Mention Beijing, and things like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China and peking duck spring to mind. But the capital of China is much more than that, having a history spanning more than 3,000 years and boasting the privilege of being one of the six ancient cities in China. Beijing’s food, thus, reflects its rich history and culture.
Known as “Northern Food” in China, the cuisine includes dishes from Hebei, Shandong, the lower Yangtze River, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang.
Drawn from the recommendations of travel websites, magazines and popular food bloggers, here are five of Beijing’s best restaurants you shouldn’t miss.
Temple Restaurant Beijing (TRB)
Address: No. 23, Shatan Beijie, off Wusi Dajie, Dongcheng District. Beijing. 100009
How to get there: Drive 600m west of the National Art Museum of China. After passing one set of traffic lights at the intersection of Beiheyan Street, you’ll see an Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) branch on the right. Turn right into Shatan Beijie and continue straight ahead for about 300m until the alley makes a sharp left turn. The restaurant is located on that corner
Opening hours: Open on Wednesdays, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10pm (subject to change)
Contact: +86 10 8400 2232 or http://www.trb-cn.com
Dining on sumptuous, contemporary European cuisine, seated in the modern, minimalist interior of a 600-year-old temple. This is what you can expect when you visit Temple Restaurant Beijing, or TRB for short. Owned by the former general manager of renowned New York restaurant Daniel, Ignace Lecleir, it opened in December 2011 and has received rave reviews from the likes of CNN and The New York Times.
The food draws heavily from French cuisine - think suckling pig with pumpkin puree, bacon and maple shallot glace (238 yuan or S$48), flake crusted lobster with bok choy, coconut curry and chile garlic oil (298 yuan), and grand marnier soufflé with passion fruit sorbet and vanilla grand marnier sauce (78 yuan). Dishes don’t come cheap, but then you’re paying for the whole package: impeccable service and subtle, thoughtful touches like the airy gougeres at the bar and an impressive selection of house-made breads at every table included.
King’s Joy (Jing Zhao Yin)
Address: 2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong, Dongcheng, 100027 Beijing, China
How to get there: Two minutes’ walk from Yonghegong Lama Temple
Opening hours: Open daily from 10am to 10pm (to be confirmed)
Contact: +86 10 8404 9191
This upscale restaurant by Canadian-Taiwanese restaurateur David Yin takes healthy eating to a new level. From the creatively prepared vegetarian cuisine served up by a chef who is a former disciple from the Donglin Monastery (a Buddhist temple in Jiangxi province), to the misty, bamboo-filled courtyard where customers dine, King’s Joy has it all covered and more.
Tuck into dishes with savoury-sounding names like sweet-and-sour braised “monkey’s head” mushrooms (99 yuan), sauteed matsutake and celtis leaf (169 yuan), and truffle-grilled squares of glutinous rice. Even the desserts are outstanding, such as the oatmeal nut-melange so soy beverage (59 yuan) and Donkey rolling on the ground - a traditional Old Peking dessert which consists of red bean paste rolled in glutinous rice cake, dusted with grounded soya bean flour.
Perhaps all this should come as no surprise since owner David Yin holds a degree in nutrition from Fu Jen University in Taipei.
Address: 5/F, Jinbao Dasha, Jinbao Jie, Dongcheng District
How to get there: Ten minutes’ walk from Dongsishitiao train station
Opening hours: Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Roast duck restaurants abound in Beijing, but if we had to pick one, it would be DaDong. Formerly known as Da Dong Roast Duck, the restaurant is renowned for chef and owner Dong Zhenxiang’s perfected method of roasting ducks, ensuring that they are juicy with minimal fat and grease, topped off with crispy, melt-in-your-mouth skin.
It’s a recipe that keeps customers coming back for more, and which has also brought in a slew of awards. DaDong has been awarded The Best Beijing Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in 2010 by Time Out, and Restaurant of the Year (Chinese) and Best Beijing Duck at the Beijinger's 10th Annual Reader Restaurant Awards in 2013.
Cai Yi Xuan
Address: 48 Liang Ma Qiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100125
How to get there: Seven minute’s drive from Sanyuan Bridge
Opening hours: Open daily from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm, and from 5.30pm to 10.30pm
Contact: +86 (10) 5695 8520
What is a trip to China, the birthplace of dim sum, without indulging in said delicacy? The best of the best is Cai Yi Xuan, the Chinese restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, whose name translates to “the art of dining”. Executive chef Kwong previously worked at famed dim sum restaurant Lei Garden in Hong Kong, so you know your every bite is in trustworthy hands.
The restaurant also serves barbecue, seafood and northern Chinese specialties, but it’s the Cantonese dim sum you should go for. Freshly prepared with gourmet ingredients, the dishes are tantalising - braised pork belly with abalone in black truffle and soy sauce, baked whole abalone pastry with diced chicken and a variety of steamed dumplings, to name a few. Dim sum dishes start from 30 yuan.
Xiao Wang Fu
Address: Inside the North Gate of Ritan Park, Ritan Lu Chaoyang District
How to get there: Eight minutes’ walk from Beihai North train station
Opening hours: Open daily from 11.30am to 2pm, 5.30pm to 10pm
Contact: 8561 5985
Traditional, tasty fare at affordable prices - this pretty much sums up the food at Xiao Wang Fu. The restaurant, which serves homestyle food, is a favourite of locals and expatriates alike, and has four branches in the city. If the dining atmosphere is particularly important to you, head to the outlet at Ritan Park which has a charming alfresco patio.
Highly-rated items include the hong shao rou, kung pao chicken, spicy Sichuan string beans and deep fried apple fritters. Prices range from 200 to 300 yuan for two persons, so you won’t burn a hole in your pocket.