some arabic script and the people outside are wearing the white hats doesn't make it halal. Many places do that to lure in more customers as many Chinese, when in an unfamiliar area, will choose a place that looks "halal" over other little restaurants as these are often cleaner. A true "halal" place won't have pork anywhere on the menu, and sometimes won't even serve alcohol.

                      The food scandals are another matter entirely. If you follow all of them, there's almost nothing that is safe to eat, so it may be best just to ignore most of them, close your eyes, and hope what you're eating (be it in a hole in the wall or a fancy restaurant) is safe.

                      1. re: modernleifeng

                        Ah, no pork, no liquor, and clients/servers' facial features are what I use to pick a halal place - there are some anthropological differences for Chinese with different ethnicities: the nose, the ratio between cheekbones and temple, etc.

                      2. re: Ting Ting

                        The pieces are surprisingly tiny. It is almost startling if you are used to Western portions. Ah. but the effect is very nice.

            3. Not sure what you mean by "authentic experience". Da Dong and Made in China are both very good ducks, I think Da Dong is the best you can get in Beijing, but Made in China is a close second. If you are worried about it being "too much" for 2, you can always just order half a duck and then order dishes off the menu.

              There are countless number of options in this city, it really depends on what you (and your boyfriend) are interested in. I've done this list before, but...
              Sichuan - Chuan Ban, Mala Youhuo
              Xinjiang - Crescent Moon
              Hot pot - Haidilao, Xiang Cao Xiang Cao
              Dongbei - Dongbei Ren
              Zhejiang - Kong Yiji, Wahaha
              Gansu - Yan Lan Lou
              Northwest - Xi Bei You Mian

              That gives you some ideas, you can also talk to friends for recs or check out the Beijinger.

              8 Replies
              1. re: modernleifeng

                If the half duck at Made in China is like the half duck we had there, it's more like a quarter duck, they only served the skin and the very outside meat. I have eaten Beijing/Nanjing/Beiping kao ya lots and lots of places - so I know how much duck to expect, even before the other duck dishes in a proper meal arrive - and MiC is my least favorite of any of them. It's also - based on a single experience - among my least favorite restaurants in China. Poorly prepared food served by supercilious and condescending waitstaff. I will always regret wasting a meal in Beijing there.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Sad to hear that the food standards for Made in China has dropped. It was very, very good when it first opened 5-6 years ago. Back then, it was like stumbling upon a piece of culinary heaven in Beijing, for those of us who'd experienced Beijing during the days (1980s/90s) when many restaurants were state-run, and we had to share a Peking duck at a table with 6-7 other anonymous & complete strangers to "prevent food wastage".

                  As for "supercilious and condescending waitstaff" at Made in China - oh yes, they were there from the beginning :-(

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    We went because of a CH recommendation that on further reflection should have been taken with a big pinch of salt (the person inquiring didn't speak or read any Chinese so of course MiC would be more comfortable for him or her). Won't get fooled again (we hope)!

                    1. re: buttertart

                      MiC's standard has not dropped (my last visit last November). But for best experience of Peking Duck, you should order the whole duck, not 1/4 or half. For that small portion, you don't get the best cutting from the chef. And MiC is not just a place for tourists or expats, you do see many locals there. And I have been there probably more than 10 times in last 7 years, and unlike others experience, perhaps because I speak fluent Mandarin, those who served me are not "spercilious and condecsending".

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        I have eaten this kind of duck at least 50 times in my life and I know how it is to be cut and presented, I saw master chefs do it in Taipei in the 80s.
                        I am happy you like the restauranat, we did not, and language does not enter into it in the least because we are also Mandarin speakers (educated by Beijingers as it happens).

                        1. re: buttertart

                          You yourself mentioned your order of half a duck appeared like 1/4 size, so you had terrible experience there. I am just saying if you ordered the whole duck, it is likely you will have better experience. Maybe you still won't like it but I am sure you will get better cutting than the 1/4 or 1/2 portion. It has no relevance whether you had it 50 or more times before.
                          So sorry you had a poor service experience; it just never happened to me while I was there on so many occasions.

                          1. re: FourSeasons

                            It is relevant - if I had never eaten it before I would have no standard of comparison.
                            We ordered a half so we could try other dishes (which were not terrific, and I am familiar with northern Chinese food).
                            Of the half duck we got maybe a quarter of the meat and skin.
                            You like the place, I don't. Fine.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              I'm sorry to hear that about at Made in China. It's one of my favourite restaurants. In any case, returning to the original question, I think the half duck at Made in China can be very good. The only limitation is that they have two seatings, 6:30 and 8:30. So if you have a really good conversation going, it's disappointing to have to leave so soon.

                              I would also recommend the spinach with sesame sauce and this shredded bread dish that resembles noodles. I like them both very much.

                              Also their desserts are very inventive and fun. I've always had a nice time there and the staff have been kind too, helpful in recommending dishes my visitors might not have had before.

                              For Yunnan food, you might also like to check out Lost in Heaven in Gulou but I'm not sure you'd like the decor if you are a Dali Courtyard fan. Lost in Heaven is very arty and idiosyncratic. Their Mi Xian (Crossing-Bridge Noodles) is very good - they make it fresh every day. My mother's from Yunnan so we are picky about our noodles.

                              For an L.A. boy, he might like the vibe at Middle 8. I've found their food somewhat inconsistent but their presentation is great. Decor is also very fresh and zippy. If one can talk about a scene-y Yunnan restaurant, this one might fit the bill.

              2. -- lots of yummy Yunnan food around the Drum&Bell Towers/Guluo area and the lakes, but the names escape me...

                -- definitely Chuan Ban if you like Sichuan food

                -- hotpot at Hai de Lao (the Sanlitun branch) basicially kept me sane and healthy during a long Beijing winter once...